Men: Too Stupid to Take Daily Birth Control?

Statue in Oslo's Vigeland Park. Photo by Mark Wilkinson.

In case you haven’t heard, Israel developed a male birth control pill. The drug, which works by stripping protein from sperm that is necessary for conception, is about to go into clinical trials. Aside from being the first male oral contraceptive, this is also the first non-hormonal oral contraceptive. Awesome.

But the awesomeness is dampened by blatant sexism from men’s female partners. A snip from the Telegraph article:

A big drawback against men being in control of fertility is the fear they would forget to take a pill.

Polls have repeatedly shown wives and partners do not trust their men to remember to pop a pill every day.

But now that problem has been solved. The new pill can be taken either once a month or once every three months.

Professor Breitbart said: “I think most women would trust their man to remember once a month or once a quarter.”

So, women never forget to take their birth control pills since we are paragons of domestic and sexual responsibility? Spare me.

I posted the article on my Facebook page and my friends jumped on the debate wagon. Here are the highlight points and why they’re wrong:

  • Men are horny, can’t get pregnant, so they don’t care. Sure, men don’t have to carry the child or directly deal with abortion costs, but to assume a hetero male partner doesn’t care or isn’t invested is unfair. This kind of thinking is common gender-reductionist thought that paints men as horny, irresponsible idiots. Women can be horny, irresponsible idiots too. Haven’t you seen Sex and the City?
  • Men will take it because they don’t want to get hit with child support payments. Because a woman’s greatest desire is Baby-Making and all women will scheme their way into pregnancy? No. In fact, a recent study turned that notion on its head and found some young women’s birth control being sabotaged by their male partners.
  • Men just won’t remember. Well neither do women. How many times have you or a female friend gasped and said, “Oh no! I forgot to take my birth control!” That’s why they developed the Patch and Nuva-Ring. Humans can be forgetful creatures, gender is not a factor.

The one thing that concerns me is how many men would make the doctor appointment to get the pill. The self-sufficiency mandate of masculinity means that men often avoid doctor visits. I voiced this concern when I wrote about the male contraceptive shot being developed in China and I’m still skeptical about men voluntarily seeking reproductive health care.

Even so, I think that men who do get the prescription will take the pill daily, if needed. (One male friend said he would be better with taking it daily instead of monthly or semiannually.) The men that seek this pill out do not want their partner to be pregnant.

One of my female friends put it best:

My boyfriend and I absolutely do not want to get pregnant right now. I feel our stake in the concern is 50/50. He often checks in with me, helps remind me to take my pill. In that sense, the responsibility is still shared. If he were on the pill, I’d help remind him, too, but I would absolutely trust him because I know he feels he’s not ready to be a father, and I know if we aborted/chose adoption that would still be a difficult thing for us both to go through.

Shared responsibilty with your partner. It works.

11 thoughts on “Men: Too Stupid to Take Daily Birth Control?”

  1. I have an Implanon, and I think if they could develop a male version of that we’d be set. But if I wasn’t on birth control… I don’t know. It’s not that I don’t trust men to take the pill, it’s just that it’s my womb, and if things go really horribly south I’m the one stuck dealing with it, and I’m neurotic about things I don’t see happening.

    However, I would think that surely most reasonable men who aren’t in a fairly long-term, trusting relationship with their partners wouldn’t just trust their word that they were consistent birth control pill takers and use it as their only method, either. (Which is reasonable, IMO.) It’s scary giving up control of your reproduction to someone that isn’t you, I think.

    1. It’s not that I don’t trust men to take the pill, it’s just that it’s my womb, and if things go really horribly south I’m the one stuck dealing with it, and I’m neurotic about things I don’t see happening.

      This. It’s not that men don’t have a stake in preventing a pregnancy. It’s just that women often have a greater stake in the prevention, because even if a man may be parent as well or have to pay some child support, the woman is the one who ends up pregnant and delivering the baby. She has to deal with the immediate physical consequences.

