I truly believe that men should all get vasectomies and have some sperm frozen if they want to have children. Radical? Perhaps. But the alternative – women pumping their bodies full of hormones – is not sustainable, and women are increasingly seeing that.
My journey to being a champion of vasectomies came when my mother was diagnosed with hormonal breast cancer. As a result of her diagnosis at a young age, when I went to speak to my doctor about contraception, it was made clear to me that the pill was not a safe option for me (progestogen-only hormonal contraception is associated with at least 20 per cent higher risk of breast cancer) – so I was offered the coil. I don’t need to tell any woman who has had the coil fitted that “painful” cannot even begin to describe what I experienced.
As I walked out of GP surgery, I googled as much as I could about fertility – and I saw that the pain I had been subjected to was entrenched in medical misogyny. Why was it me who was responsible for pregnancy? I had no idea if I could get pregnant or not at all – and if I was to get into a relationship, why was I the only one having to do something about contraception?
The majority of men are fertile for 24 hours every single day of the year, while women are at best fertile for 48 hours a month. And yet it is us who are expected to be on pills daily to stop us from getting pregnant – not to mention the drip-feed in the news of side effects of those pills, ranging from depression to migraines and weight gain. Or we end up using a patch that affects our libido, or endure migraines with the contraceptive injection, or anxiety with the coil. The extent to which women are feeling unhappy about contraception has led to increased conversations about it on social media (female contraception will be the subject of a Channel 4 documentary presented by Davina McCall next month).
A vasectomy, meanwhile, consists of minor surgery to stop sperm from entering a man’s semen. People do not seem to be aware that vasectomies are generally reversible (in up to 90 per cent of cases, depending on factors such as time since the original operation). It does not involve the side effects or complications associated with female birth control. And it is 99 per cent effective.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see that we have for generations been focusing on the wrong gender when it comes to family planning, and now it seems other people agree with me. Gabrielle Blair, described by the Times as a Mormon and a “longtime married religious mother of six” has written a book called Ejaculate Responsibly (a brilliant title) where she talks about how men need to normalise vasectomies, all off the back of her 2018 Twitter thread which had the arresting opening: “ALL unwanted pregnancies are caused by the irresponsible ejaculations of men.” When a follower of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints thinks men should get vasectomies, I’m inclined to think broader society should consider it.
Since this realisation, I have always asked people I meet if they are open to a vasectomy. And yet, even those men who say they do not want kids, or who say they have had their share already, still won’t take birth control into their hands. They assume it is a woman’s responsibility to deal with their sperm. I sometimes feel nauseous when I think about the numbers of men I have met who have been so dismissive about the idea of the male pill, let alone getting the snip (which is much less painful than the alternative: childbirth).
Blair’s book makes it clear that men need to be part of the conversation about the contraception process. Women and girls cannot be the only ones to live in fear when the condom breaks. Sixty years since the contraceptive pill, we’re finally putting the onus where it belongs – and women won’t go back.
[See also: Have the Conservatives done enough for women?]