Jezebel recently published an article about how it sucks that women are still waiting around for a great male equivalent of a birth control pill. According to the article, one of the main reasons why we have yet to see a male BCP out there is because of the side effects associated with current trials of the hormonal pills used to stop the sperm from swimming, so to speak, don’t outweigh the possible risks that come from a man having unprotected sex. Basically, because a dude doesn’t actually have to deal with an unwanted pregnancy, the side effects are making these pills pretty hard to market — even though there’s plenty of support for the pill from both men and women.
While I understand the arguments for wanting to get a male hormonal birth control on the market, I don’t know if it’s going to be the solution everyone thinks it is. Why? Well, for one thing, I just don’t think that a male version of birth control is going to have many benefits for single women.
Let’s imagine a scenario where we live in a world where men have access to a safe, effective hormonal birth control with limited side effects. A man in a monogamous relationship may choose to take a hormonal birth control pill in order to prevent pregnancy with his partner. In this case, it’s not all that different from a woman choosing the female birth control pill (or other female birth control option). If a woman struggles with finding the right birth control option and isn’t a fan of barrier methods, then the male taking the BCP is a convenient solution for the couple. I am completely for this, and I would love for women to feel like they had more options in terms of pregnancy prevention.
What I’m more concerned about is the implications that a male birth control pill will have for single men and women. I refuse to trust anyone else with protecting my interests — my interests being not getting pregnant — and think that it’s important for women to feel empowered in terms of knowing how they are protecting their own bodies. Personally, I would feel far more comfortable knowing that I took control of my own body and was responsible with my birth control method than relying on someone else with far less at stake to protect me. Call me cynical, but what proof would a woman have that the person she’s having sex with is really on the male birth control pill? Not a whole lot other than his word, and that absolutely terrifies me. (Oh, and did I mention that we’re all living in a world where STIs aren’t a thing, either? Because that’s one thing that no pill can protect you against getting from a partner.)
I am all for the idea of a male birth control pill, I really am, but I’m not buying that it’s the answer to unwanted pregnancy. I think it will take some pressure off women to go on hormonal birth control, which is important for women in committed relationships who want to protect themselves without the often icky side effects. (Personally, I adore my hormonal birth control, but I know a ton of people who consider it a necessary evil.) For single women, I think that it’s important to get as much visibility as possible when it comes to protecting against pregnancy. Unfortunately, you’ll never be able to tell if a guy is really on birth control, just as a guy should never assume a woman is on hormonal birth control. I would much rather see women take an active role in their own safety with insistence on condoms or other types of barrier contraceptives for pregnancy prevention.
It should be up to both partners to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy, but at the end of the day, the woman is the one who needs to protect her own body.