With the decades-long focus on “women’s right to abortion” now coming to a climax as Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance, have you ever wondered why there is not a greater effort made to develop and market male-focused contraception to curtail unwanted pregnancies?
There are two major reasons. First, men tend to be uncomfortable compromising their virility, and second, there is massive money to be made from selling abortion and contraception to women.
First, men’s virility. Think about what happened in China under the one-child policy. Millions of babies were forcefully taken from their mothers’ wombs. Not only were all the babies in these procedures killed, but their mothers’ lives and health were put at risk. Countless women suffered unspeakably and even died as the result of forced abortions.
There seems an obvious question that should be asked. If the Chinese government wanted to forcefully decrease the population, wouldn’t it have been easier to sterilize men rather than sterilizing women and ripping millions of developing babies out of women’s wombs?
Male sterilization is far simpler and less invasive than sterilizing women. Why, then, did the Chinese government most often sterilize and abort women instead of sterilizing men? A major reason is because there was a general feeling among Chinese men that male sterilization compromised a man’s manhood. So, the Chinese state mandated that women be sterilized and aborted and told it was “good for them” and “good for China”. It became man’s right to retain his potency, while it was the woman’s right and even her duty to curtail hers.
This same attitude permeates modern Western culture. Men are often reluctant to seek out male contraception because they fear it will inhibit their sexual function or sexual pleasure, and they’re not really sure they want to be firing blanks; it just doesn’t seem very manly.
Writer Arikia Millikan observes in a Vice article about Vasalgel, a male birth control method currently in clinical trials which involves two injections of a semi-permeable gel to each vas deferens, that guys don’t want to talk about their genitals with their doctors and that they tend to “recoil at the mention of anything involving male birth control”. This is likely because of the misconception that Vasalgel or other methods must involve sharp objects on the penis, which Millikan references David Sokal, co-founder of the Male Contraception Initiative, as saying, “rightfully scares men.” Millikan posits that “most people would agree: sharp objects + genitals = scary.”
If that is so, if most people agree that genitals and sharp objects don’t mix and that we should be “rightfully scared” of such a thing, how do we explain the fact that abortion—a surgical procedure wherein sharp objects are inserted through a woman’s vagina and into her uterus—is sold to women as a hallowed right and privilege? Should women not also be sceptical, if not downright scared?
Women’s bodies are cash cows
Money is the second major reason male contraception has been a non-starter for nearly as long as Roe v. Wade has been enabling men to escape responsibility for the women they impregnate and the children they father. Consider this: a sperm-blocking procedure for men originally developed over three decades ago (one version of it is called Vasalgel) can reportedly prevent pregnancy for up to ten years with no known major side effects. The one-time procedure is fully reversible, requires no stitches, and costs less than an average intrauterine device (IUD).
Then why has almost nobody heard of it? Because women’s bodies are cash cows. Women have abortions—sometimes repeatedly—and women take birth control pills and utilize other means to regularly medicate their healthy bodies—sometimes for decades—and in doing so, fill the pockets of “sexual rights” advocates, including Planned Parenthood.
These advocates claim to be women’s best friends. But “sexual rights” activists, abortion providers, and Big Pharma aren’t interested in products like Vasalgel because they won’t produce the revenue that female birth control and abortion produce. In Millikan’s article, she quotes Sokal, who explains that: “The big pharma companies like drugs that people will take for years and years, that they have to take every day” and that they “have a target that if they can’t make US$500 million a year on a new drug, it’s not worth their time and energy to invest in it.”
Since Vasalgel (or its equivalents) is a one-time procedure that, Millikan notes, “costs less than the syringe used to inject it,” the desire to develop it and market it to men is weak. Pharmaceutical companies would rather earn money off women. Millikan also quotes Elaine Lissner, director of the Parsemus Foundation, who pointed out that, “If the average person hits puberty at 13, and doesn’t want to have a kid until they’re in their mid-30s, that’s more than 20 years worth of contraception from which pharmaceutical companies can profit.” So why worry about selling anything to men? Just frame abortion and contraception as a “women’s issue” (even though it takes two to conceive) and let women absorb both the costs and the risks.
I’m not suggesting that it is ideal for men or women to pursue artificially induced non-fertility in the quest for no-consequence sex. I am only suggesting that women have been convinced to buy into a system of normalized non-fertility which requires them to pay a high price to conform but does not serve their best interests. It serves the interests of men.
And yet, the impassioned and even fanatical push for abortion as “a woman’s right” continues, led by women who have bought the line that random sex and abortion are better for them than committed marriage and joyful childbearing.
It may take more than overturning Roe v. Wade to change the tide of social attitudes about sex, but it will be a great beginning.
Note: This article has been updated to include additional attribution to Arikia Millikan, who is a freelance journalist specializing in biomedical technology.