Years ago, I dated a man who told me he had a child he never saw or supported because, he said, his ex “stole” his sperm. I was very confused about how that would even be physically possible. After asking a series of follow-up questions like a cross examiner on a crusade, I found out that what he actually meant was, yes, he’d had consensual sex with the former girlfriend and had chosen not to use a condom. She had either not used contraception or not used it properly, and ended up pregnant. Ergo (in his mind) she had “stolen” his sperm.
I couldn’t stop thinking about dudes like him as I read Gabrielle Blair’s new book, Ejaculate Responsibly. Any reader of this gorgeous manifesto, men especially, would be hard-pressed to walk away from it without being reminded (*mind blown emoji*) that putting the entire very heavy burden on women to not get pregnant, or to be unable to terminate because of all that’s gone on to make abortion illegal or inaccessible, makes a lot less sense than just not getting them pregnant in the first place.
The impetus behind this project was a wildly popular thread on Twitter in which Blair, who is also author of the bestseller Design Mom, made the straightforward, yet somehow controversial claim that “all unwanted pregnancies are caused by irresponsible ejaculations…” and pointed out that “there are men willing to risk getting a woman pregnant—which means literally risking her life, her health, her social status, her relationships, and her career, so that they can experience a few minutes of…pleasure.…” The book version expands on her epic Twitter thread, with each section presenting a concise argument for responsible ejaculation and placing an equal portion of the blame for pregnancy on impregnators, where it belongs.
The genius of a book that grows out of a dynamic online thread is that the author has had the chance to open-source all the counterarguments and think through responses in advance. This is reflected in the book’s footnotes. Blair is able to anticipate what opponents will say (thanks, Twitter!) and preempt their arguments with cogent, well-researched counterpoints and relatable anecdotes. For example, in the notes for the section about birth control for men, Blair points out that one in five women gets pregnant when relying only on the “pull-out method.” If women are expected to use their birth control perfectly (and they are), men should, too.
The book is the best possible collaborative case for men to take responsibility for their own sperm. And it’s a slim volume that’s convenient enough to carry around with you, or even gift to your congressperson, as many have apparently already done. Ordering copies for elected officials has become a thing.
Author Blair is a Mormon mother of six. As a former Mormon myself, I was impressed with her frank talk about biology and (gasp) sex in such a straightforward and unperturbed way. Sex positivity is not something our faith community is known for; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. But that’s what’s so engaging about the book and Blair herself. She manages to disarm you with her candor—like a Mormon missionary, passing out condom knowledge to any stranger who will listen, in lieu of Scriptures.
In this time of severe attacks on women’s reproductive lives and freedom across the country, perhaps responsible-ejaculation evangelists like Blair are what we need. The book has already managed to grab enormous attention. It has outlets from CBS Mornings to USA Today mentioning the word ejaculate in casual coverage, which is a true feat. It’s possible that only a Mormon could manage to insert such a taboo word into polite conversation as if it has always been quotidian.
And therein lies the genius of Ejaculate Responsibly—it completely flips a discussion that has been hyperfocused for millennia on women to men in a delightfully disorienting way. She makes people of all genders reflect on such topics as how long women are fertile and the dramatic side effects of having to use hormonal birth control. She helps everyone rethink why we have been okay with women accepting the disproportionate burden for preventing pregnancies and letting their partners off the hook.
Blair also focuses on the importance of training the next generation in a different, more egalitarian way. “As parents, as a culture, we need to emphasize how carefully sperm needs to be handled.…” Her matter-of-fact framing and focus on the next generation makes space for new types of conversations about reproductive rights and responsibilities far into the future. For Blair, this is not untested. She mentions in the acknowledgments that her own children have had strangers challenge them on her mom’s views, and that they’ve been able to hold their own and navigate conversations that are difficult even for adults with ease, thanks to her example and approach.
Ejaculate Responsibly is like having a friend whisper all the best rebuttals to you when you’re having a lively debate. It’s the ultimate Phone-a-Friend for abortion arguments. I know that if I had had this book those many years ago, I would not have bought the argument that my ex had had his sperm “stolen” even for one second. I would have had the perfect words to tell him that, in fact, it was he who failed to ejaculate responsibly.
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