      Do women sometimes forget to take the pill? Sure. Happens all the time. But they know if they forget that they are the ones who will have to deal with the pregnancy physically and directly. If a man forgets, he has less (not nothing but less relatively speaking) to deal with.

      In other words: Women, physical, psychological, financial; Men psychological, financial.

  2. I’m happy with my birth control. And I’m a guy, y’know.

    Course it’s not a daily pill, but I do take my allergy meds and vitamins daily, I could probably hang with another pill easily enough…

  3. Well it’s about time someone came out with a male birth control pill. I see both sides of the debate and we shouldn’t assume all men act the same when it comes to sexual responsibility, though sometimes I fail to see any differences in their behaviors. With the male Pill, I like the added option of the guy being able to take some reproductive responsibility.

    This won’t entirely alleviate the unequal duty women have over unwanted pregnancies but it seems like a decent step forward towards equalizing the onus between two people.

  4. I think one of the most critical secondary-market products for a male contraceptive would be something that let the man himself or a prospective partner assess whether his medication was working correctly. I’ve always imagined something monoclonal-antibody based like pregnancy testers that quickly and accurately determined whether the tested-for agent was present. For instance if the Israeli pill strips a particular protein a test for that protein would indicate pretty clearly whether it was safe to proceed.

    Without casting any aspersions on men (at all!) I think it really would be difficult for a lot of men to remember to take a pill a day — just, as you say, it is for women — and such a “test strip” would be a good training/reminder tool to help men get conscious to how effective their memory and/or pill-taking regimen was.

    Also, thanks for the information and thanks for standing up for men. My big thesis is that humans are very good at meeting expectations but not so great at exceeding them. If the expectation is that we’ll be irresponsible louts then that’s all people are going to get. If the expectation is for responsibility (especially if there are actual, you know, tools like male pills provided for *being* responsible with) then you’ll probably see a lot more responsibility instead. For that reason its not just rude to sell men short it’s counterproductive.


  5. I think it’s all about control – having it, sharing it or surrendering it. I take the pill because it gives me control over my body and my future, and for as long as I can remember, that has been my responsibility to a greater extent than it has been my partners’. (Ever taken your partner to the family planning clinic with you? Me neither!) To hand that control over to another party (a man, obviously, but I don’t think it’s the maleness that unsettles me) is terrifying. It’s not that I don’t trust him to take it reliably, it’s that for the first time ever I would not be the one wielding the control – and to date, most discussions about contraception have been about female responsibility and female empowerment. This move will require trust – and for women, that’s generally not something we’ve so far considered with regards to contraception.

  6. I’d take it.

    I imagine I’d forget sometimes, but I wouldn’t have sex after forgetting. Not sure how long you have to wait after missing a pill to be safe, but I’d learn that, obviously.

  7. Thinking a bit more about it, I should add that several long-term partners of mine weren’t taking it entirely, or even primarily to prevent pregnancies, but simply to have some order and control over their periods. I’m not sure that’s a particularly good idea, but I don’t think my present partner would be interested in me taking the new pill because period management is her primary interest.

  8. I’m a man and I have always taken responsibility for birth control because women often “forget” to take the pill. Therefore, I’ve used a condom and/or vasectomy for birth control. I’d never completely hand over the control and responsibility for birth control given the huge financial hook that could be placed on me.

  9. I’m a man in his mid twenties, i remind my girlfriend to take the pill.
    She kept forgetting, and i got so frustrated (cause we couldn’t have sex)
    that i created a daily text alert on her phone to remind her at 5:00 everyday.

    We take our protein powder everyday, why wouldn’t we take the Man Pill.

    Men would carry it around in their wallets, it signifies they are getting laid.

  10. I’m not completely sure I would completely trust a partner to remember taking a pill, but then I have trust issues. I’d love to have it as a back-up method though 🙂

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