A clinical trial of contraceptives for men was brought to a halt after it discovered that:
“the risks to the [male] study participants outweighed the potential benefits.”
Now, if you are a woman, like myself, who chooses to use oral contraceptives despite their adverse effects I imagine that you were probably appalled by this news. You aren’t alone in that sentiment.
What I find to be even more troubling about this misogynist medical research study is that it is not an isolated incident.
In fact, this research study on male contraceptives is one of many accounts that points to the presence of modern-day gender inequality in this country. I’d like to think that we have long since surpassed the 1950’s era of the “happy homemaker” but if I’m going to be honest here, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Ironically, it was in the late 1950’s that “the pill” first came out as a form of female birth control.
The female contraceptive introduced the idea of reproductive rights and marked the “second wave” of the American Feminist Movement. The Feminine Mystique, a book published around this time as a response to the movement, provided stories of real-life women living in that era who revealed great dissatisfaction in their roles as housewives.
From this movement forward, women began to play a more significant role in the workforce. Work suddenly demanded that women spend more hours in the workplace and less time at home. This lifestyle change resulted in women taking more control over their reproductive health rights. Behold, the pill was born!
With the introduction of female contraceptives and other medications, women suddenly had more control over their bodies; however, gender bias continued to persist.
In fact, up until this point, women were entirely omitted from medical research studies for years. According to The Journal of Clinical Investigation, one of the most prominent studies that failed to include women in its clinical trials was the Physicians’ Health Study, published in 1988, which looked at the effects of aspirin on cardiovascular disease.
The study included 22,071 physicians, all of which were men. Not a single female physician was represented in the entire research study!
With such an exclusion of women, we cannot accurately determine the proper course of treatment for half of our population.
Now we come to today’s current issues with gender inequalities.
The researchers’ decision to bring the male contraceptive clinical trial to an end is a symptom of the persistent gender inequality in modern life, or put another way, a reminder to us women that we are yet again “inferior” to our male counterparts.
We claim to have already moved past this point in our history yet, this event proves otherwise. The halt of the clinical trial on male contraceptives is an example of this.
According to the recently published clinical study from The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, acne, injection site pain, increased libido, and mood disorders were among the many adverse effects associated with the male injectable combination hormonal contraceptive for men. These side effects were enough to bring the study to an end.
Interestingly enough, though, women have also faced these same adverse effects, including mood disorders, acne, and changes in libido. Not to mention that some of the most common side effects associated with female oral contraception include breast tenderness, nausea, and vomiting.
At this point, I think it’s safe to say that no birth control, whether male or female, is without flaws. Though, it couldn’t be more evident that men and women are not protected against the same side effects.
Again, we see research reinforcing the patriarchal society we continue to live in today.
Despite all of the risks associated with contraceptives, and as a woman who benefits from its use, I will be the first to say;
“Thank God for female birth control!”
It may not be perfect, but it does what it’s intended to do—prevent pregnancy.
Similarly, despite a remarkable 96% effectiveness, male contraception somehow manages not to uphold the same standards for safety and efficacy as female contraception. As I see it, regardless of its place in history, the male contraceptive study clearly points to the fact that men and women abide by different rules, which is gender discrimination.
As always, the burden falls on the female gender – what a double standard!