Male Birth Control: Not Just for Sissies and Pansies Anymore
At a recent lecture at the British Sociological Association, Dr. Susan Walker, Senior Lecturer in Sexual Health at Anglia Ruskin University, revealed that only 50% of people surveyed in her recent study said they would use the male version of the birth control pill. I get why women would be hesitant to leave their contraception in the hands of their mate, but the more surprising bit of info had to do with men thinking that taking a pill would make them feel less “like a man.” Here's something that should make men feel less manly: accidentally knocking a chick up because they couldn't be bothered to think in advance about sex.
According to the study, 19% of men said they would never dream of taking a birth control pill, whilst 31% were unsure. The male contraceptive pill is not currently on the market (breathe easy, fellas), but if it were, it looks like men wouldn't be running to pick it up.
As the smarter sex (that's right, I said it), we women know how forgetful the men in our lives can be. They forget birthdays, anniversaries, dinner dates, prior engagements, even conversations we had with them earlier in the day. Blame it on using only one side of their brain, or blame it on the coding of that pesky Y Chromosome, but men are rarely reliable when it comes to memory. So the idea of trusting a man to remember to take his daily birth control pill is worrying at best. When it comes to reproductive health, women are always on top of things. We take the birth control pills, we bring the condoms (if I relied on my bloke to always bring the rubbers, I'd never see any action), we make the doctors appointments, we take the pregnancy tests, and we take the morning-after pills. However, in keeping with the spirit of equality, it stands to reason that men and women should share the responsibility.
But Dr. Walker's study revealed another interesting trend among respondents that she didn't initially anticipate:
“I had expected men to be concerned about the biological effects of a male pill. But what I found was that the cultural association between ‘taking the pill' and femininity was also a concern. Somehow ‘taking the pill' was not seen as something which conveyed a manly image.”
Turns out the idea of taking birth control would make a man feel less like “a man,” whatever that means. Oh cultural signifiers. I frankly have a hard time keeping up with what may or may not threaten a man's masculinity. First they don't want to wear wedding rings, now they do. Then they don't want to take paternity leave, now they do. At one point they don't want to use hair gel or groom their eyebrows, and oh my God, do they ever now. Funny how even the smallest inkling that a man could be doing something “feminine” turns into an attack on his testosterone levels. Because being feminine is an insult right? Sure, we are taking baby steps toward eradicating this kind of thinking, but we're nowhere near utopia yet.
Having men share the responsibility of contraception and birth control is a great idea that's clearly going to take some coercing on both sides, but real men know that doing traditionally “feminine” things doesn't make them any less manly. Especially if they've seen Rita Rudner's stand-up comedy routine.