Another history of contraception

Another history of contraception

What methods of contraception are currently offered to better distribute the contraceptive burden? What obstacles prevent heterosexual cisgender men from seizing this responsibility?

With regard to contraception, one thought seems to be ultra-majority: it is aimed exclusively at women (implied: menstruating cisgender women). IUD, patch, ring, injection, implant, and of course, the pill: all means are good to try to control the menstrual cycle via tools designed and marketed for them . Because for many, contraception is still a women's affair .


However, this observation poses (at least) two major problems : firstly, it is based on the fact that making women bear this mental burden and its side effects is obvious, and that it does not directly or remotely concern men. And then, that a woman is exclusively someone who ovulates, ignoring trans, non-binary, or genderqueer people who may also be prone to menstruation.


Today, methods exist to share the contraceptive burden - this is what we call the imperative thoughts for the proper functioning of contraception (going to the doctor, taking the pill at a fixed time, having condoms "just in case where” etc). To be more precise: heterosexual cisgender men (whose gender identity corresponds to the sex with which they were born) who are fertile 24/7 (excluding pathologies), can also take control of their fertility and contribute to the sexual well-being of the couple.


What are these methods? Why are they so little known and their number of users? What are the obstacles that prevent heterosexual cisgender men from seizing this responsibility? How does this social phenomenon hold an important place in feminist struggles? Is it relevant to classify them as “male” contraception when the gender binarity is questioned?


thermal contraception

The thermal method also bears the friendly nickname of " heated briefs ". We tell you why: the principle is to slightly increase the temperature of the testicles by raising them in the pubis, thanks to a slip or a silicone ring. It is a reversible method , the consequence of which is a reduction in the rate of spermatozoa after about three months (duration of their manufacturing cycle). This is verified with the help of a spermogram, a medical examination, which is used to measure the quantity and health of these). The condition for thermal contraception to be effective: wear this underwear or ring 7 days a week, and at least fifteen hours a day.

 Why is the thermal method little practiced? Firstly because it is little known and not specially recommended by doctors who themselves do not know it. But also because it technically touches closely on the testicles, an area far from being neutral in our education and our culture. This supposed emblem of masculinity, present in the very heart of the French language (think of the expression "Avoir des couilles", designating courage and by extension virility) is not about to be erased by heated briefs .


hormone injection

Another little publicized alternative is the weekly injection of testosterone . Like the heated underpants or the ring, hormonal contraception would only be effective after three months of injections. Why is the hormonal method so little practiced? We can assume that some people would be put off by the self-administration of injections, as well as by the price: around 10 euros per week according to Pierre Colin (co-founder of the Association for the Research and Development of Male Contraception ), non-refundable .


The second reason is that like any hormonal treatment, testosterone injection can have side effects such as acne, muscle mass gain or increased libido. Its use is thus recommended only, according to the ANSM, for "men aged 25 to 45 who do not have certain antecedents (cardiovascular, hepatic, cancer, obesity, psychiatric, etc.) or who do not consume tobacco ".


Lack of awareness and patriarchal culture

 In general, contraception is probably again one of those areas where patriarchy and politics intersect. Pharmaceutical companies would not derive any benefit from a market that remains to be created at a time when that of female contraception is already flourishing. Public and industrial authorities rely on patriarchal culture and gender binary to refuse any further research on male contraception: deconstructing gender stereotypes and associated social roles would be like shooting themselves in the foot.


Moreover, the taboo and the lack of information for heterosexual cisgender men about anatomy on the one hand, contraception on the other, but also other peripheral subjects - in particular transidentity - create many brakes on their seizing the subject. Very few among them are informed about the functioning of reproduction, the menstrual cycle and its symptoms, or even about vasectomy and its absence of consequences on the libido . The lack of awareness among health professionals is also an aggravating factor: indeed, the culture still wants (and this is very comfortable for everyone) that the family doctor makes the contraceptive load bear to the mother in the hetero-cis couple.


We detect a timid evolution of mores and mentalities around contraception through gender studies, as well as intersectional and inclusive feminist thought. In November 2021, in its podcast “Contracepted Men”, the program Les Pieds sur Terre highlighted the various aforementioned methods, confirming despite everything a media spotlight on the subject. Finally, some brands such as AndroSwitch (rings) or Spermapause (thermal boxers) allow you to get involved in a concrete way by marketing these products, but remain inaccessible to small budgets.

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