The Male Birth Control Pill: It’s About Time, or is It?

Photo courtesy of Gnarls Monkey

In our society women are given a larger share of reproductive responsibility than men.  This might make sense to many because men can’t get pregnant.  So, it’s logical to make a woman the gatekeeper of her reproductive health, right?

Yes and no.

Throughout history and across cultures, giving women access to safe methods of contraception have been a good thing.  Contraception afforded women more control over when to start a family in pursuit of careers, and education.  It also prevented forced or unwanted pregnancy.

Young Western women, such as myself, tend to forget that contraception wasn’t always a choice (and still isn’t depending on where you live).  But maybe this amnesia is a good indication that our society has far progressed past viewing women primarily as baby makers.

On the flip side.  We’ve far progressed past viewing women primarily as baby makers.  Two people are responsible for every baby expelled out of a vagina.  TWO! That baby is a whole lot of pressure and responsibility for just one woman.  True it’s feasible to raise a child a la one, but it’s not pretty.

As more dads are choosing to be stay-at-home caregivers and it’s becoming socially acceptable to assume men will be (close to) equally involved parents, it’s timely that the male contraceptive has arrive.  So now men and women can share reproductive responsibilities.

One would hope…

Yesterday, I was disappointed to hear a morning radio discussion between the male and female hosts about the new male Pill.  The conversation went something like this:

Female host: How cool is this male Pill?  For years we’ve had to medicate and be responsible about not getting knocked up.  It needs a fun catchy name.

Male host: I don’t think it’s a good idea necessarily.  I mean guys are so irresponsible as it is.  We can’t even remember to take out the trash let alone a daily pill.

The female host got sidetracked and obsessed about giving it a good name.  However, she did mention that like female contraceptives, the male version will have many options to “get it” such as a shot, gel, patch, or implant.  This MSNBC article talks a bit more about it.

There’s truth to the fact that all men won’t be responsible enough to take the Pill or get their monthly injections.  And there’s also the reality that men tend to visit doctors offices less than women and have a stronger aversion to medicating.  But women also forget sometimes too.  Or as one radio caller said “husbands have to watch out ’cause their wives will secretly stop taking the pill to trap you.” But men can’t get knocked up.  Ever.  So until our society’s men are viewed to have an equally great responsibility over bringing babies into this world, there’s more incentive for women to control their fertility than men.

Pushing the male contraceptive forward is a definitely a step in the right equalizing direction.  Some women might say “no way guys can’t be trusted” and some guys can’t.  But as long as we say that, it will remain a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Need for Sociology of Sex and not Just Science to Explain (Female) Infidelity

Earlier this month TIME Magazine came out with an article about “cougar sex” and why women in their “middle years” age 27 – 45 reported having more sex than any other age group.  The story started out addressing one of my pet-frustrations justifying infidelity among men.

Men who cheat on their spouses have always enjoyed an expedient explanation: Evolution made me do it. Many articles (here is one, and here is another), especially in recent years, have explored the theory that men sleep around because evolution has programmed them to seek fertile (and, conveniently, younger) wombs.

The article then segues into a study about female sexuality using evolution to explain higher sexual gusto among women in between the ages of 27 through 45.  The article was interesting but like other “science of sex” type explanations for sexual behaviors, I was disappointed in its lack of social contextualization.

I’m sure the author only had limited word space but starting the article in the context of infidelity increased my expectation that the story would drive home the argument that women cheat too and here are the scientific reasons why.

The article’s analysis of the study is still interesting but I’m not sure what to make of how the author presented the study’s theory.

Our female ancestors would have grown accustomed to watching many of their children — perhaps as many as half — die of various diseases, starvation, warfare and so on before being able to have kids of their own. This trauma left a psychological imprint to bear as many children as possible. Becoming pregnant is much easier for women and girls in their teens and early 20s — so much easier that they need not spend much time having sex. (Read about cougar cruises.)

However, after the mid-20s, the lizard-brain impulse to have more kids faces a stark reality: it’s harder and harder to get pregnant as a woman’s remaining eggs age. And so women in their middle years respond by seeking more and more sex.

I’m probably disappointed because I wanted more discussion on the sociology of sex and infidelity within this article.  Here are some pressing questions and discussion points on my mind about the topic.  Please chime in on your thoughts.

  • Men who cheat don’t always cheat with young women.
  • Today’s woman has more autonomy, power, and travel opportunities.  How does that affect the cheating trend?
  • Unfortunately, women cheat too but there’s still more stigma attached to a woman cheating than a man.
  • In the monkey world, the alpha male goes around spreading his seed. This theory is sometimes used to explain male infidelity. But little is discussed about the female monkeys getting cozy with all the available beta monkeys.  Also, monkeys pick bugs out of each others’ hair and eat them.  I’ll leave it at that.
  • Depending on who you talk to, isn’t infidelity about more than sex?  Isn’t sex just the end product of cheating or a symptom of some larger personal issue?