birth control

Why I Refuse to Bear the Birth Control Responsibility

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Tanya M

A raging liberal who challenges all ideas and destroys boxes and expectations.

It’s been a year since the largest human study of hormonal male birth control reached its conclusion. The results — men reported increased acne and mood swings as some of the side effects, causing 20 of them to drop out of the study. The study was discontinued with no male birth control hitting the market. We are just 5 years away from developing a reliable method of male birth control, the researchers keep saying, but they’ve been saying that for over 50 years.

Currently, 62% of women use birth control with 99% of all women reporting that they have used contraception in their lifetime. 28% of women are taking the birth control pill and the number of IUDs has nearly doubled in the last decade. Fewer and fewer women are reporting that their partner is using a condom as a contraception method.

When trying to look up contraception statistics for men, I simply could not find any. By looking at the raw data, it’s clear that responsibility for pregnancy falls solely on women’s shoulders.

Going through middle school, I was definitely a late bloomer. Coming from a family of doctors, I knew anything and everything about the reproductive system, but when girls around me were talking about birth control, I failed to understand its necessity. Between 2011-2013, 35% of teenage girls relied on the pill as the primary source of contraception, while 55% relied on the condom. However, as women grow older, the percentages start to shift dramatically away from condom use, especially among married women.

As I went through school, it seemed like everyone I knew was either getting on the pill or changing brands. Girls spoke about painless periods and some of them opted for not having periods at all. Mine was never painful and I didn’t feel I had any more frequent mood swings or more acne than an average teenager, yet I would continuously get asked by my peers how could I possibly not be on the pill.

Every single one of my gynecologists throughout the years posed the same question, especially after I became sexually active. They were quick to inform me of both contraceptive and non-contraceptive benefits of hormonal birth control, skipping over the side effects. When I told them that my periods never caused me any discomfort and that my PMS was never so bad that it couldn’t be fixed with a few servings of chocolate, they would respond with: “But it’s still better to be on the safe side”.

When men reported increased mood swings, weight gain, and increased acne as symptoms of using the male birth control pill, they were quickly excused and the research stopped. When millions of women currently taking the pill report similar and even far worse side effects including migraines, nausea, vaginal discharge, and spotting, they are encouraged to continue sticking to this method of contraception “just to be on the safe side.”

Based on the data, women predominantly bear the birth control responsibility while men run away after experiencing the first side effect, but is not just about the availability of different methods of birth control for women. While the sterilization procedure is available to both men and women, 25% of women are sterilized in comparison to just 8% of men.

I’ve never seen a man reach faster for a condom than when I told him I was not on birth control and then grow more displeased as we continued dating and I refused to get on birth control, instead only refilling my condom supply. I laughed when I read that the number of women who used the pull-out method as the primary form of contraception increased from 25% to 60% in the last generation, because it took me just a handful of occasions to know just how unsafe that method of contraception is.

The more I said no to female birth control, the more I felt empowered. I would walk out of the gynecologist office with zero contraception methods pamphlets and zero excuses for doing so, because I simply made a choice to not shoulder the birth control responsibility. I clearly communicated to every single one of my male partners that the responsibility for another life was as much his as it was mine and the two times when the condom did break, we both put pants on, drove to the pharmacy, and split the cost of plan B.

The only time I seriously considered getting a non-hormonal copper IUD was when I was standing in the center of Manhattan taking part in the Women’s March during an unusually warm January day in New York City. I thought that it was now or never. I felt like I had to take advantage of the procedure while it was still affordable, but a quick Google search of the side effects, including heavy bleeding, and reports from several of my friends saying that they experienced 1-2 months of severe abdominal pain quickly persuaded me against getting an IUD. No argument has been convincing enough to change my mind since.

While pregnancy is a life-altering and even life-threatening condition for women, it holds very little physical impact for men and so the demand for male birth control is simply not there. There are many medical benefits to taking birth control for women, but birth control itself should not be just a woman’s responsibility. 

One comment

  1. Okay, I agree! …but if I were to play devil’s advocate… I might just say that in the end should a pregnancy take place almost to a woman, there is the prerogative that, “it’s my body… it’s my choice” which means the man’s opinion is almost held in contempt lest he agree with the decision to continue with the pregnancy or abort it. Having said that I would also argue that while you are right about men worrying less about protection and the almost unilateral discussion that it, “feels less authentic” with condoms than with birth control being so pervasive in protection discussions. Why shouldn’t both participants be just as responsible in the decision I mean, after all it will be a consequence that both are going to be liable to should a pregnancy occur! But, then again, why would you want to wear protection if what you are doing is ultimately for the sole purpose of bringing another, “you” into the world?

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