The Future of Contraception…

The Male Contraceptive Initiative

 

Imagining a future where there is better partner dialogue about reproductive health

 

A friend of mine has recently taken on the role of heading the Male Contraceptive Initiative. It took a while before the revolutionary potential of what she was doing sunk in…

 

Managing fertility is so much part of the modern female experience – dealing with pre-menstrual syndrome, figuring out which contraceptive method to use, terminating pregnancies, getting pregnant, delivering babies, breastfeeding and being a martyr about it. Fertility is part of our physicality, our imagination, our social life and our identity. It’s sacred. 

 

Of course, there have always been condoms as withdrawal and contraceptive methods, both mainly in the hands of men. And both pretty unreliable!

 

Women not managing fertility – having multiple unplanned pregnancies and large families – defined the terms of patriarchal oppression and lost female potential. Not only that, women not managing fertility has been well defined as a key cause of poverty and underdevelopment. Large families meant limited resources were spread thinly across many children, meaning many did not get enough nutrition, attention, or schooling.

 

Fighting for the right to manage fertility was fundamental to the origins of the feminist movement, and is an ongoing battle in many contexts – including in India where the contraceptive options are limited and the US where the funding for Planned Parenthood is held in perpetual contention.

 

What would it mean to give up this control, or share these responsibilities?

 

At the recent 2019 Unbox festival, the MCI team set up a booth where people could record their thoughts as short videos about what male contraception means to them.

 

For me, almost past reproductive age, it’s hard to imagine. But in the social sector, it’s our job to imagine and work towards a better future.

 

So what I think having male contraceptive options would do is: promote better dialogue about contraception. If contraception is something that either partner can take up rather than being a woman’s inevitable burden, then surely there would be more discussion about who would contracept?

 

Better dialogue around contraception would hopefully have many other benefits, such as improved planning around pregnancy timing, number of kids, increased male care seeking; and better family support for pregnant women, new mums and newborns.

 

 

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