The expectation that women are supposed to take birth control is unfair.
For some women, birth control is a blessing where acne eases up and menstrual flow lightens. For other women, birth control is a nightmare filled with too many physical and emotional worries. Those who do not take birth control do not understand the burden that comes with it.
There are so many options to choose from in the first place: the wide array of pills, the patch, intrauterine devices, shots and implants.
Jennifer Young, a physician who does contraceptive counseling, said, “Most of the side effects come with the hormonal ones. If you’re on birth control, it’s usually to prevent pregnancies, so the medication messes around with your hormones to make sure that doesn’t happen.” She continued, “Most common side effects are irregular bleeding. Sometimes you can get headaches, nausea, mood swings because the medication is messing around with your hormones, but a lot of that kind of stabilizes after the first couple months.”
Once a woman decides which form of birth control she wants to take, there can be more stresses that follow. This includes daily reminders to take it at the right time if it is a pill, the actual cost and budgeting if the medication is not covered under insurance, potential social struggles of living in a conservative environment, the aforementioned side effects and more.
With all this, why should women be the only ones to take birth control?
Again, some women do not undergo the aforesaid burdens but for the women who take it for the gracious consideration of their partner’s increased pleasure or to avoid pregnancy, my question is: Why don’t men also take the same responsibility?
There are several reasons, but two major ones I see are the lack of availability and lack of proactivity.
“Why there are so little forms of men birth control, I don’t know. Maybe drug companies didn’t care to develop anything for that,” Young said.
In my opinion, with a lack of people seeking out alternatives, pharmaceutical industries see male birth control as less worthy of funding for research and commercialization. And with a lack of research and marketing, there is diminished opportunity to bring the issue to light.
However, it should not be ignored that there are men who are interested in alternatives and researchers taking strides to create birth control options for men despite the uphill battle.
According to an article by CNBC, “In the next year or so, researchers hope to start trials in humans using a technique called reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance, which has been under development in India for decades.” The article continued saying, “A few years ago the researchers behind it licensed their technology to an American foundation that used the knowledge to create Vasalgel. Thus far, it has been proven promising in trials done on rabbits and primates.”
Work is being done to create options for men who seek it out and are verbal about it. It is important for both men and women to advocate for the increase of available alternatives because this limitation is unfair to women and it is a disservice to men.
Khanum Shaikh, an assistant professor at California State University Northridge who has a doctorate in women’s and gender studies, said, “If they [men] had options, I think it would make a humongous difference and improvements in the lives of men, women and fetuses.”
She said single motherhood, abortions and gender roles are also affected by the limitations in male birth control, and more accountability and understanding would be found if there were more options available.
The issue of women being expected to take birth control speaks to a larger societal picture as it enforces men and women to uphold certain roles.
“I think it would positively expand possibilities for men to be better men actually, more responsible men. Like, for one, it would fracture every messed up notion of masculinity. It would probably actually help men become and learn to be men who have responsibility and take responsibility,” Shaikh said.
Shaikh said this would reduce the stigma and pressures women face when it comes to taking all of the responsibility when it comes to contraception.
The expectation that women should be the ones responsible for controlling pregnancy is unfair. Because sex involves at least two people, and therefore one person should not be carrying all the emotional, physical and social weight of risk. Everyone should have options, and if a woman sees taking birth control as the best and preferred option, that’s great. However, that should not be the only option available.