When hormonal contraception first hit the market in the 1960s, it was a beautiful—if imperfect—revolution. Methods of preventing pregnancy have been around for centuries but it wasn’t until hormonal contraceptives like the pill and LARCs (IUDs and implants) became available that women were put in the driver’s seat. For the first time, women had real control over their sex lives. Over their bodies. Over their futures.
Flash forward nearly 60 years and most women have a complicated relationship with their birth control. I’m one of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m forever grateful for the peace of mind and control over my future that birth control provides. But sometimes, I’m also a little resentful—the potential side effects, the cost, the fact that contraceptives really haven’t changed much since our grandmothers were first introduced to them over a half a century ago. Mostly, the fact that as a woman, I’m responsible for 100 percent of the family planning. I’m in an equitable partnership, but unless we’re using condoms, I alone bear the birth control burden. My fiancé may be completely supportive but he isn’t the one altering his body with hormones. He’s not the one dipping into his bank account or navigating potentially complicated insurance issues. He’s not the one responsible for our shared reproductive future. I am.
Where the hell is birth control for men? Female contraceptives may not be perfect but at least women have options. The pill, the patch, the ring, the IUD, the implant, the shot. In oh-shit situations, the morning after pill. The only real option for men, short of a vasectomy is—like I said—condoms. (Which, to be fair, aren’t just for dudes.)
Male birth control is coming. Scientists have been exploring hormonal contraception for men since the ’90s—pills, injections, gels—but the research has hit its fair share of road bumps. A 2016 study was cut short after too many men dropped out of the trial because they couldn’t handle the PMS-like symptoms. A shoulder gel is the closest method to market, says Christina Wang, M.D., a lead researcher in male birth control at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, though it’s likely still years away from approval.
But even when male birth control does finally become available, I still won’t be giving up mine. “Our goal is for shared responsibility,” says Wang. “Sharing of family planning practices and a sharing of the burden of birth control.”
My birth control isn’t perfect—after years of bouncing around between birth control pills and dealing with various side effects of the hormones (lucky for me, the pill paradoxically seemed to make my acne worse) I got an IUD and despite the pain of insertion, have been happy with it—but it’s my right. It’s a vital part of the way I make decisions for my body. It’s power I wouldn’t give to anyone.
Macaela MacKenzie is a senior editor at Glamour. Follow her at @MacaelaMack.