Ladies, would you trust your partner to take the male pill?
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A breakthough gel ‘treatment’ is currently on trial across the world - but will it liberate women, or become another thing to worry about?
For decades men have had limited contraception options and fallen into the habit of batting the responsibility to women - but is this all about to change in the new year? The summer of 2019 welcomed trials of a male contraceptive gel - something that would have sounded like science fiction when the idea of a 'male pill' was first talked about in the medical community in the 70s.
James Owers, 29, and Diana Bardsley, 27, from the UK, are one of 450 couples trialling the method for 12 months. The gel works in a similar way as the female contraceptive pill, but needs to be applied daily to the chest, shoulders and upper arms, rather than being taken orally.
If the trial's successful, there's hope pharmaceutical companies will take the gel to market within the early part of the next decade.
Unlike the female contraceptive pill - which due to typical use has a 91% effectiveness rate, meaning nine in 100 women will fall pregnant each year - the gel will likely still protect against pregnancy even if a few doses have been missed.
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Currently, men don't have a wide range of options when it comes to 'protection' in the bedroom, while women can (and do) spend hours at their GP talking through 'the pill', coils, injections. As gender roles crawl towards a more level playing field, with men taking on traditionally 'female' tasks such as household chores and childcare, it can only be assumed they'll become more open to sharing the burden of taking daily contraception.
A survey from YouGov shared that one third of sexually active men would consider using hormonal contraceptives, half would not and the remaining were unsure. While, 94% of participants surveyed by this paper agreed that men should have the option of a male equivalent to the pill.
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But the idea of male contraception raises the common question: would women trust men to take the lead?
Data suggests that women in long-term relationships would trust their partners, but would be hesitant when engaging in casual sex. Yet letting go of the reigns may be easier said than done.
It's true - taking a daily pill is an inconvenience, the side effects can make you moodier than Grumpy Cat (while you're also tackling a break out), and there is literally nothing worse than realising you're two pills away from the end of your pack with no back up stock.
Shifting the responsibility to a man would eradicate these stresses - but would wondering whether your sexual partner is as forgetful with his contraception as he is his keys keep you up at night? I know it would me. I've become so reliant on knowing that I am completely in control of my contraception that these 'burdens' seem like a small price to pay to maintain my independence.
And what if it actually happens - you fall pregnant? Suddenly, you're in a frenzy of fury trying to explain why missing contraception for a day or two isn't the same as forgetting to take the bins out. That's when a 30-minute trip to the doctors to get a fresh pack of pills doesn't seem too bad after all.
Contraception can be seen as both a burden and as a method of independence - how it's viewed completely depends on the individual. For me, the answer to 'who should be responsible for taking contraception' is simple: both men and women. Whatever type of sex you're having, it's your responsibility to ensure its safe. Passing the buck to the opposite sex is an outdated, irresponsible stance.
Instead of allowing male contraception to have derogative connotations, let's make it a tool for liberation. Men should have more options when choosing contraception, and women should not see it as a requirement of their gender role.