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Real Talk: Should Men Take the Pill?

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Upset Man
Would you trust your man to take birth control?

The Male Pill isn't as farfetched as it may sound. Columbia University researchers have been testing a drug on male mice that causes them to temporarily lose fertility while taking medication. Much like women's birth control, when the mice stop taking the drug daily, they become fertile again and successfully make babies.

There have also been breakthroughs for male birth control in India, where scientists have created RISUG, a drug that is 100% effective in preventing the male from impregnating his partner... for ten years. The drug, which will likely be available to Indian men (and those willing to travel) next year, is administered via injection and requires a 15-minute procedure. There are no known side effects.

Hmm. Despite the availability of women's birth control pills for 50-plus years, the wide availability of condoms, and the option to abstain, currently more than half of all US pregnancies are unintended. And even though it clearly takes two to do the cliched tango, the blame for unwanted or unexpected pregnancies has always fallen squarely at women's feet. Would another male birth control option -- in addition to condoms and vasectomies -- finally allow people to stop blaming only women for an unexpected pregnancy? Would it allow men to feel more in control of reproduction?

No. And yes… but only if the men actually take it (most said they would not).  

I conducted a completely random survey of men, and almost no one thought it was their primary responsibility to make sure their partner didn’t get pregnant. The guys reluctantly assumed even limited responsibility, the logic being, as one man summed up, “If a woman reserves the right to make the call on whether she will keep a baby or not, then she has to bear the responsibility of not getting pregnant if she doesn't want a child.”

Most men would not seriously consider taking a male pill. The reasons ranged from, "I don't do drugs and prefer holistic methods" to the most commonly expressed fear that the pill would be irreversible and men would be left sterile. "I might take that and a testicle could disappear!" one man declared. Other guys said they might consider the Male Pill, if the pill were on the market for multiple years and there were many studies about its side effects. And even then, they wouldn’t be completely sold on the concept.  

The rare few men who said they were willing to take the pill, didn’t actually want to do so to be responsible, more so because they didn’t trust women (a common theme in almost all the answers, even from most of the married respondents). "I don't like that a woman ultimately holds all the power in this area," explained one male respondent.

As it turns out, the men's willingness, or lack thereof, was irrelevant. Even if all men were willing to go on the Pill, almost all of the women I spoke with wouldn’t trust them to be responsible about taking it. They much preferred to continue to take their own birth control and insist he use a condom. “Half [the male population] can’t even remember a birthday or anniversary,” a woman said, summing up the women’s thoughts concisely. “So remembering to take a pill? Er, no! I got this.”

So ladies, would you trust your man to take birth control?

Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter: @abelleinbk
Filed Under: Real Talk
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