I’d never sign up to get kicked in the balls. But I also don’t want kids: they’re expensive, smelly dream-eaters. And the reason I don’t actually have kids? Using condoms is one of them. Thing is, I prefer sex without condoms. Sorry sex-ed teacher, it’s just the way it is. Thin, ribbed, lubed, latex, non-latex, whatever. So, plan B: The Pill. I have had several girlfriends who took the pill; few had good things to say. It messes with hormones, can cause weight gain, headaches, mood swings and a whole lot of other small print at the bottom of shiny commercials. So, I’ve also been in relationships where we pull out. This is irresponsible or, as my mother puts it, “fucking dumb”.
So, what are my options? Door 1: Sex with condoms. This is a no-brainer for casual sex but with a fluid-bonded, long-term partner it can get old. Door 2: Pulling out. Yes, Mother, I know, dumb… Door 3: Kick in the balls. By kick in the balls, I mean a vasectomy. I call it a kick in the balls because my father got one and when I asked what it felt like, the blood drained from his face and he said, “Like getting kicked in the balls—but, if time froze right when they hit and the pain just stayed for days and days.” And then he almost hit a tree because we were driving and the tears clouded his vision.
So, what are my options? Door 1: Sex with condoms. This is a no-brainer for casual sex but with a fluid-bonded, long-term partner it can get old. Door 2: Pulling out. Yes, Mother, I know, dumb…
Other than him, I don’t know a single other man under the age of 40 who’s had a vasectomy despite knowing plenty of men who—like myself—don’t want children. From what I’ve gathered, a lot of older men get it done because they don’t want any more children. They usually have two or three already and they’ve run out of dreams to feed another. It just makes financial sense. You might think men under 40 don’t do it because they’re lying to themselves and they actually do want kids. But I think it’s simpler: we don’t want to have our special bits sliced open and fiddled with, and especially not if it hurts. Also, most people have at least one thing they were certain about in the past that they think is laughable now. (For me, it was frosted tips in my hair. They were definitely cool—I would always have frosted tips like all the cool kids!)
So, pain sucks and “never” is a lot scarier than “not now”. But what if there was a male birth control pill?
A lot of guys like to say, “I’d definitely take the pill.” They’ve done surveys showing over 80% of men responding with a resounding “yes”. And, I would be among them. But I’ve never seen a survey where they add: “Oh, by the way this might mess with your medications, cause weight gain, or decrease your sex drive!” So, I asked a few guys I know who don’t want kids if they’d want a pill like that…
First response: “HAHA. No.”
I’ve had several female partners who either struggled to find birth control that worked for them or had to stop taking it because of the impact it had on their bodies. Society has made this a woman’s problem. My friend went on to point out that even if there was a male birth control pill with the same chances at negative side effects as there currently is for women, men wouldn’t do it without equal pressure from society to take that responsibility. They added, “But with the world like it is right now, ‘it’s a woman’s job not to get pregnant’ and why would men want to change that?”
And that’s the real question—not, would men take a pill? Anyone can take a pill. Would men on an individual level take equal responsibility and equal risk? To make pregnancy as much their concern as their partners? Maybe is about the most optimistic answer I can muster.
And that’s the real question—not, would men take a pill? Anyone can take a pill.
Plenty of the guys I asked made exceptions: are the side effects guaranteed or just possible? Would they last for a bit and then fade or always be around? The consensus seeming to be that as long as the side effects weren’t severe or common, they’d at least think on it.
At this time, male birth control efforts still require more research, time and funding to create something that provides an equivalent option with equivalent risks for men. That’s the only way it will become a real conversation, not a hypothetical “can you swallow a pill?” question. And really, if it’s a choice between a kick in the balls, a daily pill that might or might not suck, or an expensive smelly, dream-eater of my own, well, the kick in the balls is always a backup.