Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Male contraception drug a hard pill to swallow

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An overwhelming proportion of main caregivers are women. Photo / Thinkstock
An overwhelming proportion of main caregivers are women. Photo / Thinkstock

Reports last year stated that the male contraceptive pill just might be available in three years' time thanks to a breakthrough by researchers in Israel.

Well, I'm not holding my breath. I wrote an opinion piece for the NZ Herald in 2000 in response to the news that the male pill was five years away but 2005 came and went without any such product launch. So it's anyone's guess whether the freshly estimated release date will actually transpire.

My article, entitled Who will trust men to take over birth control?, raised questions as to how many women would be prepared to place contraceptive responsibility in the hands of their partner.

I made this point not because men as a gender are unreliable (they're not) but rather because, biologically and practically, women continue to bear the brunt of any contraceptive malfunctions. Relinquishing responsibility for this vital task is actually a very big ask.

In the event of a contraceptive failure, obviously it's women who must physically endure the resulting pregnancy and face either abortion or childbirth.

But societal structures also dictate that, beyond such biological imperatives, women often seem bound to children in ways that a lot of men just aren't.

Despite the gentle rise of the stay-at-home-dad, an overwhelming proportion of main caregivers are women - just as the majority of single parent households are headed by a woman rather than a man.

Feminism, it seems, can't convincingly shake the entrenched belief that child-rearing is women's work.

So, scepticism is surely a natural response when contemplating the introduction of a male contraceptive pill. However, I'm more optimistic about it than I was eleven years ago. Firstly, my attitudes have mellowed.

I have a more upbeat view of people in general these days and there's no reason to think men won't seriously try to make this pill work, despite the prevailing social constructs. In fact, men's groups, perceiving it as their opportunity to gain reproductive control, are welcoming the breakthrough.

Secondly, the proposed pill seems to be enhanced beyond our initial expectations. It certainly doesn't appear to have the drawbacks of its counterpart for women.

Evidently, there are no side-effects associated with this newfangled male pill. Just as amazingly, it needs to be taken only every three months. The repressive routine of daily pills is clearly so last millennium. Men should be queuing up for this new wonder drug.

All of which leads to the question: where exactly is the female equivalent of a contraceptive pill with no side-effects and taken just four times a year?

Such ease and convenience is almost beyond comprehension for the millions of women who pop a side-effect-enriched pill daily.

But don't get too excited, ladies. I have a feeling that particular pill is a wee bit further than three years away.

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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