For as long as I can remember people have been asking me about “the male birth control pill.” This is because every so often an article appears talking about research or drug trials involving birth control for those with penises. In Canada there is no birth control available for people with penises other than the condom, and I do not think this will change any time soon.
However, this does not mean that a person with a penis cannot contribute to preventing pregnancy. There are many things they can do such as using condoms consistently, withdrawing, helping with the financial burden of birth control and emergency contraception and educating themselves on pregnancy, menstruation and birth control. If birth control was available for people with penises we could add it to that list.
I know a person who does all these things. They call their partner every day at 3:00 p.m. to remind them to take their birth control pill. They also use condoms every time they have sex, know exactly where they can buy emergency contraception and have continuous open and honest conversations with their partner about parenting and abortion. They have also educated themselves on the potential side effects and health risks for people who use birth control so they can understand and support their partner.
This person is 17 years old, and I would say more responsible and compassionate than many older penis wielders I know!
Every body is different. Some can get pregnant and some cannot. However, everyone having penis in vagina sex needs to take responsibility for pregnancy, not just the person who can get pregnant. That being said, we need to ensure that sharing responsibility for planning pregnancies does not result in taking the right to choose what happens to your body away from the person who can get pregnant.
Will a person who cannot get pregnant ever feel the same societal weight around pregnancy as someone who can? Will they ever feel the same societal pressure to be a responsible parent?
Society judges moms and dads differently. Mothers are often judged for being too young, too old, too single, having too many children, not having enough children or being too career focused. Do we ever say these things about dads? Are dads ever stigmatized for not taking parental leave? How many times have you heard, “Dad is babysitting tonight”? Should dads not be parenting?
And so the societal pressure remains on the person who can get pregnant. If there was a birth control method for people with penises would this change? Should people who can get pregnant trust those who can’t to use birth control properly and consistently when the stigma of an unplanned pregnancy will not affect them in the same way? And because it does not affect them in the same way will they want to use birth control that may have side effects and health risks? A societal shift in the way we think about, react to and judge gender, pregnancy and parenting is what we need to concentrate on to ensure the responsibility of pregnancy and parenting is with everyone.