Speculating about the future of contraceptive technology allows us to uncover the current motivations and beliefs of the contraceptive culture. It seems that the process of looking into the unknown forces us to put aside our present assumptions, at least momentarily. Therefore, let us consider another hypothetical: the male birth control pill.
The male birth control pill has been 5 to 10 years off for the last 15 years. Nonetheless, many have written about this elusive innovation. One theme throughout the various writings is that women could not (or should not) trust men to reliably take the male pill. Therein lies the point of my post.
The lack of trust theme is certainly not universal among those who have written on the male birth control pill. Furthermore, since the male pill is not yet a reality, any opinions expressed on the issue are by nature tentative. Disclaimers having been disclaimed, the lack of trust theme remains informative. Here are a few bits of evidence (again, these are illustrative, not universal):
- “Men are not going to take that pill, and just like [the man interviewed earlier] said, I’m not going to believe he took it.”—Wendy Walsh, Ph.D. (found on AOL)
- “But even if the [male contraceptive] pill is an effective contraceptive, it’s unclear whether women would trust men to take a daily pill, Matzuk [a leading researcher on the issue] points out.”—Maggie Fox (found on NBC News)
- A poll at the bottom of the article referenced in point 2, taken by just over 5,000 people, asked, “Would you trust a man to take a birth control pill?” The results were as follows: 32% yes, 25% no, 43% depends on the guy.
- “[Women] should definitely NOT trust guys to take it correctly, and unfortunately they are the ones stuck with an unwanted pregnancy should it occur. Men can be forgetful, lazy, and lie — they will often say anything to get sex, and many wouldn’t hesitate to tell their partners they were on the pill if they thought it would get them lucky.” –Jon Ross (found on Huffington Post)
(As an aside, if you ever want a proponent of contraception to give a more accurate assessment of female OCPs or condoms, have them debate the costs and benefits of the male contraceptive pill with an unwilling man.)
By considering the male contraceptive pill, we catch a glimpse of the current trust deficit between men and women in regards to sexual relationships. This is a relatively unrecognized theme of the contraceptive culture. When confronted with this theme, however, the call from the contraceptive culture is not for the building of a strong, trusting relationship before entering into a sexual relationship. Rather, the call is for the continued dependence on the pill and condoms; completely trusting a sexual partner is of course an unreasonable risk. The trust deficit, it seems, is taken as a given.
Accepting the trust deficit as a normal part of sex has startling implications. Yet, these implications go largely unnoticed by the contraceptive culture. Consider two:
- Sex is not relational, but individual. You can’t necessarily trust the other person in the room, so you must protect yourself at all costs.
- Sex is not about commitment. If commitment was a part of sex, then the call would necessarily be towards developing trust before entering into a sexual relationship. Such calls do not appear to be coming from the contraceptive culture. One may argue that trust is a nice thing to have, but this is a far cry from saying trust is integral to sex.
When the relational aspect and commitment aspect of sex are removed (coupled with the denial of the procreative potential via contraception) we are left with a deficient and distorted understanding of sex. Such is the view unintentionally espoused by the contraceptive culture: sex is only consent and pleasure. Sex is fundamentally recreational, indistinguishable from any other leisure activity. Anything the partners add on is mere preference.
But one is forced to ask the human question: Is this really what singers sing about, playwrights playwright about, and poets poet about? Has some of the most powerful inspiration in the world—inspiring great works of art, immortal poetry, and timeless songs— come from mere recreation? Surely sex is more than that.
The message of the organic culture is as simple as it is controversial: we should build a deeply trusting relationship before having sex. We should not have sex with someone we do not intimately trust. And given the obstinate fact that contraception can fail, perhaps we should not have sex with someone we would not be comfortable raising a child with. In short, sex isn’t a game.
The beauty of fertility awareness is that it involves both the man and the woman in the act of family planning. It’s not something to simply trust or distrust another with. Properly practiced, it is a participation. By working together on charting a woman’s fertility, by making a common effort to avoid sex during the charted fertile time (if the goal is to hold off on having children), and by having the discussion about each other’s goals and desires in regard to sex, both man and woman are involved in taking charge of their fertility.