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Article

Contraceptive counseling marginalizes male body-based methods

In our society, women bear the primary, and sometimes exclusive, responsibility for preventing pregnancy. Condoms, withdrawal, and vasectomy, as contraceptive methods that operate in male bodies, have the potential to disrupt this unequal division of reproductive responsibility. From a patient perspective, they may also best meet some women’s preferences for contraceptive method features—for example, offering protection against pregnancy without any side effects in women’s bodies.

In a new study published in Social Science & Medicine, titled “Talking about Male Body-Based Contraceptives: The Counseling Visit and the Feminization of Contraception,” ANSIRH’s Katrina Kimport finds that providers generally devalue male body-based methods in their counseling. To start with, most failed to discuss male body-based methods with their patients at all. And those who did discuss condoms, withdrawal, and/or vasectomy, tended to emphasize aspects of the methods that were presumed “negative” (e.g. the lower efficacy of withdrawal and condoms) but not features that patients might view positively (e.g. the high efficacy of vasectomy or the lack of side effects with condoms and withdrawal).

Taken together, clinicians’ counseling marginalized male body-based methods as contraceptive choices. As a practical effect, this may encourage women to choose a method that does not best meet their preferences. At a structural level, by devaluing methods that could undercut the unequal division of fertility work, clinicians contributed to the feminization of responsibility for contraception and the retrenchment of the unequal gendered division of fertility work.

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Banner photo: © Aura Orozco-Fuentes

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ANSIRH is a program within the UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health and is a part of UCSF's Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences.

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