Birth Control For Dudes

A new article from Gizmodo (and the attractive picture of a sperm bicycle that accompanies it) have got me thinking and re-thinking about the idea of birth control for men.

I had actually heard of the idea long ago when listening to a podcast about male birth control. So far, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation beyond the vasectomy in effective, safe birth control for men. I believe that it’s a good idea, but somewhat complicated to implement. First, the male reproductive system does not take kindly to the destruction of sperm – they’re feisty little thugs. But also, as the article points out, men are socialized to believe that fertility is a sign of manhood and that to take birth control would put them at odds with gender norms.

The article, however, makes me think about how we envision medical technologies in the first place. It makes the claim that birth control for women is based on “decades old science” and that there needs to be an update. While I do think that the points brought up in the article that they link to are valuable – discomfort and issues with hormonal changes in the body can be a nasty side effect of birth control usage – I don’t think that should discredit the fact that birth control is good at what it does. It is 99% effective. It is generally easy to use. There are many forms of it, so you can switch if one doesn’t suit your lifestyle. So what is the obsession with having something new?

I believe that it comes with the territory of medical technologies. A lot of the tech that we are using right now has only come out in the last few decades, and it gets put into the system with such routine effortlessness that we can no longer tell what is new and what is old. Does it matter that birth control is based on old science? No. That actually means more people have tested it out, which makes it more safe for consumers rather than less. Because of the way medical technology markets work, we are all coerced into being early adopters of technology that people haven’t really tested on – to me, that’s more than a little frightening.

So, pass me my dusty old birth control pill please. I would rather not get pregnant today than hope in the future that my male partners will accept this shiny new model.

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