Birth Control

Beck, Julie. “The Different Stakes of Male and Female Birth Control.” The Atlantic, 1 Nov. 2016, accessed 2 Dec. 2016. Web.

Birth control has been a hot-button topic for centuries as women grapple with ways to enjoy sex without getting pregnant. Thanks in large part to the Progressive reforms of the early 20th century, birth control is now widely available to most women, many of whom choose to use it. However, birth control is mostly marketed to women, with the only real options for male birth control being condoms or a vasectomy. This article explains the high stakes at play in a woman’s decision to use birth control despite the side effects, and discusses how the scientific community is failing to produce viable options for male birth control. A senior associate editor at The Atlantic in charge of covering health stories, and as a woman who has likely experienced the side effects of birth control, Beck is uniquely qualified to write on the issue. Her position at The Atlantic also allows her to reach a large audience, helping garner attention for the many issues accompanying birth control. The article is a timely response to a current event, which helps make it relevant to many people.

This article explains how recent advances for developing a regular form of birth control for men have been discontinued due to its adverse side effects. It points out the hypocrisy and double standard in medical standards for men and women. Women have the most at stake when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, so historically the responsibility to either not get pregnant, or accept the consequences if it does happen, have fallen to women. This fits in with the narrative of women trying to control pregnancy throughout history, from getting abortions in early America, to Margaret Sanger’s advocacy for widespread birth control in the Progressive Era, to unwed women giving unwanted children up for adoption in the 1950’s. Women have historically taken the brunt of the blame and the responsibility for pregnancy, while men escape relatively unscathed when they have unprotected sex. This cultural landscape is not conducive to encouraging men to use birth control, so the medical community has not made very many advances on that front. However, the problem with this is that most forms of women’s birth control come with serious side effects, such as weight gain, acne, mood swings, possibly having an IUD implanting in the uterine wall, etc. In fact, when the birth control pill was first released on the market, it was grossly under-regulated, and some women even died as a result of taking it, as seen in the film The Pill. Beck points out that because women have a more pressing need to avoid unwanted pregnancies, they are willing to put up with these side effects, yet because pregnancy has a relatively small effect on men, it is unlikely that birth control will be approved for them unless it comes absolutely side-effect free. The problem that Beck highlights is that this system continues to benefit men at the expense of women. She does not argue for unsafe birth control for men, but rather for birth control reform that will make safer forms of birth control accessible to more women.

The article serves to further the discussion about women’s bodies, and their responsibility to control unwanted pregnancies. It reflects the growing discontent of many women about the poor options available to them for birth control, and helps bring the issue to the public eye. It has a clear bias in the writing style, and while it meticulously details every possible side effect of female birth control, it downplays the negative effects of the male birth control prototype. Some people could latch onto that bias as a way to discredit the need for birth control reform. It is an important source in showing how women feel about pregnancy, birth control, and their responsibilities when it comes to sex, and also helps reflect the mainstream opinion on the same matters.


2 thoughts on “Birth Control

  1. The comment about women needing to put up with the side effects of birth control and a birth control for men needing to be side effect free was so interesting to me! It does make a lot of sense, especially when we think about the issue in a historical context. The danger of the pill when it first came out almost makes the issues today seem like nothing. I did find the complaints of men in some of the articles about male birth control funny, though, just because it sounded so much like my experience when I first started taking birth control. I saw another study recently that said birth control is associated with higher rates of depression (of which, I feel like most women could attest to the truthfulness of that statement from personal experience). I think birth control reform would be an excellent way to deal with some of the inequalities we see with birth control today.


  2. The side effects that caused them to stop the trial of men’s birth control are side effects that women have been experiencing from the invention of hormonal birth control. The double standard when it comes to this is ridiculous!


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