Male birth control

There have been a number of articles lately about a study on male birth control having been halted because men couldn’t handle the side effects that women on birth control deal with every day. Some examples of the story are here and here.

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Men have, for a long time, left the responsibility for birth control and safe sex, generally, to women. In fact, I have read/heard far too many stories of men not only shirking this responsibility, but trying to sabotage it, particularly around the use of condoms, because condoms ‘don’t feel good.’

Because this is about birth control, we will leave the discussion about STIs for another time.

Of course, in the case of pregnancy, the responsibility for whether or not to remain pregnant, give birth, and put the baby up for adoption or raise it, ultimately falls to the woman as well. The men can (and too often do) back out at any point, especially if they didn’t want a baby.

So, if a man does not want a baby and is not prepared to take responsibility for one if he has sex with someone who gets pregnant and decides to stay pregnant, it stands to reason that he might be invested in doing what he can to take responsibility for there not being any unwanted pregnancies.

But….

Researchers have been working on developing male birth control for some time now and a recent study was halted because 20 of the 320 men in the study withdrew.

Why did they withdraw?

The injectable drug was affecting their mood and causing acne.

I’ll repeat that.

The injectable drug was affecting their mood and causing acne.

The most common side effects of women’s birth control, you ask?

Mood changes and acne. There’s also weight gain, which is super fun, and numerous others, some potentially very serious, but mood changes and acne are two of the most common.

So, because some dudes couldn’t handle some mood changes and acne, the study’s been halted. It hasn’t been abandoned, but it’s on hold whilst the researchers do some more work to make a drug that is 96% effective and puts some of the onus on men more acceptable for the men who might actually use it.

But let’s unpack this a little bit more with this:

I couldn't find the original source, so just screen grabbed this tweet from Guerilla Feminism.
I couldn’t find the original source, so just screen grabbed this tweet from Guerilla Feminism.

Read that again if you have to. I did.

We already know that women were left out of medical research for decades, making it impossible to properly diagnose things like heart attacks, which can present very differently for women than for men. And there is still an excruciatingly common misconception that women are hypochondriacs of some magnitude or other.

Yet, when a drug was being produced specifically for women, it was not only forced upon women who could not appropriately consent to take part in the trials, but side effects were ignored, discounted, women were outright lied to about the drug, and investigation of side effects was not thorough.

This is really disgraceful on so many levels.

Meanwhile, a drug that is 96% effective but caused some men to deal with the same side effects that thousands of women deal with every day is temporarily postponed from being researched further. One can only presume that this, again and as it does in so many cases, is a result of men not only being taken more seriously but also and ultimately being valued more than women.

Who cares what women have to deal with provided men don’t have to deal with it.