The Sexist

Men Explaining Birth Control


Last week, I cornered some men into explaining their understanding of how birth control works, on camera. Results were mixed. Bonus: Guess which one is gay?

  • arielle cohen

    I give them credit for effort.

  • amy

    Wow. I drilled my boyfriend on the pill after I read your article. He did pretty well. I'm even more impressed by my fella's knowlege after seeing these guys.

  • Entendre

    Would be interesting to see the same set of questions administered to pill-using women. Perhaps a follow-up video?

    Did you exclude knowledgeable participants or answers? Highlighting how wrong guys can be is interesting, but I reckon that many must have at least some idea of biological science...

    Most interesting to me is how uncomfortable they seemed discussing it. Just because it has to do with menstruation or vaginas, we can't talk normally anymore? I don't get it.

  • Meg

    @arielle: Credit for what, exactly? Answering the questions? Because most of them (with a few notable exceptions) haven't made any effort to learn any of this stuff.

    @Entendre: I'd like to know that, too. And I love the idea of asking women. I guarantee a good number of them are just as clueless.

    I have to say, my favorite is the guy who thinks the NuvaRing is some sort of magic circle that prevents pregnancy without "hormones or chemicals."

    You can absolutely see the evidence of right-wing influence in the answers about the morning-after pill. "It kills what's growing," or, "It flushes everything out." When, in reality, it's just a big dose of the Pill, something they'd know if they'd read minimal literature on it.

    Most telling, though, is how many of the guys commented on hormones being "harsh" or "scary," and yet they seemed ok with the Pill. Wonder why there's no medical solution to male birth control? There you have it.

  • mdesus

    The morning after pill is very similar to a double dose of the regular birth control pill. I once had to explain to a girl that her taking two pills after missing a day was only normal in the first two weeks of a given cycle, and might fuck up her menstrual cycle if she did it in the 3rd week. This shit is slightly more complicated than given credit for like a 3 paragraph read complicated instead of a two line read.

  • Kat

    "taking two pills after missing a day was only normal in the first two weeks of a given cycle, and might fuck up her menstrual cycle if she did it in the 3rd week."

    Huh?? And what do you mean it's normal? And fuck up how? You understand that when you're on BC you have no real cycle anymore (no ovulation). The bleeding is only if you stop taking the hormone pills (known as withdrawal bleeding). I don't think taking two pills at a time is ever "normal" and is only if you missed one. It's never as a effective as taking it at the same time every day though. I don't think it will fuck anything though... haha

  • Nekabue

    I recently dated a guy who thought the IUD was a permanently installed barrier in the vagina itself. And another guy was really proud of his super sperm for conquering his girlfriend's "totally conscientious pill-taking". mmhmm. Good job on the sperm there, guy.

  • Mike

    I wonder, whats the point of asking men how birth control pills, or the patch works? I'm sure most reasonably intelligent people, male or female would presume that your average male knew little about these forms of birth control. After all, they can not get pregnant, so it would not cross their mind much. If the author was really concerned with raising awareness of birth control products, she would do her due dilligence in asking females about various birth control products out on the market.

  • Diane

    Mike, some men care whether or not the women they sleep with get pregnant.

  • Gabi

    Since the man is not bothered with these forms of birth control, he should at least show some interest in how it works/have some knowledge about it.
    A woman who does not know how a condom works, also makes kind of a stupid impression, or?
    I love the word 'lady business' by the way. But eh... is it so hard to simply call it vagina?

  • vstreetlounge

    Clearly Zac Rosen is the gay one.

  • Wes

    I always have to wonder how selective the editing is in these "man on the street" vids. But that said, I know how the birth control pill, patch, and so on work. I also know what the morning after pill does, but don't really claim to have understood the biochemical side of it - just why it is used, in what circumstances, the result, and some figures on effectiveness.

    I would love to see how women answered this same question. I've dated a few who clearly did not understand birth control in the slightest, although to be fair, that was mostly when we were in high school and undergrad. I'm particularly curious how familiar lifelong lesbians (as opposed to those who were bi or had once regularly been intimate with men) would be with birth control.

