Birth control has come quite a long way since women in ancient Egypt were inserting mixtures of crocodile dung, honey and baking soda inside themselves and concubines in China were drinking mixtures of lead and mercury — all with the intention of preventing an unwanted pregnancy.
Today, we think of it as an almost casual occurrence when our friend’s phone alarm starts blaring and a big pill emoji flashes on the screen, indicating that it’s that time of the day. Still, it was less than 50 years ago that birth control actually became legal for all U.S. citizens. Although time and technology have drastically changed birth control, it seems that one aspect of it hasn’t — birth control has always been expected to be used by women, not men.
When I say birth control in this sense, I am referring to the array of hormonal contraceptives used to biologically alter a woman’s body in the hopes of inducing temporary sterility — intrauterine devices (IUDs), birth control pills, the shot, the patch and the like. According to Planned Parenthood, the only ways a male can aid in pregnancy prevention is through use of the withdrawal method, wearing a condom or undergoing a vasectomy. With the pull-out method only being 78 percent effective, one report concluding that only 30 percent of males aged 25 to 34 used a condom with their last sexual partner and the irreversibility of vasectomies, it’s no wonder that women feel obligated to take on the role of using birth control.
What Planned Parenthood fails to mention is the possibility of a male birth control pill and a male birth control shot. Granted, neither are available on the market for use by the public — yet. This is the result of limited funding for studies on male birth control. There is little to no monetary motivation for investment in a product that is not in demand. However, greater pressure by the public for their release to the market could make them a viable option for sexually active men.
In 2016, a study involving 320 men was published to evaluate the efficacy of a male birth control shot. However, the study was terminated early, despite results showing it to be 96 percent effective at preventing pregnancy in their female partners. The study was stopped short due to subject’s complaints about the side effects of the shot. Acne and mood disorders were among the most common. If you know anyone on birth control, you know that these are side effects often experienced by women, too.
While some may argue that it is impractical for men to take birth control, seeing that there are millions of sperm to account for rather than a singular egg from a female, this is nothing more than an excuse. Simply, men are unwilling to deal with the adverse effects of birth control, so they delegate the responsibility to females. Why should they get a few pimples and ride a roller coaster of emotion if women are willing to do it instead?
The expectation of females to be the sole protector against pregnancy during sex further removes a woman’s control over her own body. At a time in which this control is in such grave danger, there is no room for a woman to surrender further authority. Still, she is forced to make the decision of whether to subject herself to the array of side effects that birth control poses or risk an unwanted pregnancy. While there is a gray area between the two, the fear of an accidental conception may make it seem black and white.
While the burden should not be entirely shifted to men for birth control, the possibility of them using it should be a part of the conversation. It shouldn’t be a given that their female partner will pick up the slack. It takes two people to have sex, and both sperm and egg to create life — just like it should take two to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
Savanna Vidal is a junior majoring in biology.