Hey Guys, Don't Want Kids? A Vasectomy Is Probably the Way to Go
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There is, then, an opportunity to dispel the myth and mystery around vasectomies as couples and individuals begin to ask questions they might not have asked before.
While vasectomies are becoming more common, the procedure comes in context of a complicated history. Sterilization has been abusively applied to non-voluntary individuals, particularly people of color. While women have been the primary targets of this abuse, men too have suffered coerced vasectomies.
In India in the 1970s, reports of compulsory sterilization at “vasectomy camps” began to gain notoriety around the world. Men were coerced with substantial monetary and other incentives for having a vasectomy as part of India’s attempt to lower its national birth rate. Government officials participated in many vasectomy camps, lending it a troubling authority, according to the comprehensive book The Global Family Planning Revolution. Indeed, to “persuade” men to have a vasectomy, one state withdrew public rations for families with more than three children; another state legally required sterilization after three children. In still another state, married teachers with children had to be sterilized or they would lose a month’s pay.
The traumatic legacy of this, paired with fears that the procedure inhibits virility, has caused the unpopularity of vasectomies in that nation. A Times of India report in 2004 indicates that of the 34,000 men who come to Delhi hospitals and clinics for advice about contraception, only 2,000 of them choose vasectomies.
Alongside the lingering suspicion of sterilization as a tool of abuse, vasectomies also emerge in context of the relative dearth of male birth control options.
Historically, the burden of family planning has fallen on women.
Matt Johnson wrote in AlterNet about how his decision to have a vasectomy was in part influenced by a desire to take responsibility for his contraception:
All the other common birth control methods (besides condoms and vasectomy) have one aspect in common: They place the onus on women. Not only does our society expect women to deal with the logistics of birth control, but these methods also have severe physiological drawbacks, from roller-coaster hormonal changes to intensifying menstruation cycles to weight and skin changes. Although these methods have come a long way in a few decades, they still burden women and their bodies. Is it any coincidence that in a male-dominated society, the medical establishment has thus far focused on birth control methods that leave the burden solely on women?
Having decided that I want to take an active role in birth control, a vasectomy is fair, easy, and it confronts my privilege on this issue.
This socially conscious approach to vasectomies also takes an environmental turn. Thomjon Borges of Somerset, Massachusetts, said that he has “No regrets whatsoever” about having a vasectomy. He added that, “the chance to contribute to slowing the population growth was a plus.”