Male birth control pills are not yet available, but there are already accusations that men don’t want to take them, or can’t be trusted to take them responsibly. “Let’s say this new non-hormonal pill for boys comes on the market, and men are willing to try it. Can we really expect them to take the pill every day?” Author Susanna Shrubsdorf wrote in the Washington Post in April 2022.
50% of abortions in the world are unwanted. It’s women who ultimately bear the burden, and the argument goes that men never take birth control seriously unless they can get pregnant themselves.
One reason this bias exists may be that men don’t have the best track record with condoms. Incidents of “theft” – removing a condom during sex without your partner’s consent – are common: in Australia, for example, 32% of women and 19% of men have experienced theft.
But male contraceptive advocates are fighting back against the criticisms, arguing that demand for male contraceptives is at an all-time high. They say men are ready to share the responsibility of birth control.
(Also read | Do male birth control pills ever work?)
Men want pills
A new study presented at the Reproductive Health Innovation Summit in Boston in February 2023 supports claims that men and their partners favor new forms of male contraception and women trust their partners to use them responsibly.
Funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the survey involved 19,000 adult men from eight different countries: Nigeria, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India and the United States.
“We asked men if they wanted contraception, and if they did, what form they wanted. We thought we could straighten out some of the issues by objectively assessing the situation,” said Desireline Executive Director Steve Krechmer. Study.
Studies have shown that 78% to 98% of men take male contraceptive pills depending on the country. Demand was higher among men regardless of their relationship status.
Women trust their partners to take the pill
The study also aims to find out what women think about this matter.
“We also wanted to ask women whether they trust men to take contraception, and how their contraceptive use would change if male contraception were available,” Kretschmer told DW.
The survey showed that the demand for contraceptives is as high among women as among men.
Furthermore, women trust their partners to use contraception responsibly – 82% to 88% of women in Vietnam, Nigeria and Bangladesh agreed or strongly agreed that they would believe their partner if they told them they were taking contraception.
“The data shows that men want new contraceptive patterns and women trust their partners to take them,” Heather Wahdat, executive director of the US-based Men’s Contraception Initiative, told DW. “But if a woman doesn’t trust her male partner, both can use contraception. It’s not an option now.”
Changing gender roles
According to Wahdat, since the introduction of the female pill in the 1960s, society has lost track of men’s role in contraception and conception.
“Contraception has become synonymous with women’s rights. But we have now reached a point where it is linked to male contraception and people are paying attention to that,” she said.
Survey data shows that men in committed relationships want to be a part of the decision-making process around contraception, just as much as they are around conception.
“This comes at a time when men are talking more about masculinity, especially toxic masculinity, and want to be more involved partners,” Wahdat said.
Obstacles to male birth control?
While men theoretically want to be part of contraceptive decision-making, there are still hurdles to overcome before they actually take the pill.
At the very least, marketing needs to change. Male birth control pills work by causing temporary infertility. How many men would be happy if they were sterile? Could they believe the infertility was, in fact, temporary?
Large-scale clinical trials testing the efficacy and safety of various male contraceptive forms appear positive, but some trials have been canceled due to concerns about irreversible infertility and other adverse side effects.
The pill needs to be proven safe and effective
Commenters on social media have suggested that men are just being wuss and that women have been suffering similar side effects from the pill for decades. But drug regulators like the FDA are cracking down on male birth control pill tests. Concerns about sterilization are not to be trifled with – they need to be addressed before drugs go on the market.
After all, men need to be able to trust that pills are safe and effective before women can trust men to take them.