This article (yes, it’s old) in the Washington City Paper about men who don’t understand how birth control works made me laugh. And then feel sad. How can people not understand how birth control works?
Ok, listen. I’ll try to keep it really simple.
Barrier methods like condoms, the cervical cap, and the diaphragm physically block semen from ever reaching the egg. Most times these methods are combined with a spermicide which murders the little swimmers before they can reach their goal.
Hormonal methods like The Pill, the NuvaRing, the Patch, or Depo-Provera interfere creatively with a woman’s cycle. In some cases the hormones interfere with ovulation. In others, the hormones will turn the womb into a barren, rocky place in which your seed may find no purchase.
The copper IUD is the closest to magic. It’s a T-shaped piece of plastic wrapped with copper that’s placed directly in the womb. No one knows exactly why it works, though the theory suggests that the “rocky soil, seed can find no purchase” explanation is the true one. The Mirena IUD also goes inside the uterus, where it releases a low dose of hormones.
The Morning After Pill is a higher dose of the hormones in the regular birth control pill. Taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it can rush to the scene of the crime and attempt to prevent ovulation and may prevent implantation.
More details here.
All these methods have some risks and side effects. Some pills can run $50/month, even with insurance. The Morning After Pill runs between $40-$60 depending on where you get it. The IUD is very cost effective over time, but the initial install can run $1000 between the device and the insertion procedure.
Finally, I’ve run into a lot of guys who vote Republican but who like to have sex with women. Guys, we can argue all day long about economics, taxes, and foreign policy, but here’s a fact: The Republican Party in the U.S. officially works to limit family planning rights for women. They cater to a section of the population who thinks hormonal birth control = abortion. They work to limit abortion access and rights. They tried to defund Planned Parenthood. They love funding abstinence-only education which is designed to prevent teenagers from knowing how their own bodies work. Basically, the platform of the Republican Party in the United States is this: “Every time a penis goes inside a vagina, a baby could be made, and that potential baby is the most important thing ever.” Democrats are not perfect, and not perfect on this issue, but they don’t have “Punish those evil sluts” baked right into their national platform.
There’s a temptation to think that birth control is some icky women’s issue that men don’t have to worry about. Gentlemen, ask yourself some questions, like: Do you want to make a baby right now? Do you want to make a baby every time you have sex? Do you think everyone should make a baby every time they have sex? Do you think your girlfriend waves a wand and says, Harry Potter-style, “Contracepcio!” to prevent unwanted pregnancy? If you’re going to have sex with a woman, it would be good to know what kind of birth control she’s using and how it works. If you’re in an ongoing relationship, it might be nice for you to offer to shoulder some of the financial burden. Please get educated before you fuck. Or vote.