Balancing Out the Playing Field

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Photo by Sal Ingram
Photo by Sal Ingram

It has been almost 53 years since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the most widely used form of birth control, the pill — it’s rate of prevention was nearly 100 percent. Sadly, there is still no equivalent or even comparable option for men.

Currently there are at least nine practical forms of birth control available: condoms, cervical barriers, contraceptive rings, sponges, patches, pills, emergency “morning-after” pills, intrauterine devices and sterilization. From this list, only two forms of birth control are useful to the discretion of males: condoms and sterilization. Unfortunately, one is permanent, and the other presents the constant risk of breakage.

As a male, I feel just a little left out by the lack of choices available to me to make the individual decision to temporarily suppress my virility — the male equivalent of fertility. However, this is not just an issue for men. The lack of variety in the male birth control market puts a lot of undue responsibility on modern women as well.

The burden of birth control has been unilaterally assigned to one gender. For 52 years, society has been putting all of the impetus on women to take hormone-scrambling pills and install uncomfortable devices and barriers to prevent unintended pregnancies. This creates a disparity in the degree of blame placed on women when unintended pregnancies do occur.

If there were a comparable FDA approved male hormonal contraceptive on the market I certainly wouldn’t mind taking some of the burden of physical and emotional side effects of these options off the shoulders of women, especially if it meant I could more effectively take personal responsibility for any products of love.

So far there have been few testings of new male contraceptive pills because of market pressure on pharmaceutical companies to work on creating drugs with a higher chance of FDA approval. Most of the promising possibilities for a male contraceptive have presented complicated adverse effects that would need to be worked out first. Consequently, testings of possible male contraceptives have not been a priority, due to the uphill battle their development currently faces.

The efforts of some to subsidize existing forms of birth control, make them more easily and widely available and eliminate hindrances to obtaining them have been thwarted by right-wing politicians and religious leaders for decades. The male half of the population could provide a huge amount of political clout and end this war on access to contraceptives. While we definitely already should be doing this, and many of us are, increasing individual demand for birth control among men by introducing a new form of male brith control could easily put an end to this issue of human rights and freedoms.

Not only could a doubling up of birth control regimens put another very necessary damper on population growth, it could make relying on the choices of someone else a thing of the past for men, and being the sole party responsible for contraception a thing of the past for women. The overall benefit to society and the demographic of such an invention could be enormous. I hope pharmaceutical manufacturers soon realize the positive impact a better male contraceptive would have and prioritize making this medical innovation a reality.

Maybe we’ll have to think outside the box and away from a pill, or maybe it will be harder than we think to make a male contraceptive ever come to fruition. Either way, I would like to see a popular push from the male populace that could influence the market so that pharmaceutical companies may become encouraged to take the time and risk to work out the kinks.

When all the responsibility for birth control is put on the shoulders of women, it requires men to make sometimes risky decisions to trust that his partner knows how to use the birth control and/or has been administering it. In addition, feeling like one has to oversee someone else’s medication regimen has a gross-tasting patriarchal tint to it.

In the end, no matter how long it takes, making the male contraceptive a reality will rely on demand. We must demand this to come closer to a world with equality in sexual situations. Since it takes two to tango, both partners consenting to dance should be afforded the ability to go onto the ballroom floor ensured they are safe from unintended consequences.