Do Men Have a Civic Responsibility to “Step Up” and Consider a Vasectomy?
The procedure has been lampooned for years. It's time men understood the facts.
Vasectomies have long been an easy TV target. The most recognizable modern reference probably belongs to the iconic “Dinner Party” episode of The Office.
After a tumultuous 20 minutes of fighting between Michael Scott and his girlfriend Jan Levinson, Michael reveals to the rest of the party that he’s gotten multiple vasectomies and vasectomy reversals, as she can’t seem to make up her mind. “Snip-snap, snip-snap,” he says. “You have no idea the physical toll that three vasectomies have on a person!”
Credit to Steve Carell for bringing some humor to the scene, but it’s ultimately a lazy joke from the writers’ room, meant to crudely underscore that Michael has lost everything in his pursuit of Jan: his tiny flat-screen television, his home office (Jan’s using it to launch a scented candle startup) and even his balls.
The line also reinforces the concept that a vasectomy is inherently a painful, undesirable procedure, which physically (or psychologically) weakens a man. In a post-Dobbs world, though, an increasing number of medical professionals are asking men to finally take vasectomies seriously — and understand the facts behind what is a cheap and highly effective form of contraception.
At the moment, just 3% of women under the age of 30 can count on their partner’s vasectomy as a contraceptive. That percentage increases to 18% among middle-aged women, as The Atlantic points out in a recent article. But that increase is usually indicative of monogamous, well-educated, financially secure marriages, where two partners are either done having kids or have no desire to.
These vasectomies are functional, obviously, but they’re also somewhat symbolic — husbands tend to write odes to their wives’ many years of contraceptive efforts in publications online, explaining they felt it was time they did their part. It’s an admirable gesture. But what of younger, less-established partners, and particularly those in states where abortion rights are now banned or under threat? Do men in those relationships have a civic or moral responsibility to consider a vasectomy procedure?
For years, headlines have swirled around an elusive, male birth-control pill. As early as the 1970s, women’s rights leaders hoped for the invention of such contraception (though they worried “if men could be trusted to take it”), and as recently this year, clinical trials on male mice showed 99% effectiveness at preventing pregnancy. Vasectomies have been near-100% effective for decades now, though, via a method so safe that some doctors have even performed it on themselves to prove a point.
A Healthline article from 2017 profiled three Southern California dads who traveled to the doctor’s office to get the 30-minute procedure together. They called themselves “vascateers” and planned the procedure right before a heavy sports weekend. Believe it or not, there’s a noticeable uptick in scheduled vasectomies right before March Madness; it would appear that many men choose to recover from the surgery while watching basketball all day.
That tidbit likely wouldn’t sound all that charming to the millions of women who’ve had an elemental right ripped away from them by a cruel Supreme Court decision, and have never had the luxury of considering contraception an elective, meant to be performed at the most comfortable and convenient time possible. But it’s also reflective of how many men, even those inclined to “pitch in,” have long viewed their role in family planning.
That could be starting to change, though. So-called “vasectomy influencers” are trying to chip away at the concept that the procedure is emasculating, by reframing it as a courageous act done out of love and understanding. They’ll share statistics about how accepted vasectomies are in other countries; they’ll place eye-catching billboards along interstates; they’ll drop rates ahead of “World Vasectomy Day” (officially created in 2012), and they’ll try to reclaim the humor that swirls around the procedure, so men can ease into the idea. (By contrast, this is where simply yelling at men on Twitter isn’t going to help.)
A few years back, we spoke to Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, a nationally-recognized urologic surgeon, who has mastered the art of discussing the sensitive issue.
On how it improves your sex life: “From my experience, yes, men definitely do enjoy sex more afterwards…As a clinician, it’s not a surprise. You’re not worried about pregnancy! Take out stress, and you can experience much more pleasure.” On the cost: “For some people, it’s actually cheaper to pay cash, especially patients with high deductibles. I know one guy in Orlando who charges under $500. Consider this: If you have a baby, diapers alone might cost that every month (laughs).” And on recovery: “I say, take two days off, get a bag of frozen peas and put ‘em on your balls. You need to let your body heal. Start your everyday routine after two days. In a week, you can go back to ejaculating. A few weeks after that, and about 30 ejaculatons, we do a semen analysis. We check your jizz, essentially. And then we let you know if you’re ready to go.”
Dr. Brahmbhatt, like any other medical professional worth their salt, reminds men that while reversals are possible (it’s actually his primary procedure), vasectomies should be approached as if they’re permanent. He says the surgery is akin to “playing God, putting tubes back together…and it usually isn’t covered by insurance.” According to the United Kingdom’s National Heath Services, the reversal success rates are “75% if you have your vasectomy reversed within three years and up to 55% after three to eight years and between 40% and 45% after nine to 14 years.”
All that to say: while vasectomies are a low-stakes, highly-effectual contraceptive solution, they’re an imperfect option for men who aren’t entirely sure where they stand on having kids. But that, if nothing else, should prove a valuable inlet to the contraceptive calculus that women must consider every single day. And those math problems have only gotten more difficult, stressful and urgent after the Dobbs decision. Fortunately, it appears that there are thousands of Americans who are convinced that a vasectomy is the way forward. Appointments are up 250% at some clinics.
Whatever the angriest man is yelling about in your social media feed or at your gas station, don’t believe him: no one is forcing you to get a vasectomy. Nancy Pelosi is not coming for your vas deferens. But after years of the zeitgeist lampooning the procedure, men feeling too embarrassed to talk about it and women carrying the lion’s share of the contraceptive burden on their shoulders, the time feels right for more men — in all sorts of stages of their lives — to learn the facts and make an informed decision.
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