Growing up in the Washington, DC area, (Silver Spring, MD to be exact) and living in DC for a good part of my life, the Washington City Paper was one of the staples of my childhood. Now that I’ve lived in NYC, I have not spent as much time checking out the paper online as I used to, but when I came across a particular post on the paper’s site about how men in the DC area talk about birth control, my interest was piqued again.
A new part of the paper for me is a section called “The Sexist” which is written by Amanda Hess. Honestly, I chose not to spend much time looking past what was posted on the first page after I watched the video (included below) even if the tagline of the blog is “Sex and Gender in The District.” This was mainly because I didn’t see any writing/articles/themes that were written targeting me as a reader. The blog post I did read, Men Explaining Birth Control, contains interviews with men on the street and in their homes in the DC area being asked about various birth control and contraceptive methods: oral birth control pills, emergency contraception (aka morning after pill), the patch, and the ring. They share what they know about the method and how it works.
I will warn you, I didn’t find this funny; I found it rather scary.
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If ever there were evidence of why “teen” pregnancy prevention programs do not work, this is it! Often pregnancy prevention programs, efforts and resources are focused on cisgender (young) women. There is this assumption that it is only women–but not the men with whom they are (hopefully) having consensual sex–who need the information on contraception and pregnancy prevention. It is not often that men (transgender or cisgender) are included in such conversations, or even envisioned to be a part of them.
With some sexuality education programs still separating classes by gender, limiting conversations about birth control and contraception (and the difference between the two), and with education focusing just on male condom use among men, are we really surprised that pregnancy prevention efforts are not working as well as they could? I’d be interested in knowing if the men interviewed could discuss how to properly use a male condom, demonstrate how to do that, and/or discuss the difference between the male condom and the female condom and how they are used.
Then there is the assumption that youth who identify as gay or lesbian do not need to know the same information regarding contraceptives and birth control. This cannot be further from the truth. Gay and lesbian youth may or may not want to have children, some may choose pregnancy to avoid coming out, and others may end up having sex with cisgender partners.
I wasn’t too surprised by the results of this video, but I also wasn’t entertained. Instead I found it extremely odd that in “Chocolate City,” with a huge international population, there were no men of color to speak with or interview. I’m not sure if there would be a difference in the knowledge men of various racial, ethnic, national origin, and/or documentation status would have in comparison to the very white presumed-U.S. participants in the video.
Other thoughts I’m having about this video: would younger men today know a little more? Will young men know more in another few years? The language used in the video was very telling, anti-choice, and specific. So much to unpack, does someone else want to do that? What can I do right now as a form of direct action to reach men of all ages and help them understand how birth control and contraceptives work? I’d love to hear what readers think and if you can suggest any websites that are dedicated to the sexual and reproductive health of (young) men.