Guys, why aren’t you paying for birth control?
Even some of the most sexually literate men who sleep with women have limited understanding of hormonal contraception. Maybe we understand how a steady dose of synthetic estrogen and progesterone work to signal the body not to release an egg from the ovaries, or that to be most effective hormonal birth control taken orally must be taken at the same time every day, but hardly any of us understand what it is like to have to pay for birth control.
Why not? We’re splitting the bill on everything else these days. And I say it’s time that we start paying up for the pill.
For a long time I was frustrated by having to pay for condoms. I scoured drug stores to find those with the lowest cost, but I was still fretful about the fact that each sexual encounter was essentially costing me money. My discontent was bluntly put into perspective when a partner informed me she had paid well over $200 for about four months’ worth of hormonal birth control.
Last year many bemoaned a rapid and unexpected increase in the price of contraceptives due to an inadvertent technical error caused by the Federal Deficit Reduction Act in 2005. Though this cost hike will likely be undone with the introduction of the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act, the price of hormonal contraception is a reality that is not made salient to the men still enjoying its benefits.
For a long time I wrestled with the idea of helping pay for the pill. The pill is now so readily accessible, and it seems everyone is using it already (even if only 38 percent of women in college actually are). We feel as though we’re contributing already by securing condoms, but the financial balance is skewed.
There is simply no legitimate reason for us males not to be contributing. Some guys may argue: Why do we have to if she was already on the pill before we started having sex? But this attitude is the same as that which stops you from helping out with the heating bill when you move in with someone, since they were already paying utilities before you got there. The claim just doesn’t hold up.
Our society still sees pregnancy as happening to women and not involving males. But the pill that she’s paying for is preventing you from being a daddy just as much as it’s keeping her from being a mommy. Shouldn’t you be putting in for this? Scrounging together some cash for contraceptives will be much less expensive for you than paying child support.
Other guys might see it as unfair for us to help pay for the pill because only she is receiving other benefits that occur as side effects. She may enjoy shorter and lighter periods, or reduced acne breakouts. I see these factors as favorable to your sexual relationship, but even if you see these as perks you don’t want to pay for, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pitch in somehow. Again, you’re still winning because of one simple fact: You don’t have a kid. That requires some cash.
But what about when the pill has unfavorable side effects for the women — perhaps unwanted weight gain or depression. In cases like these, when a woman is taking birth control to keep you two unworried about pregnancy but is also bearing the burden of a number of unwanted side effects, you had better be forking over.
The debate about who should pay on a first date will continue in a post-feminist dating culture. But with many couples coming to the agreement to “go dutch” after a few dates into the relationship, we should come to the same conclusion about contraception. This sort of mentality needs to be applied to the pill immediately. If you’re in a heterosexual sexual relationship, raise the issue, whether you’re a man or a woman, rich or poor. There is no justification for men to continue to shirk this responsibility any longer.
Even if the price for the pill isn’t sky-high for all women who chose to use it right now, or if it declines significantly for others in the future, we males have an ethical obligation to start splitting the cost.
Colin Adamo is a junior in Pierson College.