This guest blog post comes is written exclusively for Male Contraceptive Initiative by freelance journalist Raizel Joleigh.
The topic of contraception can be contentious. Women have a host of options when it comes to birth control, and these come with their own dialogue that deserves an avenue of its own. For men, though, the only methods currently available on the market are condoms or vasectomies – unreliable and costly to reverse, respectively.
As such, there are several ‘Common Male Contraception Misconceptions’ for some newer methods being developed, especially in terms of men’s interest or women’s willingness to trust men.
To understand a contemporary issue such as the one at hand entails looking back and trying to understand what drives human behavior in order to better grasp these norms, attitudes, and beliefs. There have been attempts to try to restructure definitions and make sense of what contraception options actually mean. Sociology informs us of how to make sense of constructed roles and ideas, and students and practitioners should align their interests with current phenomena and sociological topics such as human sexuality. The discipline of sociology plays a big role in making us come to terms with the fact that our stance on most issues may actually be related to old assumptions, and challenges us to consider new ways of thinking.
Accepting this idea may urge us to look into the factors that contribute to social attitudes towards male contraception:
A Matter of Trust
Despite surveys showing that a good number of women would trust their male partners with contraception, this cannot account for those who still struggle to. Women are sometimes hesitant because the onus is on them, yet again. Trust is subjective, and at the end of the day, some women may feel that if the contraception proves ineffective, they will literally have to bear the fruit of their actions, while their partner has more freedom to choose how he wants to react. Journalist Mahima Kapoor says that, hypothetically speaking, she would not be at peace as she has more to lose as a woman. This connects to the concept of gender socialization, where women are more often than not expected to fill in the role of a child’s primary caretaker.
Policing the Right to Choose
Much of people’s access to contraceptives is unfortunately dictated by governing bodies and institutions, with anti-contraception and anti-abortion initiatives an unfortunate reality at times. Women’s access to their right to make choices about their own bodies is policed. This inconveniences women further, as the methods available to them may already cause pain, discomfort, and other side effects. Many women had adverse reactions to the idea of a gel-based form of male contraception that simply needed to be rubbed on the skin, instead of reform in their own realm that created new options above and beyond the inconvenient methods they currently utilize. However, the National Institutes of Health claims that this is ultimately intended for those couples who cannot rely on hormonal contraception, while simultaneously expanding the options for men – somewhat of a win-win.
Pleasure Over Practicality
Although condoms are currently the most convenient and accessible male contraception method, many men opt not to use these as they inhibit their satisfaction – whereas women’s pleasure may not even be considered. Moreover, Urologist at the University of Utah Alex Pasturzak says that men may be reluctant to get vasectomies due to the pain post-procedure, or that changes in the production and absorption of testosterone will brand them as effeminate, which is another socially constructed idea. In these cases, attitudes towards male contraception stem from ideas on male comfort and pleasure – instead of what is actually practical for both parties.