“It’s good to see that there’s men here today”, a woman shouts over the microphone. “But there’s not enough of you! We need men to be allies in this struggle.”
We are in a hundreds-strong crowd, demonstrating for abortion rights. We’re marching in solidarity with every person around the world who is being denied access to abortion, whether it be in the US, Poland, El Salvador or Nicaragua – all countries that have passed stricter abortion laws since the 1990s.
Before coming to the demonstration, I sent messages to friends, asking them if they would join. Some cis male friends said they would come, and then didn’t show up. Others just flat-out said that they weren’t going to bother. If you’re a man and you can’t be bothered to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your comrades to fight for their right to abortion, then you are, quite frankly, complicit in the patriarchy that you’re claiming to try to dismantle.
Refusing to wear condoms
The woman on the microphone continues. She shouts out exactly what I have been thinking since Roe vs. Wade was overturned:
“So many men refuse to wear condoms! And then they don’t even come to an abortion rally!”
If, like me, you have sex with cis men, then I can guarantee that you’ve come across at least one guy who refuses to wear a condom. And I am certain that you’ll have met a few more who ‘forget’ to put one on, trying their luck until you insist that condoms are, actually, a necessity. They might guilt-trip you, complaining that sex just doesn’t feel as good with a condom. These men are seemingly oblivious to the small matter of spreading STIs, not to mention the possibility of getting someone pregnant. But don’t worry – they will, they say, pull out just in time.
We’ve all been born into a patriarchal world that has indoctrinated us into believing that we need to prioritise the needs of cis men, and that we need to perform sexually for said men. So we might let them get away with not using a condom, even if we know nothing about their sexual history.
If you are someone who refuses or ‘forgets’ to wear a condom, you may also be someone who doesn’t want a baby right now, either. Likely, you would be horrified by the news of your impending offspring. And yet you can’t be bothered to come to a demonstration for abortion rights. Shame on you.
Birth control and patriarchy
Tied in with all this is the wider issue of birth control, which is inherently patriarchal in the way it is developed and rolled out. People with wombs can get pregnant roughly once a year. Yet a cis man could, theoretically, impregnate hundreds of people per year (if he were to find enough people who actually wanted to have sex with him, of course). Despite this, the responsibility for birth control mostly lands on people with wombs, with a range of options for us, whether it be the pill, the coil, hormonal injections or implants. Other than a condom or a vasectomy, there’s no contraception on the market that forces people with penises to take responsibility and face the fact that pregnancy, does, in fact, begin with sperm. The pharmaceutical industry is, of course, a cog in the patriarchal, capitalist wheel that we live in, so it is perhaps unsurprising that it puts the burden of not getting pregnant squarely on the shoulders of people with wombs.
Contraceptives for people with penises haven’t been successfully developed, and while there has been talk of a ‘male’ contraceptive pill coming onto the market, it is not going to happen in the near future. Meanwhile, trials for rolling out a ‘male’ hormone injection were shelved because of the side effects – including depression and acne – that the trial subjects experienced. Meanwhile, the contraceptive pill for people who can get pregnant comes with all sorts of physical and mental side effects, too – whether it be long-term depression, or blood clots, or an increased risk of cancer – which we are expected to just grit their teeth and deal with. The sexist hypocrisy of this is astounding.
We will take back our rights
In the UK, we are watching developments in the US closely, and we’re right to be apprehensive. After all, politicians like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is against abortion even for victims of rape, wield considerable power. We should remind ourselves that it was only a couple of years ago, in 2019, when almost 100 Westminster MPs voted against making abortion legal in the north of Ireland.
The male politicians who are instrumental in making terrifying decisions to keep abortion illegal, are, more likely than not, the men who refuse to wear condoms – men who put their pleasure before anything else. It is unlikely that these men care about the ‘life’ of a foetus. Rather, they thrive on controlling all of us who have a womb. They don’t want to see us free, and the ultimate way to keep us in chains is to take away our autonomy over our own bodies.
But women, non-binary people and trans men – everyone with a body affected by these laws – are clear: if you take away our right to abortion, we won’t just obediently ask for it back. We will fight, and we will take back our rights.
Featured image via Eliza Egret
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