Today a group of men in Kangemi, a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, were asking me about vasectomies. I told them that a vasectomy is not for everyone, but only for men whose families are complete. Then one man shouted out, “Thank God President Obama’s father did not get a vasectomy before helping create such a wonderful son of Kenya.” Indeed, Obama is the most popular person in this country. Many ask me why he can’t run a third term. I wish I had a better answer than, “It’s written in our constitution.”
I don’t know what the world will look like following these elections. I do know that we need to rethink everything we’ve been doing. America is a much more divided place than anything we could have imagined and from where I stand in Kenya, given the results as they are being read to me, the rest of the world is going to be equally affected.
With the elections over we have no choice but to focus on how to dig our way out of this. Yes, There are ten days left before our November 18th celebration and we need to find positive ways of aggregating positive behavior towards positive outcomes! Already the largest male-oriented family planning event in history, we are now 1000 providers in 40+ countries and growing. It is a seed, but one we must nurture. Positive behavior defeats negative, but it takes time and true commitment.
It has been an amazing 10 weeks…stressful, thrilling, frustrating and beautiful. We are headquartered in Kenya, our movement is global and our conversations caring, conscientious and compassionate. We’ve made friends, we’ve learned, we shared and planted seeds that we hope will lead to a sustainable reproductive health program for men.
Over the next 10 days, as part of our decompression from the most depressing elections of our lives, we will release our ANNUAL TEN DAY (sperm) COUNTDOWN, during which time we will explore the ideas that frame our growing movement. Day one we focus on the idea of vasectomy as an option that should at least be available to men everywhere. And since we don’t have a lot of options, that’s the least we should advocate for.
Do you realize that condoms have been around for thousands of years and the first vasectomy was done in 1823 on a dog and the first on a man in the 1890s? This means in over 120 years not a single new male-oriented family planning device has been developed. In just the past 50 years there’s been a slew of choices for women, and while none are perfect, it’s so much better than what men are offered. Of course, women need options. So do men.
And yes, you can use a condom, but a condom is really about safe sex, which may be the correct thing to do—if not the most pleasurable—but let’s face it, protecting yourself’ (and your partner) at the very moment your aim is to let go, is risky business. Indeed, 18 of 100 couples that use condoms as their primary form of birth control get pregnant within a year. The fact is, people spend very little time planning families and a lot of time obsessed with sex. I, for one, never said, nor heard a woman say, “hey babe, would you like to do some ‘family planning’ tonight?”
What about rhythm, the preferred method of the Catholic Church? Yeah, well, given that the marching orders come from a clergy that is dedicated (if not always successfully) to ‘abstinence’ you understand why those who choose this method, have large sized families.
Withdrawal? Funny enough many young men right here in Kenya swear to me that they’ve mastered the art of knowing when to pull out, though I think it’s fair to say this approach inevitably leads to the adaptation of a new moniker…“Daddy’!
This year, as part of the WVD event, we’ll be holding a panel on the future of male contraception. There’s no doubt that alternatives are needed, but given men’s aversion to the discomfort that would accompany a hormonal based approach, it might be a long while before we see it in the marketplace. One thing for sure, I’ll never need to use whatever it is. My vasectomy worked just fine, thank you.
As there are good reasons to get a vasectomy, there are also good reasons not to, like don’t even think about it if you still want to make babies. You don’t need one unless you’re engaged in heterosexual sex. It’s pointless if you’re successfully practicing abstinence and no reason either if you’re truly monogamous with a partner who has gone through menopause. It will only make her very suspicious.
As for the rest of us, for those men who are still sexually active, with loving or not so loving partners, while certain they never want to have another child, (and confident there’s not likely to be an Obama in the quiver) there is no better method.
We can’t do it alone. Join us. Visit our web page, like our Facebook page, connect with us on Twitter, and if you can, please consider supporting our crowdfunding campaign. Share your vasectomy stories, get a vasectomy if the time is right and help us spread the movement as we commit to building sustainable vasectomy programs the world over.
Donate to build a sustainable vasectomy outreach program in Kenya! We’re looking for $35,000. Will you help?
Photo: Sheila Gabeya