Melissa Torres-Montoya, Resident Blogger (’11, University of California, Berkeley School of Law)
Would I trust my partner with birth control? Thinking of past partners the answer would have to be; yes, yes, no, maybe, absolutely not. Which I guess mean that my answer to that question has changed over the years so it really depends. With technological breakthroughs and the eventuality of a male birth control, this is a question that will be contemplated more and more often.
Vogue recently published a story on their website where one man shared he and his wife’s exploration of this question. While he brings up some interesting points, issues that I’m sure will cross the minds of many when tackling this question, their exploration of a male using birth control mostly reenforces gendered stereotypes, lacks real acknowledgment of how each relationship is unique as is their decisions about how to control their fertility. When the writer of this Vogue profile & platform piece describes how he and his wife discussed the idea of a male in control of birth control more generally than just within their own relationship, he describes how his wife found the idea of “putting a male in charge of contraception” “amusing,” even suggesting “that putting the male in charge of contraception would just embolden him to have sex with random women, and riskier sex at that; unlike a condom, the pill would do nothing to prevent disease.” Not surprisingly, these same concerns were expressed when a female birth control pill was developed. These are also some of the same concerns that are currently being expressed about PrEP, a daily pill that works sort of like birth control but instead to reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission rather than pregnancy. I won’t argue that social norms around sex haven’t entirely changed since the advent of the birth control pill, and while some conservatives would argue the family system has broken down, I think it’s pretty evident that monogamous relationships, marriage and family units still remain the overwhelming norm even while most women at one point in their lives use a form of contraception. The birth control pill and other new contraceptive options have revolutionized sexual agency, allows couple’s to plan pregnancies and has been instrumental in women being able to enter into the work force. Both PrEP and the male birth control pill could provide similarly positive social benefits.