I was talking to a friend recently and the topic of birth control came up. We shared with each other the horrible experiences that we have had while on the pill, the side effects of which destroyed our skin and wreaked havoc on our mental health, and dreamed of a time when we might not have to deal with it ever again.
We also discussed the nauseating idea of getting a hormonal rod shoved in our arm (the implant) or a plastic stick lodged in our womb (IUD). While both of these are effective methods, it is a common feeling among women to not like the idea of them being semi-permanently placed inside them.
Then I stopped to think, why is it just women that have to worry about these things?
There are 15 methods of contraception, of which only 2 can be carried out by men. Not to mention only one of them, the vasectomy, is largely reliable. Condoms, probably one of the most used on the list, is effective when used properly.
This begs the question, why hasn’t more male forms of contraception been developed?
There has, of course, been attempts but despite some positive results, including an Edinburgh couple who were part of a study to test a contraceptive gel for men, we still seem so far away from shared responsibility.
It is not just about the availability of these products but about the attitude that surrounds it. Men are not in a position of risk like women are, they do not have to directly deal with the consequences of unprotected sex in the same way.
Condoms, despite being a male birth control method, very frequently still becomes the responsibility of the women to handle and, more often than it should, women have to convince men to even wear them. Even then there are phenomenons like stealthing, a form of sexual abuse where men remove or purposely damage the condom without their sexual partner knowing.
This attitude around birth control seems to be rooted in a culture of misogyny. Society doesn’t force men to face the reality of unprotected sex or to think about their part in preventing pregnancies.
Effective male birth control is possible, there have been a number of studies with many actually succeeding in creating a safe pill but instead of releasing it investors decided it ‘wasn’t marketable’, deciding, on behalf of men, that there wasn’t a point because they wouldn’t take it even though studies have shown many British men would be open to taking a contraceptive pill.
The female pill has in many ways liberated women, it gave us a way to decide when we wanted to have children, without having to involve men. It gave us the ability to postpone motherhood in favour of other avenues like work and higher education, a luxury that men have always had. Access to proper birth control is proven to be beneficial to women, yet men have used it as an excuse to not have to deal with it, to push the responsibility off of themselves because ‘it’s not their job’.
This has to change, women shouldn’t have to be the sole person in charge of birth control, they also shouldn’t have to go through horrible side effects because that is their only reliable option. There needs to be a conversation around the current state of contraception and what can be done to involve men in the process.
If you would like to know more, here are some links to other articles on the topic.
- The contraceptive industry is sexist. Women have suffered in silence for too long. Nicola Thorpe, METRO
- Are we ready for men to take the pill? Prof Lisa Campo-Engelstein, BBC
- World’s first male contraceptive injection could be available in six months. Moya Lothian-McLean, INDEPENDENT
- ‘Why we’re using a male contraceptive gel’ BBC
Featured image credit: Henryford.com