I lost my virginity when I was 17. It was something that my boyfriend and I had been thinking about and talking about for some time. We used condoms. My boyfriend was always a little uncomfortable with that fact that I wasn't on birth control and had no plans to get on it. As time went on and we began to have sex regularly, my views on birth control became more of an issue. You see, sex worries my boyfriend. He worries that I'll end up pregnant and it'll be his fault and my life will therefore be ruined. He worries A LOT. He's one of those very responsible people who cannot stand being less than perfect, or in this case, less than 99%.
I was fine with not being on birth control. I don't take over the counter medicines, I don't put unnatural things into my body. If it messes with my personal biochemistry, it is not to be taken or eaten without a essential prescription. Birth control does not meet this standard. It's unessential. Worse. it messes with natural biochemistry, sometimes in horrific manners. The idea of putting this stuff into my body did, and still does, terrify me.
After multiple broken I-will-get-on-birth-control promises, I finally womaned up and told my mom I wanted a birth control prescription. It wasn't want. It wasn't annoyance at my boyfriend. It wasn't to get him to stop asking me or arguing with me. It wasn't to prevent pregnancy or help my periods. It was to make myself feel better for telling my boyfriend that I would, and then back out of the promise. I wanted him to stop pleading to me. I just felt awful for lying and for making him a nervous wreck.
It worked. I felt better. I choose the Depo shot, because I didn't have to take a pill every night and remind myself what I was doing. I thought that if I got pills, I would throw them out or flush them down the toilet rather than take them. I didn't want to give myself a way to back out. Now, I'm on the pill. It unnerves me when I take it every night, but I will for my boyfriend.
Speaking of him, my boyfriend has always been wonderfully supportive of me. If I really wanted to stay off birth control, he would support that. We have that conversation almost monthly. But what awes me even more about him is his openness to male contraceptive options. I've always been an avid follower of abortion, contraceptive, and sexual health research and news. Nothing excited me more than learning that clinical trials were being done on male hormonal contraceptives. When I brought it up to my boyfriend, he told me he would go on hormonal methods if they were available. He was nearly as excited as I was because, for him, this meant that I could possibly get off birth control.
I soon found that many men are not excited by this progress. Many, in fact, say that they would never consider using such a product. Those same men say that they expect women to use hormonal birth control. This angers me beyond belief. I get more worked up about this double standard than I do about choice. Even now as I type this, I'm fighting angry tears.
What angers me the most, though, is that the majority of men don't want to go onto birth control because it's not natural. Are you kidding me? You don't want to go on birth control because it's not natural? As a woman, I was expected to mess up MY hormones and MY cycle so that WE can avoid having a child. Men's hormones certainly aren't any more important than women's hormones. I swallowed my pride and my womanhood because I don't want a child right now. I went against nature and my own reservations to make sure that we're protected. Been there, done that.
But wait, there's a couple other reasons as well. There are... SIDE EFFECTS. There are side effects to male hormonal contraception. The most common side effects are mood swings and lowered sex drive. Sound familiar? Yeah, they sound familiar to me too. It gets better. There have been NO major side effects reported so far. Blood clots, stroke, and various diseases only exist as side effects of the female pill so far. More trials are being done. Most men will not consider hormonal methods because of these small side effects. It humiliates me that women have to deal with more side effects and everyone just expects them to do so. It's almost like the side effects of the female pill just don't exist to most people, women included. It's ridiculous that men can't find it in themselves to take on a few minor side effects in exchange for a lessened pregnancy risk. Are men really that scared?
The other most commonly mentioned reason is that birth control would emasculate them. Most male hormonal contraception in trial reduces sperm count to virtually zero. Somehow, this makes men feel like less of a man. Not that I can relate. After all, not ovulating is not at all comparable to not producing sperm. Sperm is worth more than that, remember? Forgive the sarcasm. I like ovulating. Even if I don't know when exactly I ovulate, the idea that I do is reassuring to me. It makes me feel special and like I'm part of something bigger. Now that I'm on birth control, I find myself thinking “hey, if I still ovulated, I would ovulating right about now”. It's a depressing thought. It feels wrong to not ovulate. Know what though? I'm not any less of a woman just because I don't ovulate. It bitters me to see men thinking that if they don't produce sperm, they will be less of a man. It's pathetic.
I'm only one small voice in this world. I can't cause a whole cultural shift by myself. So, please, fight this double standard when you see it, argue with everything you have. We HAVE to be successful the first time male hormonal contraceptive hits the market. If we aren't, they won't make more or different types. They won't try to come out with lower side effects or different medications if there is no market. Try, try hard. Men deserve a hormonal choice too and if one hormonal method doesn't work for them, then they should have other hormonal options. Don't let the men get away with excuses. Call them out. And for the men who are for hormonal methods already, you all are amazing. Each and every one of you. Speak up loud and proud. This change isn't going to happen without you.