If it takes two to tango, why does only one have to suffer? There should be more safe and effective methods available for men so that we can all equitably share the contraceptive responsibility.
In a new era of activism and openness revolving around the ‘my body, my choice’ movement, I believe the forbidden topic of contraceptives needs to be unburdened. When people talk about birth control, the first thing that comes to mind is likely the pill for women in any heterosexual relationship. I know that condom is also somewhere on that list, but let’s face the facts; the concept of contraceptive use has been feminised and condom becomes less desirable. When we talk about birth control, our mind would probably go to the pill for women. I felt the unbearable dominance that I was unable to reject not using a condom, even though I knew I was at risk of having sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or worst, unwanted pregnancies.
I was asked by one of my sex partners what would I do if I got ‘knocked up.’ In that phrasing, it was clear to me that the responsibility would be entirely up to me. I wished the guy in every heterosexual relationship could be more involved and amenable, so their female partners would not be overwhelmed by such torment.
We need more options because condoms are no longer on the way. There are more than 10 methods of contraception that women can choose from, while it is limited to only three practical options for men including spermicide, vasectomy and condoms which is now probably not a popular option among teenagers. Not only because of the lack of education, but also because of peer perceptions. The National Debrief Survey, published by the University of New South Wales found that in the past 12 months, 75% of people aged 15 to 29 who had sex partners engaged in condomless sexual intercourse at least once. What caught my attention is that around 24% did not use condoms during intercourse with their casual partners. Although this could potentially lead to a higher rate of having STIs, they risked it anyways “primarily due to social norms regarding the use of condoms that are only moderately supportive,” said Dr Philippe Adam, Centre for Social Research in Health. It has been two years since the results of the survey were published, yet I can confirm these statistics are still the case nowadays.
I have asked a few of my guy friends whether they prefer using condoms or contraceptive pills if they’re available, and the majority responded with confusion if there are other options for men. Guys in the majority group also responded that they have not yet experienced vaginal coitus. Those that have been actively having sexual intercourse said they would love to use the pills after considering the side effects since it ‘feels better’ without condoms. It suggests that guys will likely ditch condoms once they perform sexually with their opposite-sex partners just to achieve that ‘skin-to-skin’ pleasure. I’m not surprised that men are being irresponsible and disregarding safe practices for pleasure, but it puts us, women, in the position where we have to negotiate condom use or might give up doing it. Isn’t it a sign to find more solutions?
Understandably, male contraceptives are still in their development stage due to various challenges such as cost and social reception, but Australian men have been waiting for hormonal contraception since early 2000. The study shows that 75% of men surveyed indicated that they would consider trying MHC if it were available. Another study conducted in 2000 also showed women's enthusiasm for letting their partners use a male pill. Only 2% of the total sample of 1,894 participants said that they would not trust their partner to use hormonal contraception. So, why aren’t they available for us to level up our sex experience, safer and more satisfying?
I agree that there was a factor of social norms which shaped the mindset of both the males and females regarding their role in a heterosexual relationship. I was afraid to ask if my partner could use a condom; whilst, my partner had his assumption that I should have taken ’the pill’. These viewpoints are embodied within our assumption that women take responsibility for pregnancy and childbearing. Women think it’s our authority and men, well, mostly think so too. I was stunned when I found out I have so many options, but it comes with more severe distress. Hypothetically, if there were more methods for men, they would understand what it is like to go through a roller coaster of emotions when you could not find your ‘contraceptive fit’.
Women suffer from contraceptive pills’ side effects. Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash
Along with the decrease in the use of condoms in men is the decline in the use of oral contraceptive pills among young women due to various factors. One of them includes our mental health. To find a perfect ‘fit’, we look out for the pill with minimal undesirable side effects. We also have to pay to get our reproductive health and mental health checked to avoid any unfortunate risks. It’s now becoming more of a demand for better birth control regardless of men or women. We both deserve better.
Our choices are being limited, most of the options on the market and the ones that are being developed are hormonal. More male contraceptive methods must arrive soon otherwise, women are not the only ones who suffer. Providing safe, effective, and affordable male contraceptives will allow both men and women to participate fully in safe sex and share an equal role in family planning.