Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hey Dude, Take a Pill!

University of Washington is working on an oral-contraceptive….for men! (Seattle Weekly) Can you believe this? Finally, men will be able to experience the joys of being on birth control—sore nipples, acne, mood swings, food cravings, and weight gain. I’ll be honest; the idea makes me chuckle a little bit…ok a lot.

For over 40 years women all over the world have been taking birth control to prevent pregnancy and have had to bear the physical burden of these not-so-glamorous side-effects…with grace, I might add.

**Forewarning: sarcasm and stereotypes ahead**

As far as I know, there is no way for men to experience the real joys of womanhood, cramps, menstruating, child birth, etc. But maybe, just maybe, an oral-contraceptive for men will let them walk a mile in our shoes, well, maybe just half a mile. But will this new pill solve anything? What and who will it benefit? Let’s set aside the hilarious prospect of men having sore nipples for just a second and look at this a little more rationally.

Hey guys, FYI:
  • Birth control is expensive, ask your mom.
  • Side effects are incredibly unpleasant...and unflattering at times, ask your sister.
  • Remembering to take it everyday is hard, ask your girlfriend.
  • It’s all worth it, ask any woman on birth control.
Birth control isn’t for sissies. So why do we take it?

It’s safe to say one of the main reasons women are on birth control is to prevent an unwanted pregnancy and the choices and commitments that come along with that; the incentive and motivation to take the pill everyday, to put up with the side effects, and put out the money, are all worth it when you think of the alternative.

Men, however, don’t have as direct of an incentive. Men can’t get pregnant. Buuuut, their girlfriends can; their wives can; their partners can; that woman at the bar can; but they can’t. So why is the pill their responsibility, too? They don’t carry the baby; they don’t deal with the morning sickness, the weight gain, the doctor’s appointment or the labor pains.

The fact is that men just don’t have as clear of a motivation to take the pill as women do. So how can we be sure that they will? Or that they will even be open to the idea? Taking oral-contraceptives means sharing in the responsibility of pregnancy prevention (which, for women, may not be the reason for being on birth control but, for men, there are no other medical benefits.) Are men ready for that? I’m not trying to stereotype and say that they aren’t, but speaking about the age group of guys I’m around the most, I can’t really say they would be open to the idea. It’s hard enough to get college aged guys to wear a condom on a regular basis, much less take a pill on a daily basis.

So what are guys thinking about this? Well, perhaps, taking birth control could easily be seen as taking away their “manhood;” the pill suppresses sperm production. So, according to Seattle Weekly, “no one should be surprised if guys get a little squeamish at the idea of having the thing they've been told is what makes them masculine suppressed for the sake of the fairer sex.” Boo hoo. Whatever will you do without your sperm?

What about financing your birth control? UW is worried that financial reasons may be one of the leading deterrents for men, just as it is becoming the case for women. That’s legit. And taking it once a day, everyday, never forgetting? I think Seattle Weekly put it perfectly: if men can't remember to [put down] the toilet seat...

Seriously, though...

For a male oral-contraceptive to be successful, I think it takes a lot more than scientific advancements; it needs societal advancements as well. Whatever stigma is attached with guys and pregnancy prevention needs to go out the window. Shared responsibility of reproductive decisions is part of gender equality, it may mean that men need to pick up the slack, but hey! It’s what being equal is all about. And guys, even on those mornings when you’re craving chocolate or loathing the size of your hips, remember: you could have it worse.

So as much as I would love to see men walk a mile in my shoes and deal with the side effects of birth control, to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a woman, I’m not sure how successful a male birth control pill would be. But who knows, fives years from now, when the pill is expected to be launched, maybe guys will be begging for it.

PSSSST guys, birth control is sexy. DO IT.


Anonymous said...

I don't see what the big deal is. If a man doesn't have a problem with the chemical content of such a pill, it's an option. I'm not crazy about taking chemicals. My girlfriend is not on the pill. We use other means of BC. But I think there are a lot more men who would be open to taking such a pill than you suggest here. Not that I don't agree with your points - I do!

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that, in your argument that men don't have "a clear incentive" to take birth control, you list off a series of temporarily physical discomforts and inconveniences, rather than some of the long term effects: radical restructuring of lifestyle, a twenty year financial commitment, responsibility for a human life, etc.

But hey, those apply to men too, don't they? Wouldn't fit for some foaming-at-the-mouth rant that attacks men for not wanting to partake in an option that's never been available to them.

The truth is that many men have long wished for the same control over pregnancy that women have enjoyed since the advent of the pill. Unfortunately, many of the promising options for men (including RISUG — look it up) aren't hormonal, don't require monthly payments, and thus aren't profitable to drug companies.

Maggie S said...

salv4tion: I HOPE there are a lot of guys out there who are up for taking the pill! But it's not too reassuring that UW is having trouble getting willing participants for their study...and that's when they're paying them $1,300! I definitely think there are folks who would jump at the chance for a male version of the pill, I just have a hard time believing it will be as 'popular' as it is with women.

NeoSkye said...

You are missing a major benefit for guys who take this pill. If a guy's gf can't take the pill because she has very bad reactions to it, then he is forced into a life of rubbers. I can't wait to be able to take a pill and reap the rewards of a more enjoyable sexual experience.