The Vanderbilt Hustler | ZHAO: Men should really know how the pill works
I recently learned how many side effects birth control pills can have.
A few weeks ago, while I was mindlessly scrolling through Tik Tok looking for the next quirky trend or gimmick my social media-savvy co-workers are up to, I stumbled upon one Video by @squishxy on my feed with the caption: “My roommate and I let our friends read our side effects of birth control.” It intrigued me – and it didn’t disappoint.
In the video, the creator and her roommate encouraged Her friends both read the long list of side effects and complications of using birth control that came with the packaging of their partners’ birth control pills. While the boys clearly showed confusion and amazement at the hodgepodge of strange-sounding illnesses, their partners sat on the sidelines, laughing uncontrollably.
“I don’t even know what those chemical symbols even mean!” exclaimed a friend.
“You’re having a stroke?” The other friend asked, “WTF is angina pectoris?”
I found this out after a quick Google search angina pectoris is a medical condition characterized by severe pain in the chest, neck, shoulders and arms caused by restricted blood flow to the heart. It’s a possible side effect of birth control medications, especially those that contain estrogen, like the pill. A quick Google search reveals that many women on the pill are concerned about blood clots and heart problems. If you type “angina pectoris” into Google, the suggested searches are all about the birth control link. Like me, the other commenters found it pretty hilarious.
But one particular comment provoked an intense thought in me.
“It’s funny, but it really isn’t,” lamented one user.
This user’s comment is resounding. While we might laugh at two men gawking at a manuscript as detailed as the godforbidden documents a new patient has to fill out at a doctor’s office, this is actually a symptom of modern-day gender roles. The humor in the video makes for good social media content, but it’s also a clear and troubling warning: Men and women without a uterus don’t necessarily understand what their partners are putting into their bodies when they’re on birth control. Given the hostile climate that surrounds Reproductive rights currently, men’s forgetfulness of the effects of birth control pills only fuels injustices in sexual health and healthcare in the United States, disproportionately affecting women. More specifically, men’s lack of knowledge about hormonal birth control—both at home and in the Chamber of Congress—is emblematic of a societal bias that makes the woman’s body the object or recipient of sexual health responsibilities.
To get a sense of how the pill relegates women to the submissive role, consider the development of the medical breakthrough as an example. With the rise of the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and other nationwide positions for broadband equality, the development of reliable hormonal birth control is often sidelined. However, his invention is a significant milestone in the way American society views relationships—and even gender norms.
Yes, the pill has drastically revolutionized women’s lives and in particular changed the way women live search Find educational opportunities, professional development and start families. However, an unintended consequence of the pill is the transfer of total responsibility to the user’s body when it comes to sexual health and responsibility. People who use hormonal birth control need to change their bodies and put themselves at increased risk of serious medical problems, when in reality the decision to have sex and the possible consequences should be a everyone’s choice.
Also seemingly small side effects such as mood swings or headaches can profoundly affect users. Not to mention the effects of the pill on emotions and mental health. When depression and even suicidal thoughts are common side effects, it’s difficult to grapple with how the pill even passed federal health regulations. That many men, like the friends on Tik Tok, are unaware of the side effects of the pill is just an inherent extension of the consequences of their invention.
Another factor is the historical hesitancy and even lack of coverage of male contraception. Textbooks and even everyday dialogue rarely if ever discuss the scientific development of a male hormone pill. In fact, most of the existing and ongoing research on this topic is unaware.
In the early 1960s, scientists at the University of Oregon and the University of Washington happened to be formulated a drug that stops the production of sperm. Dubbed “WIN 18446,” the pill was first tested on prison inmates (of course, the ethics of that is a discussion for another day). After a year of taking the pill, the researchers observed no adverse side effects among inmates.
However, the only kick is that those taking WIN 18446 cannot consume it along with alcohol. If alcohol is drunk while the user is taking the pill, it can cause severe vomiting.
So my question is: why do we find it acceptable that people on the pill carry the risk of stroke, heart attack and blood clots when the benefits of the pill are shared beyond the woman’s body? Why can’t we normalize giving up alcohol while on the pill?
Admittedly, the male pill will probably never achieve the overall effectiveness that is comparable to the traditional birth control pill. Scientifically it is more difficult to inhibit the almost continuous production of sperm, while a person with a uterus has a more controlled and cyclical production of eggs. However, this does not exclude the possibility of hormonal contraception for men. Countless studies and experiments have been conducted accomplished or in progress, suggesting that a male contraceptive solution may become a reality. It takes both funding and hiring. Funding is not an issue as the scientific community is keen to create a breakthrough in the field of medicine and own the patent for it. But the hurdle that hampers development is the attitude that underpins the gender roles assigned to sexuality and sexual health.
2019 scientists revealed a drug called 11-beta-MNTDC, which they tentatively conclude is safe for men with no apparent side effects. However, scientists estimate that it will take more than a decade to reach the market. The reason? It all comes down to attitude.
Apparently we’ve gotten used to the one-sidedness of contraceptives. In a study published in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, researchers closed that women are more positive about the male birth control pill than men. In another study released According to the University of Teesside School of Social Sciences and Law, women and people with wombs have less confidence in men using the birth control pill effectively. Apparently we’ve gotten used to the one-sidedness of contraceptives.
Our attitudes are driven by the hours we spend on social media (like Tik Tok), our full immersion in popular culture, and even the role of our government. For example the Affordable Care Act contains a contraceptive mandate that obliges all health insurance companies to cover the costs of birth control – but only for women. These measures only reinforce the stereotypes that have defined the sexual health landscape for so long.
Given the injustices of contraception that are entrusted to those with wombs, promoting a broader understanding of the side effects of contraception is vital. Understanding how contraceptives, including other forms like IUDs and patches, affect people’s bodies fosters respect and compassion on both sides of the aisle. Our tendency to rely solely on people with wombs to prevent pregnancy is more serious than it looks; it’s part of a nudge in a perpetual cycle of assuming that because her body would carry a baby if she did, it should be her body that should bear the cost of contraception. The first step to breaking this cycle is to be informed.
Unfortunately, oblivion is an epidemic. While your significant other’s ignorance of how boring the pill can lead to hilarious social media content, our Supreme Court, law enforcement agencies, and even our health care system accept ignorance of the truth and reality. No wonder women feel overwhelmingly burdened with the health risks of hormonal birth control.
So yes, it’s a lot bigger than a TikTok video that you can scroll past in a few seconds. Self-determination and individual rights to one’s own body are at stake.