While the discussions, debates and arguments over the recent overthrow of Roe v. Wade are raging, the issues always seem to be about women.
Gabrielle Blair, an influential Latter-day Saint known as “Design Mom, says it’s time to shift that focus to men. After all, she says in her soon-to-be-released book, “Ejaculating Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion”, 100% of unwanted pregnancies are ultimately caused by men. The issue must move away from control and legislation over women’s bodies, she insists, and instead turn towards men’s lack of responsibility.
Here are excerpts from the Salt Lake Tribune’s “Mormon Land” podcast in which Blair, a New York Times bestselling author and mother of six, reframes the discussion of sex, birth control, pregnancy, and abortion.
What prompted you to write a 2018 Twitter feed about men and abortion?
I talk to thousands and thousands of women every year and we talk about a lot of things. We were talking during a Design Mom article, I’m sure, about birth control and pregnancy and all those sorts of things. And those thoughts just started ruminating for me like, wow, there’s just a lot of work that women do to avoid pregnancy. And they were driving me crazy. I mean, there was so much discussion among politicians about women’s bodies and about abortion. It was like it was a women’s issue, they saw it as a women’s issue, but these men were talking about it. It just drove me crazy. I was so angry about this. And so I thought, “I have to share this thread,” and I did. This was the first Twitter thread I wrote. … Then he went out into the world, and I could see him take off. … And my very first text that I got was from my bishop, well my bishop at the time, who was a lawyer, and he told me that I could build a whole legal career on that. He was so excited about it. He thought it was amazing.
How do you defend this claim that 99% of unwanted pregnancies are caused by men?
If the woman was trying to get pregnant, then it is a wanted pregnancy. If the man and woman haven’t explicitly decided they’re trying to get pregnant, then hopefully they’re both doing their part to prevent the pregnancy. But the reality is that no matter what the woman chooses to do, her body cannot cause pregnancy. A woman’s orgasm does not cause pregnancy. This is simply not the case. So they both have to be responsible. I want the woman to be responsible for her body. I hope she will. I also ask men to be responsible for their bodies. I think the assumption is that as long as the woman is responsible for her body, the man doesn’t need to be responsible for his.
Don’t you need two to create?
Basically, I like to say it takes two more sperm. You really have to have the sperm for that to happen. And men are much better placed to prevent pregnancy than women. There is no question as to whether they are fertile or not. They actively choose where they put their sperm. It is their sperm; the woman cannot choose that for them. They have to choose that. And also they have very good birth control options, but we don’t talk about that much. Condoms are easier, more convenient, more accessible, safer and more affordable than contraceptive options for women. They also prevent [sexually transmitted infections], which female birth control options do not. And then, of course, there are also vasectomies, which are awesome.
Why aren’t more men using contraceptives, especially, as you said, condoms?
From what I can tell, there’s just a real cultural stigma that condoms are the worst, that everyone hates condoms. … No one told me that growing up. No one has ever given me an opinion on condoms. But I definitely knew the idea that men would try to talk women out of using a condom or that it was kind of a triumph that they could have sex without a condom. … I really talked about it almost every day for 3 and a half years, [and] many men said it was good [using a condom]. For example, you have to train, you have to figure out what kind of lubrication is right for you, figure out what kind of lubrication you like. Many men said it was good. There are men who say it’s the worst. It’s horrible. But it’s interesting because if I dive in and they agree not to be anonymous… you’ll find out that it’s a kid who hasn’t really had sex yet. For example, you tell me how much you don’t like condoms, but you don’t really have any experience yet… IT out. It’s not so bad. And if they really, really hate it, there are some great vasectomies waiting for them, which is fantastic.
You said in your Twitter feed that some men say condoms slightly reduce their pleasure from 10 to 8, but they’re willing to risk their partner’s health for that little dip.
American culture, but almost world culture, has this ingrained idea that sex is for men. It is an activity for men and their pleasure…. I really don’t think men try to be mean with sex. I just think we’ve all been taught that their pleasure during sex is most important. … If he has sex with a woman, he puts her in danger to feel a little more pleasure. Again, it’s not like it’s not nice with a condom. It may not be as pleasant.
If so, what do Latter-day Saint teachings on sexuality have to do with your views?
I think about my faith position on sex and my faith position on abortion, and they both affect how I came out. We definitely have our own weird things about sex and Mormonism, people who have tried so hard to stay chaste until marriage and then find that once married they have mental blocks that don’t even allow them to live. enjoying sex because they were so terrified of doing something wrong or just associating it with being a bad person or being dirty in some way. So, of course, that plays into all of this. And there’s the same kind of emphasis on sex is for men and sex is for men’s pleasure. Our sex education is not very good. Often it is not based on facts. It’s not frank. It’s not simple. We are so afraid that the children we teach about sex will actually have sex one day, that we want to hide information from them. And that, of course, is the opposite of what we hope he will do.