Authors note: I originally penned this article three years ago for Antimisandry Forums and Men’s News Daily. While some of the information is dated the issue remains as pertinent as ever — if not more so. We are re-publishing it here in order to promote tonight’s broadcast of AVFM News and Activism where we will feature Elaine Lissner of the Parimus Foundation who will be telling us about the latest developments in research efforts for VASALGEL, a reversible form of male fertility control that is safe, effective and affordable. Please join us tonight for that important conversation.
Thursday, May 10, 2013 was the the fifty third anniversary of the introduction of the female birth control pill. In those fifty three years no equivalent for men has been developed. Why?
Every five years or so, and you can almost count on every five years like clockwork, we hear news concerning the development of a discrete male fertility control drug or device whose side effects are tolerable and whose fertility effects are reversible. In fact, men in many parts of the world already enjoy the benefits of such methods. Why do we have not one single method in the U.S., the U.K, Australia and Canada?
In China and France men have the option of hormone treatments rendering them temporarily infertile. In India, RISUG ( Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance) has been used successfully as a long term, reversible method of fertility control for nearly twenty years. As of this writing the U.S., U.K. and Australia are conducting studies that hold tremendous promise for the male pill.
Standing in the way of all this coming to fruition, however, are the drug companies themselves. They are very sketchy about putting up money to develop, produce and market these options. Why are they frightened? Who or what is keeping them from taking the plunge into what could be a very lucrative market. It seems to defy common sense.
But common sense has very little to do with reproductive issues in the western world.
Unfortunately, and to our tremendous discredit, men have been almost entirely silent about the male pill, leaving the discourse on reproductive control methods, and for that matter reproductive rights as a whole, to be dominated by a chorus of female voices. Also, like clockwork, this chorus starts chiming in just around the time mention of a pending male fertility control method comes up.
Many of these voices support the idea of a male pill citing fairness and the desire that men carry more of the contraceptive burden. The most energetic and pernicious, however, come from a hoard of columnists writing “from a woman’s perspective” who oppose the idea of a male pill.
The timbre of the commentary ranges from the condescending to the appallingly bigoted. In January of 2010 HLN’s Joy Behar discussed research developments with, of all people, Ashley Dupre, Eliot Spitzer’s over-priced sidekick. Along with discussing the “G Spot” with the supposedly renowned expert on male fertility issues, they also “covered” the inability to trust a man when he says he is on the pill, the “fragile male ego” that we hear so much about and how rendering one’s self infertile might just be too much for a man’s pride to take.
Also predictably plugged was the idea that men simply do not possess the intelligence to realize we can get an sexually transmitted disease without the use of a condom. Hmmm, who’d’ave thunk you could get somethin that AJAX aint gonna wash off by not wrappin’ it up first? Not nobody ever told me that!
Other commentaries include a particularly offensive one written by MJ Deschamps from the University of Ottawa’s Centertown Journal called “Give Them the Remote Not the Pill” in which she parrots the concerns presented on the HLN interview.
“What I’m worried about are all the other men – the unmarried, uncommitted, casual daters who can walk away from a situation if an accident happens because they forgot to take their birth control, or just lied about taking it altogether. Never mind the large increase in STIs and AIDS that would probably arise from the inevitable decrease in condom use.”
Walk away? Yea right, men are NEVER thrown in jail for failure to pay child support and we are all just an ignorant bunch of jackasses who have no idea how STDs are spread.
No doubt pharmaceutical company executives, in lieu of very expensive market research, will take note of these voices and conclude that spending the money to develop and viably market such a method might pose more a financial risk than it’s worth. If there are so many opposing voices and not much observable support for these methods why put up the money?
So why is there is so much opposition to this idea of male fertility control? Surely enabling men with the option to control their fertility would be good for them as well as society. There would be fewer unwanted pregnancies and couples and single men would have more control over their futures. But keep in mind the operative word here is “control.”
What does this word mean when talking about reproduction?
Historically, rules were developed to ensure that fertile women were paired with men that could protect and provide for them and any resultant offspring. Men, taking on the burden of providing and protecting, were also guaranteed authority as it applied to their mode of living as well as access and control where it concerned raising their offspring. Both sexes were given roles, rights and responsibilities related to their children. Similarities are ubiquitous throughout all of human civilization.
It was imperative the female had to give some assurance to the male the children he was to protect and provide for were his. This was achieved, admittedly, through strict social enforcement of female chastity before and strict loyalty after pairing with a male. Neither she nor society could rightfully expect the man to support her and her children if this was not the case.
