Poll: Do Men Realize Birth Control Is Rarely Just for “Female Employees”?

Greg Sargent tweeted the results of this CBS/NYT poll, showing that 37% of those polled believe the whole birth control debate is about religious freedom. While Sargent thinks 37% is a small number, given that it means that maybe a quarter of people polled (given that almost 100% of sexually active women have used birth control and most of them have used it because they were sleeping with men) both believe that birth control is a religious issue and have relied on birth control, I find it rather high.



But look at how the questions were asked:

At issue here is not just health insurance providing birth control for female employees. It is also about providing coverage for vasectomies (which accounts for 10% of birth control use). And providing coverage for the female spouses of male employees most of whom, presumably, are using that birth control because they are sleeping with their spouse.

There’s a lot of men having sex without babies that this health coverage enables.

And while I’ll grant you that the lack of availability of birth control disproportionately affects women (particularly with imperfect enforcement of child support and still pervasive gender roles about nurturing children), this is also about the ability of couples, together, to choose to have families of a size appropriate to their lifestyle and income.

I get that this is about women’s ability to choose autonomy. But it’s also about men’s ability to fuck and fuck and fuck. Somehow that last bit never gets polled.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

25 replies
  1. prostratedragon says:

    As the old Greyhound jingle went, imagining a gender reversal in the voices, “It’s such a comfort to take the bus // And leave the driving to us.”

    Revelay´tory levels of evasion have been known to occur in response to this very subject.

  2. MadDog says:

    Talk about a loaded set of questions. Had the folks at CBS/NYT decided not to put their own thumbs on the scale, and instead simply asked the following:

    Do you think health insurance plans for all employees should have to cover the full cost of birth control?

    I bet we’d get a solid majority in favor.

    By connecting birth control with religion, CBS/NYT are promoting the false narrative of the Repug party.

  3. emptywheel says:

    Meanwhile, Rick Santorum just released his “pubic schedule,” which I suspect he did just to prove that he has used only the rhythm method.

    As if the 7 kids plus the fetus aren’t proof enough of that.

  4. lefty665 says:

    it’s also about men’s ability to fuck and fuck and fuck.

    Not sure your logic parses well. Mandatory birth control would seem to be the preferred position of those of us enamored of the “ability fuck and fuck and fuck”. Look for coupled “friendly” amendments to legislate reductions in the refactory period.

    It’s more an authoritarian, religious, moral mission(ary) position to keep men in control of women. Like many rapes, it may have more to do with control than sex.

    Pretty good Lakoff article on the mistakes we tend to make in framing these issues here:

  5. Peterr says:

    I wonder how this would have polled:

    Do you think employers should be allowed to impose their religious views on certain legal medical procedures and treatments on their employees, or should individual employees be allowed to make medical decisions on their own without employer interference?

    How about this:

    Do you think that an employer should be allowed to fire a woman who announces she is engaged to be married, on the basis of the employer’s religious views that married women should not work outside the home, or should a female employee’s decision to work outside the home remain protected from discrimination on the basis of marital status?

    I could go on and on . . .

  6. Peterr says:

    The 80+ year old Helen, of Margaret and Helen fame, has a delightful take on all this at her place as she writes to her 80+ year old friend Margaret, which opens like this:

    Margaret, evidently you and I are sluts, and so are the majority of women who live in this country. Well good for us. I have always said that well-behaved women rarely make history. I have also said that Rush Limbaugh is a big fat pig. Pigs and sluts. Sadly, that’s what this has all boiled down to.

    Go read the whole thing. It’s a work of art.

    I mean it. Really.

  7. zAmboni says:

    EW – You think the number is high, but you forget that 27% of that is due to the crazification factor so the real number is somewhere around 10%

    But it’s also about men’s ability to fuck and fuck and fuck. Somehow that last bit never gets polled.

    I was thinking last night after I heard about a NC commission turning down a state grant for family planning…that we need to get reporters to box these people in on their positions. I told the wife the interview would sound like a John Stewart segment:

    NC commissioner: “If these young women are being responsible and didn’t have the sex to begin with, we wouldn’t have this problem to begin with.”
    Reporter: “So, do you also take the position that young men should be responsible and not have sex to begin with?”
    NC commissioner: “um uh, young men should be responsible also…but we can’t force them not to have sex”
    Reporter: “If you are against family planning and young women having sex, but you also think that sex is OK for young males….aren’t you advocating that young men should engage in homosexual sex?
    NC commissioner: *SPLAT* (brain explodes)

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Politicians have an innate belief that consequences are always and inevitably someone else’s fault. I suppose that’s a consequence, in part, of having so many predators and sociopaths among them.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    To quote Lawrence Kasdan’s Big Chill, in response to the complaint that there was nothing more important than sex:

    “Oh, yea? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?”

