We'd All Benefit if Men Took More Responsibility for Contraception: 6 reasons why
Trigger Warning and notes about inclusivity: This article describes contraception from a heterosexual perspective. CERT appreciates that this does not encompass everyone's lived experience, however we hope ideas about consent, communication, and protection are useful in educating about all forms of partnerships. We also discuss women and their use of birth control, however we acknowledge that trans and non-binary individuals use birth control too. Finally, this please be aware that this piece includes a specific definition of sexual assault which may be upsetting to some of our audience.
1. Sex can hold greater consequences for women than men:
Unfortunately, young women’s exploration of their sexuality is often burdened with a fear of getting pregnant. This fear women experience is partly because societal norms place the blame on women when unplanned pregnancies occur. However, putting sole responsibility on women means that men are oftentimes allowed to see sex in a detached way. They may feel this lack of urgency due to social attitudes that permeate our conversations in public and in private spheres.This disconnect must be repaired so that men are held accountable for their involvement in the consequences of sex.
2. Male education on contraception means we can have better conversations about consent:
Men feeling entitled to sexual pleasure harms women and it is built into our legal structures and how we view sex. Men hyper-focusing on pleasure can lead to sexual assaults such as ‘stealthing’, where men attempt to remove condoms without the consent of their partners. (Check out future blogs for more on this!) If men see reproductive justice as a human right rather than female responsibility then these behaviours could potentially be less prevalent. But tackling these abuses of power must involve the law. We have seen a lot of positive laws come into the UK’s judiciary. For instance, stealthing is illegal in the UK as it violates the definition of consent under the Sexual Offenses Act (2003). Consent is key because preserving the human dignity of a sexual partner is more important than temporary pleasure. Inconsiderate and/or non-consensual sexual behaviours are clearly inconsistent with reproductive justice.
3. Cis-gendered men can’t get pregnant - but they can be educated about it!:
If your body cannot bear the physical and mental consequences of being pregnant, there is a lot less at stake for you. The structure of families in the UK reflects this, about 90% of single parent households are female. Due to this privilege, men must do the education work necessary to understand birth control. These numbers show the work left to do to campaign for contraception as an issue relevant to men. Education could involve researching the effects of his partner's birth control rather than depending on his female partner to answer questions.
4. Birth control affects the user's mental health, so checking in goes a long way:
Many women in the UK are on hormonal birth control, 21.8% of which use oral contraceptives including the pill. These hormonal contraceptive methods which often leads to changes in mood and can negatively affect how women respond to their emotions. With an understanding of this impact, open conversations between partners may be helpful. Discussing the impact of contraceptives on mental health could be productive. Women experience changes to their mental wellbeing with and without contraception. In this way, communication can be initiated to open up space and discuss a chosen contraception method.
5. Sexual partners must safeguard the health of women they have sex with, even when casual:
Casual partners could lead to a not so casual unplanned pregnancy if care is not taken. Healthy communication about contraception should be normalised. Honesty from all parties is key to keeping sexual interactions safe. Safeguarding the sexual health of your partner(s) means being open about STIs or STDs you might have. But safeguarding also includes checking in with women and asking them about their birth control. Don’t engage in risky sexual behaviors purely for pleasure but have condoms at hand and have frequent conversations about protection. Respect yourself and protect your partner’s health.
6. The more men take responsibility, the more time women have to enjoy sex:
Sexual dynamics can be tangibly improved through partners' mutual awareness of sexual health implications. If worries about contraceptive matters are openly communicated and thereby mitigated, there is more space for women’s pleasure. It is a common misconception that condoms undermine sexual pleasure, one study found that women who use both hormonal contraception and condoms reported higher overall sexual satisfaction. This statistic demonstrates how women thrive when they are not bogged down by anxiety surrounding contraception. To achieve this, they need the support and accountability of their partner(s), because everybody's pleasure and peace of mind matters.
These 6 points demonstrate how we all (men included!) benefit when men have a more comprehensive understanding of their partner's contraception. However, we recognize that the burden for change does not simply fall on the shoulders of individuals. Problems stem from a multitude of larger factors such as social attitudes which permeate public conversations, lawmaking and law enforcement, and the quality of education surrounding sex and contraception. We can all work towards more respectful partnerships through prioritizing and educating ourselves about the topics discussed above including consent,pleasure, safeguarding of sexual health.