Just as importantly the male’s status and prestige were almost solely based on his ability to protect and provide for his family. Failure to do this has always resulted, with every society and culture, in social ostracism, diminishing his “Family Name,” the value of which determined his offspring’s ability to find viable mates within their social group.
This arrangement was by no means perfect. Some even call it oppressive. But it supported countless generations, each producing healthy, well kept Homo sapiens who were much better off than their counterparts in other primate species. Without this system of rules not one red brick would have been laid atop another, foregoing virtually every single feature of civilization as we know it.
In the Late twentieth century medical advances and changes in the law regarding reproduction, parental rights and responsibilities changed this paradigm forever. By changing how we bring children into the world and raise them, we changed the path of human civilization.
In 1960 the female oral contraceptive was brought to market, to be followed in subsequent years by a plethora of effective and relatively inexpensive methods through which women could control their fertility in a safe and reversible manner. This truly freed women to seek sexual affection without fearing the consequences they would have suffered prior. Ostensibly men would benefit, too, but they would have to rely on the word of women with whom they had relations as men still had the same ancient responsibilities that come with a pregnancy.
But this was ok, right? Pregnancy is so treacherous and the ordeal of taking care of an infant so daunting no woman would ever want to be anything but honest while disclosing her fertility status……. Right?
Unfortunately for men at that time there was no equivalent solution to the problem of controlling their own fertility. To be fair, it was a hard nut for scientists to crack, pun intended. Surely though, science would work it’s wonders and make available in good order the same type of option for men.
Years went by and the pill became safer. New methods were being tested as well with the promise that if women could not or did not want to take the pill there were other options to be made available. Also on the horizon were rumblings of a totally different form of birth control, separate from a medicinal form. Soon, the use of the operative word “birth” would take a whole new meaning in the phrase: “Birth Control.”
Abortion had been available illegally for some time but in 1973 the Unites States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade declared that the “imposition of parenthood” on an individual was just too much of a burden for the state to rightfully impose. This meant that even after conception women would have a right to decide whether or not the pregnancy would come to term. Males however were not to enjoy that same option. Consequently, men were given the legal burden for someone else’s choices.
This development fostered the expansion of parental responsibilities for men and diminished those of women. It is now, for all intents and purposes, legal for a woman to terminate a pregnancy as well as, abandon, or give up for adoption a child without the consent of the father. There are armies of social workers and lawyers on the government payroll who will assist her in taking the child out of his life if she so wishes. Men, however, are subject to incarceration for not being able to write out a child support check to a woman who has no accountability for how that money is spent. This can happen even if the child is, in fact, not that of said man and said man can prove it.
In our society a man’s parental and human rights are based almost entirely on the assumed good will and integrity of the mother.
Let’s take our attention to an article written by the UK Daily Mail’s Leah Hardy entitled “Of Course Women Don’t Want a Male Pill- It Would End All of Those ‘Happy Accidents’”. This particular article enraged me more than any other commentary on the subject concerning a man’s right to seek control over his own fertility and future. In spite of the fact that there have been millions of men jailed because they didn’t (or couldn’t) hold up to the state imposed responsibilities as parents, Hardy asserted that children for men are nothing more than “happy little accidents.”
This article illustrates perfectly and unabashedly the real reason that so many women and woman’s advocacy groups demonstrate a fierce resistance to the male pill. That reason is not that they are afraid that we will lie or forget. Rather, it is the fear that we will actually use it. It is the fear that men will seize reproductive control. But the question remains what it will take for men to assume that control.
Female birth control was, in spite of anything you might hear from feminists, handed to women on a silver platter. For men, it will not be handed over in the form of a social mandate or government entitlement. No president will ever be able to buy men’s votes with the free goody of birth control. For men, it will take something else.
Yup, that’s right. There are too many agencies and interests representing the female gender’s total control over reproduction for there not to be a fight over it. Whenever a woman says “you men have birth control it’s called a condom” or “keep it in your pants” or “just get a vasectomy” the response should be equivalent cynical verbal spit. We, as men should no longer sit idle while those in academia, the media, government, or for that matter, casual conversation maintain control of this most important topic.
Men also need to get vocal as a group concerning the male birth control pill, writing pharmaceutical companies and encouraging them to develop an internal male fertility control method is a good start. Most importantly though, we absolutely must wrestle the male fertility control debate out of the hands of women and take ownership of it.
This may sound extreme to exclude women, but they are free to support the idea if they want. They should not feel free to oppose it without reaction from indignant men. The male pill is about men, not women, not children, not the government. It is about men and men alone.
Gentlemen, let us get busy and start doing something about this.