    I expect that women would know more about it than men. They ought to - it deals with their own biology and is something they may take and deal with. To parallel, men should know how to better check for testicular cancer or the symptoms of prostate cancer than women. But I can assure you, there would be some terrible answers there too.

    I'm also wondering how women would do on a test that deals with male biology.

  • msl

    i don't know...although they weren't exactly right, they weren't totally far off. the got the gist - women-centered birth control is about hormones.

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  • Laura

    Wowza. Some commenters bring up good questions about the representativeness of "random men you could approach and get to talk on camera in x amount of time" videos.

    Still, _my_ question to add on to this video would be: have you ever benefitted from a woman using birth control? Have you ever talked about options with your sexual partners?

    @Wes - Re: lifelong lesbians and their birth control knowledge? More formal studies show that almost no lesbian has only ever slept with wome - in a heteronormative culture, most women/girls have at least one sexual encounter with a conventionally gendered man, and often at least one relationship.

    With a totally informal poll, based on dating a lot of lesbians... most lesbians know a fair bit about birth control, or at least more than this sample. A lot of them seem to be engaged in learning about their body and the body of their partners - and their role as a minority often strengthens their determination that women have a right to choose what to do with their bodies, including re: birth control.

    Knowing about birth control options is important for everyone who has a partner they can possibly get pregnant with, a younger (or less knowledgeable) sibling, friend, cousin, or anyone who ever wants to have children and be able to stop after the number they can afford to maintain, given that their religious beliefs do not prevent it.

    In fact, the religious folk have even more need to understand how lady parts (Va-Gi-Nas) work, since the rhythm method is generally the only one (other than total abstinence) approved by anti-birth-control faiths.


  • Jess

    Well, also, lifelong lesbians (they're rare, but they're out there!) don't NEED to know anything about contraception, because they can't have babies. So who cares? The same is not true of straight men.

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  • Mitsy

    I don't know how the birth control works really, despite having taken it for over 3 years. (and allow me to horrify your liberal, feminist sensitivities even further, I was damned embarrassed to be taking it as well) And why should it matter how or why it works? As long as these things are effective, it's not really necessary for people to know the exact chemical compounds, especially men. It's not their medication. They should know how to use condoms and that's it. Where's the big concern for people to be informed about how their anti-depressants or blood thinners work? But besides the point, things like this make me sick, and make me even less interested in learning things about my...lady parts.

  • Brie

    This brings to mind two things: A recent discussion with my husband where I had to explain FAM, and to which his only response was, "Gross." and having to explain the Pill (both standard and morning-after) to a ninth grader when I was a high school senior because the teacher wasn't allowed to (yay, abstinence-only education! I'll bet you anything that kid wasn't a virgin when he asked, either). His question was, "So, how does the pill work? Does it, like, kill the baby?"

  • Brie

    Also, I'd like to note that I didn't even go into graphic detail about cervical mucus or anything -- in fact, I used about as vague terms as possible.

  • sangetencre

    Mitsy, you don't need to know the exact chemical compounds.

    But having a general knowledge--hey, the pill prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation so there is no egg to fertilize (add a bonus if you know how the pituitary gland is involved in all of this)--is a good idea.

    I mean, don't you think it might be a good thing to know what side effects the medicine you're taking can cause? What might react with it? What might keep it from working?

    And none of this is knowledge that you'd have to be a chemist to understand.

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  • snobographer

    @Mitsy - "Where’s the big concern for people to be informed about how their anti-depressants or blood thinners work?"

    If you're on anti-depressants or blood thinners and have any intellectual curiosity or concern for your health, you'd probably ask your doctor how they work or at least try to find out for yourself. And if you have an intimate partner or a series of intimate partners and friends and family members who take anti-depressants or blood thinners, you'd probably want to know how they work. When I was on SSRIs, my friends and family members asked me how they worked all the time.
    We know ED meds basically work by dilating blood vessels.
    But bagina-related stuff! EEEEEEWWW!!! Don't talk about it!