The bitter pill of male contraception

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
December 04, 2013 /

Click here to view original /

As predictable in the news cycle as the Christmas house-fire story replete with the slightly-charred “Santa Stop Here” sign, each year there’ll be a male contraceptive pill breakthrough report.

Far less interesting than those boy-mice now happily dodging baby-mouse-support payments is the technicolour-yawn way in which the media packages the tale.

I saw Sunrise’s take on it this week, but pick any show and they’ll handle it similarly: “Scientific revolution, but <insert foreboding music> can women trust men to take it?”

Anyone who’s ever watched a TV ad, seen even a single episode of a sitcom, will be familiar with the screen’s hapless male. He’ll try to cook dinner, burn it, and manage to douse himself head-to-toe in ash. He’ll wash a red sock with the whites and pathetically wear pink to cricket practice. Somehow he’ll plait his two daughters’ ponytails together and make them catch the bus conjoined. Because he’s that much of buffoon.

Worse than suggesting a man is too stupid to swallow a pill, however, is the idea that women are buying into this; that women somehow find it unthinkable to trust him.

So let me get this straight. We’re willing to have sex with him. And not just sex, but sex without a condom.

So we’re letting him inside our bodies, trust that he doesn’t have an STI and trust that he’s not going to secretly upload recorded footage of our bedroom rodeo.

We trust him for all of this, but just not quite enough to trust that he won’t impregnate us?

This same lack-of-trust malarkey made the news recently when UK women secured the rights to probe a paramour’s past. Just to reassure themselves, apparently, that they haven’t coupled with a batterer.

Hang on, hang on, hang on. So we’re trusting him enough to have sex with him – to let him inside our body – trusting him enough to consider him our boyfriend, our partner, but just not enough to trust that he’s not a thug?

Am I the only one furrowing my brow here?

I’ve never attached any mystical properties to sex. I’m fine if it’s had indiscriminately, if it’s bought, if it’s sold. Provided everyone’s consenting – and, in my case, provided the sheets are clean – I’ve zero qualms.

But to pretend that letting someone into our body doesn’t involve a level of exposure and the possibility of vulnerability is folly. And if we’re going to engage in this act, be it for love, for recreation or simply because we’ve got an itch that we’d rather someone else scratch, then surely we’ve already extended a little faith.

So we trust that he won’t thrust too hard (unless we’re into that) and trust that he won’t forget to unlock the handcuffs, but just not enough that he won’t treacherously inseminate us?

So we trust that he won’t steal our CDs after we doze off or reveal our private fondness for having our elbows nibbled, but not that he won’t spontaneously break our jaw?

Far from being glib, I’m simply perplexed. What are the spurious grounds on which we’re doling out trust to the men we supposedly love, and more to the point, why the hell are they putting up with us infantilising them like this?

The media has much to answer for in their portrayal of men as stupid, as savage. Women equally must recognise that by buying into this idiotic caricature we’re condemning as fools our lovers and brothers and fathers and sons who nearly always deserve better.

© Lauren Rosewarne