For some reason, though, we never really categorize birth control under that umbrella of non-negotiables. It’s almost an afterthought, which is how we’ve been trained to view birth control in a society where it’s freely available and its effects not widely discussed.
If anything, the birth control talk is just as paramount as those other topics, but we’re relegating it to a short, perfunctory few talking points on a scale of whether we use it or whether we don’t, without much discussion beyond that.
Though we often want to exclude men from these kinds of conversations, having the discussion on the use, efficacy, and consequences of birth control with our dating relationships, long-term boyfriends, spouses, fathers, and male friends is crucial to broaching a subject which is often thought to be easily grasped and of no significant importance.
Our Damaged Perception
The shiny superficial culture of the liberated “Cosmo girl” that Millennial and Gen Z women have been raised in offers an array of options when it comes to birth control, but gives us no real tools on how to address it with men — simply because, being men, they shouldn’t have a seat at the table or a role in the conversation.
Writing off men as unnecessary to the conversation only limits the productive dialogue we could be having.
But this is counterintuitive to the purpose of birth control, especially for contraceptive purposes, in the first place. Writing off men as unnecessary to the conversation only limits the productive dialogue we could be having and sets us back from addressing what is sometimes inevitable.
Additionally, if popular culture is giving us advice on the topic, it’s usually terrible. We’ve been told the conversation is awkward, unpleasant, and problematic, making us further delay having it. But it doesn’t have to be. When a choice like birth control has the ability to affect not only our bodies but also our futures, the conversation shouldn’t be awkward, but vital, especially when it can determine the terrain of a relationship.
Changing the Dynamic (for the Better)
It’s encouraging to meet or date someone who validates your thoughts and reasoning on birth control, especially when you don’t use it and opt for natural, holistic options like fertility awareness.
But it’s even more common to encounter men who have been just as misled as women in thinking birth control is a cure-all for contraception and for reproductive health problems.
It’s common to encounter men who have been just as misled as women in thinking birth control is a cure-all.
For every man who is supportive of naturopathic ways to treat reproductive issues, or for the purposes of family planning, there’s sure to be just as many who don’t understand, or even aren’t willing to. Nathalie, a certified family planner and creator of the blog Fertility Awareness Project explains, “Men may be used to not playing a part in their partners’ contraceptive choices. FAM encourages communication between you and your partner (which is a huge bonus!) so that you are both on the same page.”
That pretty much sums it up. We’ve told men repeatedly, and emphatically emphasized, that there’s no need for them to participate in these discussions, so when we do finally approach the issue with them, they might react in a way that’s unsupportive by reiterating narratives or information that isn’t entirely accurate or applicable to us.
When we bring men into the conversation from the beginning, and take the time to educate them on every option (not just the popular ones), we can forgo the awkwardness and have a true, sincere conversation of what birth control means for us as individuals.
So, What Do We Say?
Before discussing your body (and how you take care of it) with anyone else, it’s important to be body literate and aware of how birth control affects or doesn’t affect you. Maybe you’ve never had issues with hormonal or contraceptive methods. But maybe you have, which automatically changes the landscape of the discussion.
First and foremost, be open to discussion, but firm. This is your body, your fertility, your reproductive health we’re talking about, and one sex ed class in high school or anecdotes from friends doesn’t qualify your date or your boyfriend to tell you how you should and shouldn’t feel about it.
Be open to discussion, but firm. This is your body, your fertility, your reproductive health.
Be exploratory. If birth control hasn’t worked for you, as it hasn’t for many women, there’s a whole host of possibilities and options open to you and your partner if you’re avoiding conception or trying to conceive.
Be understanding. If we think about what we’ve been told about birth control as women, it’s overwhelming to even consider the narratives that have been fed to men.
Recognizing that beforehand gives us a better way to initiate and proceed with the discussion.
Whether it’s your first date and the subject has naturally come up, or you’re considering long-term commitment and marriage to your significant other, there’s no reason we should be hesitant or trepidatious when it comes to discussing birth control.
These are our bodies we’re talking about, and when it comes to another person potentially playing a part in our fertility and reproduction, we should be as clear and open as we can, discomfort and awkwardness aside.
While thoughts on sex, family, religion, and politics can be non-negotiables or linch pins in a relationship, a frank discussion on birth control is too important a conversation not to have.