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22 Oct 2003 00:00
There was a picture in The Guardian the week before last of Damien Hurley, the little boy named after a character in a horror film, whose own beginnings were frightening enough.
Who could forget how his father, Hollywood producer Steve Bing, erupted in indignant fury at Liz Hurley, when one of her ovum had the gall to force itself upon one of his spermatozoa.
The way he told it, his sperm were just milling about, minding their own business, innocently looking forward to a quiet night in, when suddenly one of their number was dragged screaming into service.
Never mind that Bing had not seen fit to organise contraception himself, in his mind he’d been “trapped” and the pregnancy had happened to him, rather than as a direct result of his own actions. All going to prove that the unplanned pregnancy can be many things, but it is never the man’s fault.
It is certainly strange that after several generations of feminism, the truly unplanned pregnancy remains a wholly female error. While the Pill gave women the means to avoid pregnancy, it also gave men the right to blame them when things don’t go to plan.
Whenever men have been given responsibility (condoms, vasectomies), they have never stopped whining. Indeed, while it is often said that it is every single man’s biggest fear to get a woman pregnant, the ongoing whinging about condoms (“I can’t feel anything”, “They’re always too small”) suggests they aren’t quite frightened enough.
It is as if, in men’s minds, “taking responsibility” means little more than glancing around the bedroom to make sure nobody has been knitting baby bootees. Other than that, men seem to view their “chaps” as marauding untameable revellers who should be stopped by the female contraceptive bouncer from causing any trouble in the big noisy nightclub of sexuality.
One man I used to know once described a pregnancy scare to me with the words: “I just kept thinking: ‘How could she let this happen?’”
This man’s rationale was that he’d placed his trust in the woman being on the Pill, and she had let him down. I gritted my teeth: “You mean, the Pill let you both down.”
“Well,” he replied sniffily. “It’s not like I was taking it.”
Now it seems that he soon could be, as scientists have finally developed an effective male contraceptive. A Pill version will be available in two to three years, but right now the treatment involves an implant so that men won’t forget to take it, in the same way they are so cruelly struck down with temporary amnesia when it comes to ringing the women they’ve slept with.
This should put an end to all those sour male musings that they are powerless onlookers in the fertility merry-go-round, reluctant parents-to-be waving feebly to all those big bad girls who won’t get off the fairground ride when they’re told to.
On the other hand, it could lead to some horrifying new chat-up lines. A bottle of champagne to the first woman who clinks a cocktail glass with the man who purrs: “Let’s get it on, baby. I’ve had the implant.”
I’ve long been suspicious of the view that all women are prowling about trying to get pregnant accidentally on purpose to trap men into fatherhood. It seems even less credible these days when so many women are actively pursuing the goal of motherhood via IVF without men being involved at all.
I’ve had two unplanned pregnancies and some might say my children have gone on to have unplanned childhoods, but it’s mystifying to me that anyone would think I’d wake up one morning and think: “Can’t be bothered to take my Pill today. I’ll have a little baby instead.”
The fact is that sometimes contraception does fail, unplanned pregnancies do happen ... And won’t it be great when it’s officially men’s fault?
Just picture the scenes in a few years’ time as furious alpha women throw crockery about and accuse their house-husbands of trying to trap them.
Once the treatment is available they should allow ex-girlfriends to administer it. The Liz Hurleys of this world will be found advancing on the Steve Bings with a big needle saying: “What were you saying about wanting control over your own destiny?”
First, though, the scientists have to deal with the important issue of how to sell their product to men. After all, this is the gender so heartbreakingly insecure it had to be flattered into using condoms with a sizing system that went: “Large”, “Extra Large” and “Good God!”
Might I suggest that the packet for the male Pill carries a warning on the side: “Only to be used by the truly great in bed.” — Â
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