My husband, Ian, chose to have a vasectomy three years after we were married, when he was 35. Ian was worried about my health; I was getting infections from the contraceptive jelly and we didn't like the side effects of the pill. I started avoiding putting my diaphragm in before bed, wanting to avoid unnecessary exposure to the chemicals in the jelly if we didn't end up having sex. Unfortunately, not having birth control in every night limited our spontaneity. All this had a deleterious effect on our lovemaking.
Since we knew that we only wanted children through adoption, vasectomy seemed like a great option: sex anywhere, anytime without worrying about pregnancy, and no more of the birth control chemicals I had been taking for 24 years.
Women around the world take most of the responsibility for birth control in a relationship, probably since we are the ones most affected by pregnancy and children. Even with all the liberated, wonderful men with whom I have been in love, none offered to share in the cost of my contraceptives. I don't recall my boyfriends making sure there was enough jelly and sponges at hand. I never got a reminder to take my pill, and none of them had any idea of my cycle. Even in my teens when most of my lovers were older than I, it was assumed that I would take the lion's share of the responsibility. "Is your diaphragm in?" was the most involved most of them got.
When it comes to permanent birth control such as a tubal ligation for women or a vasectomy for men, women again bear much more of the burden. A vasectomy is a 45-minute procedure usually performed in a doctor's office with local anesthesia, while a tubal ligation must be done in a hospital with the patient totally under. Vasectomies are cheaper, have fewer complications and a faster recovery time, but there are five times more tubal ligations than vasectomies performed each year worldwide. Even in the United States, women are sterilized much more often than men.
Men are less apt to have a vasectomy because they are generally more resistant to medical procedures, especially those involving their reproductive organs. There is also the myth that they will lose testosterone, and thus sexual function or desire. Some think they will lose their ejaculate, even though they simply lose sperm, not semen. I believe that a strong factor is also a biological one: men feel they give up what it means to be male when they can no longer procreate at will.
Well, take it from me, my husband is still sexy, horny and manly seven years after his vasectomy. He has the same amount of semen, but now it won't get me pregnant. Our sex life became even less inhibited when we didn't have to think about birth control. Studies show that the sex lives of many couples improve after a vasectomy due to lack of worry about pregnancy and the ability to be spontaneous.
I am grateful that Ian is the kind of man who took control of the birth control in our partnership, making it healthier for me and sexier for both of us.