Women have been putting up with the hormonal side-effects of contraceptives like the pill for decades. Its time for men to do their bit
An experimental male contraceptive jab has proved just as effective as the pill is for women. Trials were abandoned, however, because side-effects included depression, raised libido and acne. Which is weird, because the pill has similar side-effects although sometimes it can cure acne. The pills other common side-effects include nausea, headaches, breast tenderness, anxiety, weight gain and, sometimes, decreased libido. However, suggesting that the pill isnt an almost perfect form of birth control tends not to go down very well.
This is understandable. The pill has given women agency over their own lives like nothing else. And women dont want that great freedom to be tarnished. The advantages of an equally reliable male contraceptive, of course, are much less direct. If anything, the pill freed men from worry about contraception or getting a girl pregnant to the extent that an unwanted pregnancy is often looked on as something thats entirely the fault of the fool whos enceinte. Its hard not to look on all those anti-abortionists and morning-after pill killjoys as people determined that foolish women should pay for their own singular mistakes.
Yet a male contraceptive is simply more sensible, in biological terms, than a female one. In her book, Sweetening the Pill, and in numerous articles, Holly Grigg-Spall points out that men have no fertility cycle, while women are only fertile for six days every month. Women take a lot of responsibility for those six days, while the constant risk is not from their ova but from ever-ready sperm.
Grigg-Spall, who is a passionate advocate of raised awareness about the pills risks to women, believes that its side-effects are minimised not just because of feminism, which cannot help but see the pills advantages as outweighing its disadvantages, because they do, but also because of sexism, which tends to dismiss female problems as trivial and male advantages as important. Its hard not to agree with her, when comparing this latest research, in which side-effects were given such emphasis, with Danish research published last month that linked the pill to depression and gained little more than shrugs.