At first I was afraid to talk about birth control with my partner. I didn’t think he would be interested. As we discussed it, however, I realized that he wanted to prevent unplanned pregnancy just as much as I did. We talked about ways that he could participate in the birth control process, and afterward we both felt more confident in our mutual choices.
Birth control is not just a woman’s issue. Men benefit from the use of birth control in many ways, including being able to decide when and if they will father a child and being able to protect themselves and their partners from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
When a man leaves the decision about contraception up to the woman, he not only creates an unfair burden for her but also forfeits his ability to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. By failing to take responsibility for contraception, too many men become fathers before they are capable or willing.
By sharing decisions about birth control, a man increases the likelihood that his partner will be protected; he also shows that he cares about her and about her future, and that he is a real partner in a sexual relationship, not just a bystander or beneficiary. Having a conversation with your partner about birth control is a good way to learn of his interest in participating in the process, which can also be an opportunity to assess if he is a good choice as a sexual partner.
Our culture and media rarely address male responsibility in the prevention of STIs and unplanned pregnancies. The prevailing societal messages about contraception target women and often ignore the impact that unprotected sex can have on men. Using condoms is the easiest way for men to get involved in the birth control process, but they must be willing to do so.
Some men are not interested in using condoms because they have received messages that say it is unmasculine, or they have a preconceived notion that sex is not as good with condoms. These attitudes reveal both a lack of education and a lack of respect for women; they also free men from taking responsibility for their actions.
In addition to buying and using condoms, men can help pay for doctors’ visits and drugstore bills; be part of the decision to invest in a long-term, reversible method of contraception; remind us to take the pill each day; help to remove a diaphragm or insert spermicidal foam; and check to see if supplies are running low.
The future holds even more opportunities for men to participate actively in birth control, as several new contraceptive methods for men are currently being developed. For more information, see MaleContraceptives.org.