    I recommend that Lysistrata be screened or performed nightly in DC and in every state capital, in every board room and “think” tank. It might put ideas in the minds of those who have the power and create a little cognitive dissonance in those who think they do. In this case, the war at issue is an economic and social one.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @emptywheel: It is funny how many of the staunchest Catholics discover after about five children that holding that aspirin between the knees while in the marital bed is about as reliable a method of deterring sex and pregnancy as saying three Our Fathers and five Hail, Mary’s are in absolving sin.

    Entitlement dependence that corporate and political elites attribute to others, notably non-white single mothers receiving public support, is projection. No one beats those political and corporate elites in their sense of preening, self-absorbed, rapacious entitlement. If it would poll well with the Tea Party, I expect they would legislate the return of their seignuerial right of Prima Nocta.

  11. JTM says:

    One known problem with polls concerns respondents attitudes about X is how most people read the question as also being about not-X.

    For example, when you ask “should insurance pay for stuff for women?” (with nothing at all said about men), many people read the question as “should insurance pay for stuff for women and not men?”

    Now, the poll-writer can whine all he or she wants about how “I didn’t say anything about men, so my data reflect only attitudes about women,” but that just means said pollster doesn’t know much about survey methods.

    In short: unless the question includes a specific statement of the sort “independent of what you believe insurance should do for men…” I’m not impressed (or even very interested) in the results.

  12. emptywheel says:

    @lefty665: Thanks. I find Lakoff to be profoundly unhelpful–he just reinforces the dichotomy with his gendered categories, and I’ve never seen them work.

    I’m not saying that I’m endorsing men’s ability to just fuck and fuck. I’m raising the point that htey like to do it. And until people start noting that that,too, relies on birth control (at least for their mistresses), then this will continue to be seen as a means of controlling women.

  13. emptywheel says:

    @JTM: So you’re saying my innate objection to the poll reflects real science?

    That’s part of what I was saying. But in this case, I wonder whether the pollster just doesn’t even think that men use birth control, either through vasectomies or condoms (the latter, admittedly, are less expensive though not free if you’re having a LOT of sex), or through their partner’s use of it.

  14. Kris says:

    it is rather odd…
    people seem to be forgetting that it takes two to tango…

    birth control is not really needed to prevent pregnancy during masturbation or during homosexual acts…

    every time birth control is used to prevent pregnancy it is being utilized by both the man and the woman involved to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, even if it is administered only to one of them (the pill or a visectomy) it effectively serves both of them. This is not just a women’s issue it is an almost everybody issue.

    When it comes to medicinal practices i want doctors making the important decision of what is and is not appropriate medical treatment not Catholic bishops.

    i am not saying that pregnancy bears the same responsibilities or consequences for men and women.

    but i am saying that this is not just a woman’s health issue. it is a health issue.

  15. Bob Schacht says:

    @bittersweet: Well, just remember that Arizona is the state that elected Evan Meacham as Governor not too long ago, and the state that tolerates polygamy (although it is against the law here, too.) But Flagstaff is a cool place to hang, dude.

    Bob in AZ

  16. bittersweet says:

    @Bob Schacht: Well, being a cyclist, I prefer Sedona.
    But I want to have protected sex there, or anywhere else that tickles my fancy. And I want all of the men to admit that is a good thing, not a bad one. Say, maybe if we put Viagra in the drinking water, these old white men will be less afraid of having to have sex?

  17. Kestrel says:

    Here is the bottom line. If you want the insurance company to pay for birth control then you are going to pay for the cost of it anyway –but in addition, with the added cost of an insurance company’s administrative costs. That cost will probably double the real cost of the benefit. That cost will be paid by the employer and the employee. Taken a little further … your pay will be less than what it could be by the amount the employer pays. So in the end –you really pay for it all, plus the insurance company’s administrative cost. The concept of having an insurance company pay for routine medical costs — such as annual physicals, birth control, and other expense not related to an actual illness is just plain stupid. You will pay for all routine medical costs as part of your insurance premium which will also include the cost of the risk of serious illness. But, you will pay much more for it because of insurance company administrative costs. This whole issue is a bunch of malarkey – with politicians and the media pulling the strings of manipulation. It is used to divide and keep the people focused on nonsense rather than real issues.

  18. Kestrel says:

    Insurance companies really do not care if they provide this benefit “Free”??? Because it is not free — they just increase the cost of the premiums. The fact is that they love these kinds of mandates. It means that more money flows through them. Which means more profits. This amounts to hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars of additional revenue will be realized.

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