Aisha Sultan: A Funny Thing about Men and Birth Control

By Sultan, Aisha | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 9, 2017 | Go to article overview

Aisha Sultan: A Funny Thing about Men and Birth Control


Sultan, Aisha, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


It always seemed safe to assume that the vast majority of men understood just as well as women how babies are made.

Not so fast, it seems. A new survey has forced us to reconsider what we thought we knew. Apparently, 52 percent of men say they haven't benefited personally from women having access to affordable birth control. This was a widely reported finding from a recent survey by nonpartisan polling group PerryUndem. Nine percent of the men asked weren't sure if they had benefited, and 3 percent refused to answer the question.

The remaining third, who can recognize a personal benefit when they get it, may be just as perplexed by their cohorts as many women who saw this report.

Did more than half of men skip a vital part of middle school health class?

Nearly all women have used some kind of contraception at some point, and the majority of women of reproductive age do. About 62 percent of women of reproductive age are currently using a contraceptive method, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization. The birth control pill and female sterilization are the most commonly used methods.

It seems odd to have to connect the dots here, but this is for the 52 percent: If women didn't have access to birth control, there would be far more unplanned pregnancies. Men would have, at bare minimum, an 18-year-long financial obligation to any child they have fathered. Any man who has relied on a woman's contraceptive use ever to avoid pregnancy has personally benefited from her access to it.

This cause-and-effect relationship seems fairly straightforward. When I asked my husband to explain what the 52 percent may have been thinking, he questioned the survey methodology.

"Did they just survey teenagers?" he asked. (I wondered myself if celibacy rates are higher than anyone ever guessed.)

Nope. The researchers called a representative sample of voters, so the respondents were 18 or older.

The men most likely to say they hadn't personally benefited from women's access to birth control were those 60 years and older. …

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