Researchers are on the brink of developing a male contraceptive pill. Will males be willing to use it? | Jill Filipovic
Trials are currently taking place in the United Kingdom for the initial male birth control pill. The medication shows potential, as it empowers men to actively prevent unintended pregnancy with a high success rate and minimal reported negative effects. The purpose of these trials is to determine the safety and effectiveness of the drug, but the manufacturers may also be considering whether or not men will be willing to use it.
Throughout history, the primary burden of preventing pregnancy has rested on women. Women have consistently taken significant measures to avoid unwanted pregnancies and terminate those they could not prevent. In comparison to the length of time that women have been trying to halt conception, safe and dependable methods of contraception are relatively recent. However, for those reading this article, these methods have been firmly established for many years and are a routine aspect of life for countless women globally.
To some degree, and if only for obvious biological reasons, it makes sense that pregnancy prevention has historically fallen on women. But it also, as they say, takes two to tango – and only one of the partners has been doing all the work. Luckily, things are changing: thanks to generations of women who have gained unprecedented freedoms and planned their families using highly effective contraception methods, and thanks to men who have shifted their own gender expectations and become more involved partners and fathers, women and men have moved closer to equality than ever.
In today’s society, it is common for politically progressive couples to have the expectation that the male partner will contribute equally to household tasks and childcare. However, it should be noted that this expectation may not always be met, but it still exists nonetheless. One thing that men are unable to do, however, is physically carry a pregnancy and give birth.
For years, women have been questioning when modern medicine will give men the opportunity to contribute to family planning and prevent unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. With the possibility of a male contraceptive becoming available, it will reveal whether heterosexual men are willing to share the responsibilities of adulthood or if they are content with women bearing the burden of controlling reproduction.
Few advances in recent history have had such a profound impact on society and daily life as the development of the birth control pill. By providing a means to prevent unplanned pregnancy, this invention has revolutionized the opportunities and outcomes available to women around the world. In countries where the pill was first accessible, there was a significant improvement in gender equality: more women were able to pursue higher education and enter the workforce, the average age of marriage increased, and the number of children per woman decreased. As a result, women and their families experienced longer, healthier, and more educated lives, while national economies benefitted from a larger female workforce.
These trends have been replicated worldwide, and the connections between availability of birth control and improved results in education, economy, gender equality, and health are widely recognized. Therefore, expanding access to contraception is a fundamental aspect of any development plan.
The available methods of birth control have greatly increased, going beyond just the pill to include patches, implants, and injections. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are highly effective and, combined with improved accessibility to other forms of contraception, have empowered women to make their own choices and shape their lives in ways that were not possible before: pursuing education, choosing love in marriage, living independently and adventurously, and working for compensation.
The availability of family planning has resulted in improved outcomes for children compared to any other time in history. They have longer lifespans, better overall health, higher rates of attending school, and are less likely to experience various problems. This revolution in contraception has also greatly benefited men, not just because it allows for easier access to sex for pleasure. Many men have been able to avoid unintended or unwanted parenthood, have the freedom to enter into relationships based on love rather than obligation, and have financial and social benefits from having partners who contribute to household income. Additionally, men have been able to benefit intellectually and socially from living in a society where women hold roles as teachers, professors, leaders, colleagues, and culture-makers.
Yet when it comes to reproduction – doing it, or preventing it – we have asked virtually nothing of men. For 75 years now, it’s been women’s bodies that have shouldered the burden of preventing pregnancies. It’s women who have set their alarms to take pills, gritted their teeth through the usually unmedicated and often-brutal pain of IUD insertion, and sometimes dealt with the side-effects of contraceptive hormones: mood swings, weight gain, bleeding, headaches, nausea and more.
To be clear, many women experience no side-effects at all, or only mild ones that dissipate quickly. But a lot of women have suffered through some serious discomfort because there simply weren’t other reliable options.
Many people have pondered on when science would catch up with the rapid progress towards gender equality, and begin to expect men to share some of the responsibility in family planning.
While condoms are available, the technology behind them has been around for thousands of years and is not solely a male contraceptive. Instead, it affects the physical experience of both parties and has its limitations.
Reworded: Condoms are highly efficient and provide a convenient solution for significantly reducing the chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies. However, for monogamous partners who are less concerned about STIs, condoms can be inconvenient. They can disrupt intimacy and some individuals believe they decrease sexual pleasure. Additionally, they are only effective if used correctly, requiring them to be readily available at all times. It is not surprising that many individuals opt for the convenience of a birth control pill.
Another choice for men is a vasectomy, which more men should consider, especially if they have completed their desired number of children. Women’s bodies endure many challenges in preventing and carrying pregnancies, giving birth, and breastfeeding. Getting a vasectomy is a simple way for men to contribute. However, it is understandable that many individuals, including women, may have reservations about undergoing even minor surgical procedures and may be concerned about the potential reversibility of such procedures.
Both men and women may desire to avoid pregnancy during the early years of their reproductive age. However, their preferences may change and they may eventually choose to embrace parenthood. It is important for men to have a variety of options when it comes to preventing pregnancy.
The male contraceptive pill being tested is not the initial effort to create birth control for men. However, it is the first one that claims to have minimal side effects. Interestingly, many of the side effects that women often endure to avoid pregnancy, such as mood swings and weight gain, are intolerable for men.
Fortunately, most men are not able to become pregnant – it seems like they would struggle with the experience. However, if this medication is authorized, they will at least have a better chance to be equally involved in their intimate and romantic partnerships, and have more control over their own reproductive destinies. This is a right that women have fought for over many generations.
If this medication is authorized, women will receive valuable insights about the men they are involved with, especially when it comes to their romantic relationships. This includes whether these men view themselves as equally responsible for preventing pregnancy and if they are willing to take appropriate actions. If not, should women consider involving these men in any aspect of their sexual, romantic, or reproductive lives?
Jill Filipovic is the author of the The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness