For women, getting hormonal birth control goes a little something like this.
Doctor: “You have three options. The first one will make you feel like you’re crazy and gain a significant amount of weight. The second will give you chronic infections in the part of your body you have sex with. We also don’t know if these symptoms will go away after your body adjusts in three months—they might stay, they might not. But don’t worry. There is a third option.”
Woman: “Will the third option make me fat or crazy or give me yeast infections?”
Doctor: “No. But there is a chance you could have a stroke and die.”
So when it was announced this week that a trial for male birth control was abandoned due to side effects like depression and acne in its male participants—two of the same side effects women on hormonal birth control have been dealing with for the last five decades—it felt like a slap in the face. A recent study even proved a definitive link between hormonal birth control and depression in women. “Man up!” women of the internet battle-cried. Comedian Michelle Wolf even called the men in the trial “little bitches” for not being able to handle the side effects of the trial.
There are two huge problems here.
First, the men participating in the study did not shut down the study—a panel of outside professionals in the medical field did. To blame the men involved in the study is wrong. In fact, 75% of the participants in the study said they would be willing to use this contraception again in the future. Knowing the risks—including potential long-term, adverse effects on fertility—didn’t deter the men from wanting to use it. Seventy-five percent of them would indeed “man up.”
But the second—and much larger—problem is this: if anything has been learned from the complications and negative side effects women have endured, it’s that no one should have to suffer depression, pain and mood swings (the list goes on and on) while on birth control. Instead of accepting that birth control will always suck, we—and by that I mean both sexes—should be demanding better options. We should be rallying together and advocating for better birth control for men and women alike.
The argument that men should be forced to endure the same adverse medical issues that women have because “it’s only fair” is bogus. If a woman took a pill that cured the flu but also got “Smooth” by Santana and Rob Thomas stuck in her head for two months, and then her male friend came down with the flu, she shouldn’t get upset with him if he decides not to take the pill. It would make more sense to think, “Hey, maybe there should be a flu pill that doesn’t cause a terrible 1990s pop earworm.”
Bottom line: women deserve better birth control. So do men.