‘For some reason, the whole business suddenly made me furious with Daniel. It was his responsibility too and he wasn’t having to spend £8.95 and hide in the toilets trying to wee on a stick.’ (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding)
Most women can probably sympathise with Bridget’s frustration. The saying ‘it takes two to tango’ that is often employed to signal joint responsibility when it comes to sex does not appear to extend to contraception use. Why should it be Bridget that has to fork out the best part of a tenner to find out whether or not her body will be changed forever? Especially when this whole situation could have been prevented for as little as £3.50, the cost of three condoms.
The number of men that reported sacrificing using protection on the recent E4 series, The Sex Clinic, was shocking, and a little scary. Many of these men said the main reason for not wearing a condom was the amount of time it takes to stop and put one on, which raises the question of whether they would have the same relaxed attitude to taking a pill every day. So how much would women be able to trust the men they are having casual sex with? The recent trend of ‘stealthing‘ suggests not so much, and it would be very easy for a man to say he has taken his contraceptive pill without any way to prove it.
Another issue with the pill and casual sex is that it doesn’t protect from STIs, and recent studies have shown that young adults are much better at taking precautions against pregnancy than against STIs. Many STIs are asymptomatic meaning those that have contracted one are often unaware of it. In 2017, there were 420,000 STI diagnoses in England with 200,000 of those being chlamydia. The majority of diagnoses were among 15-24-year-olds, suggesting that there is a need for more awareness surrounding the risk of STIs and the importance of protecting yourself from them. The fact that so many people choose not to wear a condom suggests that the risks associated with contracting STIs aren’t widely understood.
The quote from Bridget Jones’ Diary reflects a culture that places the onus on women in order to manage the risks associated with sex, especially pregnancy. Although condoms are the easiest way to reduce this risk when having casual sex, hormonal contraceptives (the pill, patch, IUDs) are favoured by those in long-term relationships, but these are all the responsibilities of a woman. For women, these precautions to prevent pregnancy are something to think about as soon as they become sexually active. Whether it is through the advice from our mothers, education or initiative, women tend and are expected to take charge of preventing pregnancy. Perhaps we aren’t giving men the chance to take control? Personally, I don’t think that’s the issue. It seems unlikely that men would be ready and waiting to take a daily contraceptive pill to prevent a pregnancy they wouldn’t have to bear, when most of them favour unprotected sex over the 30 seconds it takes to put a condom on… It would be nice to see the tables turn and men take the initiative to prevent pregnancy, because though it is the woman that bears the burden, biologically speaking, it is the man that causes it. After all, it does ‘take two to tango’.