Has Birth Control Become Solely The Female’s Responsibility?
The other day while chatting with a group of school mums we came upon the topic of birth control. One mum was complaining of heavy periods while another said her contraception was giving her terrible side effects. I decided to do a little random poll amongst them and asked who in their relationship was responsible for contraception. All of them bar one said they were.
Is that such a terrible thing though you may ask? Well yes and no in my opinion. You see it takes two to achieve a pregnancy so I believe it should take two to prevent one also. Especially when one partner is suffering daily from side effects such a cramping and nausea simply because her partner ‘hates the feel of condoms.’
One one hand it’s great that women now have control over their fertility as it was not that long ago that education and accessibility was limited or in some places almost non-existent. It’s only in the past century birth control has become easily accessible although comprehensive sex education is still lacking.
While it’s great that women are now in control of their fertility and sexuality, it seems that somehow it’s also given them sole responsibility of birth control. Should women be the only ones responsible for pregnancy prevention? I think not.
When looking at why women are more likely to be the ones to pop a pill or insert an IUD in hopes of preventing a pregnancy, it may have something to do with the options given to both men and women.
According to Planned Parenthood’s website men have five options: condoms, abstinence, vasectomy, withdrawal and outercourse. Women have: female condoms, tubal ligation, IUD’s, the Pill, the Nuva Ring, the Patch, diaphragm, cervical cap, Plan B, spermicidal jellies/foams, the sponge, Depo-Provera, outercourse and abstinence.
So perhaps the fact that women have so many more options is why the responsibility seems to fall in their laps- literally. But my concern is that this responsibility carries over into other aspects of life such as child care tasks and housework. Is this just a coincidence or a reflection of the truly patriarchal society we live in?
Some women may say it’s empowering to be in control of our bodies- but in reality how empowering is it to feel nauseous daily or put on weight from using the contraceptive pill? How empowering is it for women to spend hundreds of dollars a year preventing pregnancy when men likely spend a fraction of that amount? Is it empowering to a woman to have to use rings or take shots and suffer negative physical side effects?
Why is it that a man’s choice really comes down to a condom or a vasectomy? Cause let’s be honest abstinence isn’t a realistic option for anyone. Even when the World Health Organisation commissioned a trial for a promising form of male birth control, it was stopped when the men participating in the trial complained about all the side effects they were facing. Umm ok… yet women have been living with the side effects of birth control for decades!
So women continue to take the pill and suffer in silence all because their partner doesn’t like the feel of condoms or say sex doesn’t feel the same. According to the SKYN Condoms 2018 Millennial Sex Survey of about 4,000 people, just over half of men (56 percent) said they use condoms “always” or “most of the time.”
Another argument as to why perhaps women are left in charge of contraception is because they have the most to lose. If they end up with an unwanted pregnancy they are the ones who will suffer through an abortion or the morning after pill. It’s the women that will be stigmatised as having had an abortion. It’s the woman’s body that will endure the nausea and vomiting of the morning after pill. Not the man’s. Women have more to lose so they want to make sure their bodies are protected.
Yet, consistently focusing on how women should be preventing pregnancy lessens the responsibility for men and causes greater stigma for women when unplanned pregnancies do happen. Part of achieving gender equality is making sure men and women have equal responsibility with contraception. So let’s see more options available for men! Because yes- it does take two to achieve a pregnancy so it should take two to prevent one!