If the cap fits, you wear it and I'll lie back as usual

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The Independent Culture
'NO,' I'm saying, 'the cap's the worst . . . the cap's what you use when you sort of want to have children but you're not ready to admit it to yourself . . .'

'What do you mean?' says the girl

opposite me, Sarah or something, I've never met her before. Her face tightens, ready for

combat. She puts her fork down, picks up her wine glass.

I say: 'Well, the point about the cap . . . is that there isn't just one thing to do, it's not just one simple operation . . .'

Roger, next to me, says: 'Well, you either put it in, or you don't'

I narrow my eyes, and scrunch up my face, to signal that I think Roger is being stupid, and say: 'There's about 10 stages of responsibility with the cap . . . you put it in, with spermicide, and you're supposed to leave it in for at least six hours afterwards . . .'

'Yeah,' says the girl opposite. 'So?'

'Well, one day you find you want to take it out and go to sleep. And the six hours is almost up, but not quite. So you figure, they must have a safety margin . . .'

'Yes,' says the girl pertly. 'They do. Five hours is fine. I still don't see your point.'

I look at her directly; the conversation is now between me and her. I say: 'Yes, but once you've slipped a bit, your attitude changes. You no longer treat it as an exact science. You begin to . . . well, to ride your luck. Like, when is the exact moment to put the pessary in?'

The girl says: 'I suppose you want women to be on the Pill.'

'Well, they can do what they like . . .'

She snaps: 'They can do what they like, can they? It's up to them, is it? What about you? Why don't you take responsibility? What about the male pill, which they're developing right now?'

'Well . . .'

She inhales through her teeth, jaws clenched, moving forward, muscles taut, on alert. She strikes: 'What about it? Would you consider taking it? The male pill, that's

going to shake you men up a bit when it

comes on the market . . . Well, would you?'

So, here we go again. I've had this old snit a few times before. What do I really think? I think the male pill is a desperately stupid idea, a method of contraception that will have exactly the opposite of its intended effect: it will cause unwanted pregnancies, lots of them, when it comes on the market, which it no doubt will, driven by the boneheaded twin forces of sexual politics and scientists who need to do something, however ill-considered.

The girl is looking at me, waiting for a reply. I think: how deeply ignorant you are, you stupid, dogmatic git. What will happen when the male pill comes on the market? Lots of men will lie about being on the pill - that's what will happen. It's different for girls. It really is. They have much less incentive to lie. Imagine it: a dark room, lights flashing, music throbbing; a boy and a girl, drunk, thrashing around behind the sofa. After a while, they're fiddling with their buttons and straps. He says: 'Don't worry - I'm on the pill.' He thinks: 'I'll probably never see her again.' This is what men are like. 'Sure, the girl might get pregnant. But she doesn't actually know my name . . . '

And what about this: you're a guy, don't have a steady girlfriend, you decide to go on the pill, now and again you sleep with a girl

at a party. You keep the pills, in their little

calender-scripted containers, by your bed. And one day . . . you forget to take your pill. You think: Monday, Tuesday, what day is it? Oh bugger . . . So what happens? Are you just a little, tiny bit more likely than a woman in the same position to say: hell, let's go with the risk? After all, it's not all that likely. And it's not you who has the abortion. Is it?

So, you're on the pill, a bit of a lad, you walk into a bar, order a beer, and you're having a chat with the other lads. They're also on the pill. You'd say: 'You still . . .' (and here you make a lecherous face, move your arms about suggestively) 'with that, what's 'er name, Tracey?'


'Being a good boy and taking your pill?'

'Well . . . forgot to take it a couple of times last week.'

'You old devil. That's nothing, though - Clive here, he never used to remember, did you, Clive?'

'Nah] I was riding my luck, mate, riding my luck . . . '

I talked to a doctor who was researching the development of the 'male pill' - actually an injection. I said: 'Come on, what are you playing at?' He said: 'I had it in the back of my mind that you'd have a stamped card like a passport, if you kept up with the injections.' Oh great. Wonderful. This, actually, is the typical initial reponse. It will work if you organise some kind of policing method. But it's total pea-brained folly. The movement of a couple towards sex does not resemble arriving at a checkpoint. A teenage girl after a few drinks is not the same thing as a man in a peaked cap at Passport Control.

'I've only advocated this to couples in established relationships,' he tells me next. Can you believe this stuff? The rationale here is: it will work if you give it only to responsible people. Not true. Its very existence will give people a chance to lie about it. A guy who's capable of lying about one thing is capable of lying about two things, surely.

But the male pill will come on to the market. Why? Well, why are cars still being churned out when the atmosphere is so messed up? Because people think they're clever, that's why, when they're actually very cowardly and stupid. Or maybe I'm wrong.

'Well?' says the girl, eyes boring into me. 'Well, would you?'

I look up at her; the anger, the grim hatred, the brainless dogma. It's hopeless. I say: 'Yes, yes. I suppose I would. I mean, it's not fair, leaving it to . . . to the women, is it?'

'Hm]' she says, and picks up her fork.