"I wish there was a pill for men. Then you would have to remember to take it every day and it'd be your responsibility.”
Those words have been uttered by my girlfriend, semi-frequently—words many guys have probably heard before.
Outside the impersonal emanation of latex condoms and the Russian roulette-esque method of pulling out, the brunt of contraceptive responsibility reclines heavily upon the fairer sex. It's unfortunately another example of the lopsided sexual responsibility assigned to those lacking a Y chromosome. But effective male birth control is on its way—sooner, rather than later—and guys will have to start asking themselves: should I be the one taking the pill?
Gentlemen, feel free to start your engines. Male birth control is coming, and when it does, I'll be first in line.
Weighing the options
In every serious relationship I’ve been in, my partner has been on birth control, and in fact 62% of females of reproductive age are currently prescribed the pill. Often times, I’ve considered the possibility and viability of a male pill—usually when my girlfriend forgets to take her daily dose.
Now two major options are coming down the pharmaceutical pipeline that are effectively designed to plug your pipeline up. First off, we have Vasalgel: a temporary, (semi) easily reversible vasectomy that implants a fluid in your plumbing—instead of outright snipping it— and lasts for 10 years. This method is being spearheaded by the progressive contraceptive group Parsemus Foundation, who hope to take Vaselgel to human trials by 2016.
This has nothing to do with being a feminist or a push-over.
For those who don't like needles in their scrote, there are a couple pill-options looming on the horizon as well: The "clean sheets pill" (another Parsemus concoction) is in the early stages of research, and Gamendazole, a more well-known alternative, is in a progressed series of animal testing, which, if successful, would clear the way for human tests, and potential FDA approval.
But what about the side effects? When Parsemus ran a small study on the question (specifically regarding the Clean Sheets pill) they found that 20% of guys said yes immediately, 20% said no immediately, and the remaining 60% said maybe, as long as there are no side effects. Let's assume the male BC pill has the same negative effects as the female equivalent: weight fluctuation, potential acne, mood changes, increased testosterone, etc. Do men have a right to turn around, and ask their partners to take medication they don't want in order to avoid the side effects? The answer's obvious. Of course, some women opt to take birth control pills for reasons other than contraception, but that only accounts for about 14% of users.
Leveling the playing field
Choosing to get on the pill, in lieu of, or in addition to, your partner taking it, has nothing to do with being a feminist or a push-over. It's me, as a man, being willing to bridge the equality gap, filling in a space that has for all intents and purposes been stacked in my favor for half a century. These are things that never had to be discussed by my grandparents, or even my parents, but as our collective ideologies begin to shift and outdated gender conventions are displaced by more progressive solutions, we'll absolutely need to be prepared for these types of conversations.
It would now be my choice, and my responsibility.
By taking my own pill, on my terms, it would now be my choice, and (perhaps more importantly) my responsibility. Reproductive rights are not inconsequent and need to be taken seriously by both sexes. The more reassurance we can gain by being safe, the better for everyone. Plus if I had to choose baby or small pill once a day at this point in my life, I'd go pill every time.
If pills for both sexes were a reality, conflict would be inevitable. How would my partner and I decide who takes the pill? Would we trade every other year? Flip a coin? A high stakes round of rock, paper, scissors? As previously mentioned, a contingency of women would, of course, still choose to take their pill (probably for the same reasons I posed throughout this piece) but I think it's fair to think some women would skip the pill—due to the negative side effects, price, and general opposition to taking a capsule every day. But still, we would each need to present our cases.
So, when I asked my girlfriend, who originally spurred my thoughts, she agreed that we would have to make the decision together. "In the end, I'd probably want you to get on the pill, just so you can know what it's like."
"Also, man up, dude."
I couldn't have said it any better, myself.
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