In my previous blog ,
I discussed how the lack of male contraception reduces men’s reproductive autonomy
and burdens women with the health-related and financial consequences of being
the one responsible for contraception. In this blog, I want to explore some of
the social burdens women face when contracepting, especially those that men do
not and would not face when using contraception.
Women face the social burdens of
contraception, which include medicalization of one’s reproductive health, the
stress and worry about the possibility of an unintended pregnancy, social
repercussions of one’s contraceptive decisions, and possible moral reproach for
contraceptive failures. While men could potentially face some of these social
burdens, several of them are specific to women. For example, since pregnancy
occurs in a woman’s body, she will physically embody the stigma and shame of an
unintended pregnancy whereas the man will not carry any physical reminder of
Another burden unique to women is
the double-bind they face regarding contraceptive use. Women who use
contraceptive may be seen as violating the feminine norm of chastity. Yet, if
single women do not use contraception, they risk an unintended pregnancy, which
is associated with irresponsibility and trying to “trap” a man.
Since men are not held to the norm
of chastity, but rather are frequently lauded for sexual promiscuity, they are
not socially penalized for engaging in sexual activity and using contraception.
Thus, the development of male contraceptives could help women avoid this no-win
situation while empowering men to control their reproduction.
The need for male contraceptives is
often looked overlooked because contraception is often conflated with women,
thereby marginalizing and even ignoring men. For instance, unmet need for
contraception is generally calculated using only women’s information: their
fertility intentions and their contraceptive use. Excluding men from questions
about unmet contraceptive needs fails to recognize their role in and
responsibility for contraception both in their personal relationships and on
the social level. It moreover fails to acknowledge that men may also have unmet
One study in Western Africa that
interviewed both women and men regarding unmet contraceptive need found that
between 15 – 23% of husbands had unmet contraceptive need even though their
wives did not. These men were not interested in having children, at least at
that time, but the dearth of reversible male contraceptives limited their
options for controlling their reproduction since their partner did not have
unmet contraceptive need and was consequently not using female or shared
methods (and the male condom is frequently considered a shared method).
One of the benefits of female LARCs
is that the woman’s partner does not need to be involved in or even know about
their use. This is a good option for women if they and their partner disagree
about contraceptive use. Unfortunately, men have no alternative available to
them that they can use without their partner’s involvement or knowledge, which
raises justice concerns and highlights men’s diminished reproductive autonomy.