As discussions, debates and disputes about the recent reversal of Roe v. Wade rage on, the questions always seem to be about women.
Gabrielle Blair, a successful Latter-day Saint influencer known as “Design Mom,” says it’s time to shift that focus to men. After all, she argues in her soon-to-be-released book, “Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion,” 100% of unwanted pregnancies ultimately are caused by men. The issue must move away from controlling and legislating women’s bodies, she insists, and turn instead to the lack of male accountability.
Here are excerpts from The Salt Lake Tribune’s “Mormon Land” podcast in which Blair, a New York Times bestselling author and mother of six, reframes the discussion about sex, birth control, pregnancy and abortion.
What prompted you to write a 2018 Twitter thread about men and abortion?
I talk to thousands and thousands of women every year and we talk about a lot of things. We were discussing during a Design Mom post, I’m sure, birth control and pregnancy and all these kinds of topics. And these thoughts just started to ruminate for me like, wow, there’s just a lot of work that women go through to prevent pregnancy. And they were just driving me bonkers. I mean, there was just so much discussion by male politicians about women’s bodies and about abortion. It was like this is a women’s issue, they saw it as a women’s issue, but these men were commenting on it. It was just driving me bananas. I was so angry about it. And so I thought, “I’ve got to share that thread,” and I did. It was the first Twitter thread I’d ever written. … Then it went out into the world, and I could see it taking off. … And my very first text I got was from my bishop, well my bishop at the time, who was a lawyer, and he told me that I could build a whole legal career on this. He was so excited about it. He thought it was amazing.
How do you defend this statement that 99% of unwanted pregnancies are caused by men?
If the woman was trying to get pregnant, then it’s a wanted pregnancy. If the man and the woman have not explicitly decided that they’re trying to get pregnant, then I hope they’re both doing their part right to prevent the pregnancy. But the reality is, no matter what the woman chooses to do, her body can’t cause a pregnancy. A woman’s orgasm does not cause pregnancy. It just doesn’t. So they both need to be responsible. I want the woman to be responsible for her body. I hope she does. I’m asking the men also to be responsible for their bodies. I think the assumption is that as long as the woman is being responsible for her body, then the man doesn’t need to be responsible for his.
Doesn’t it take two to create?
Basically, I like to say it takes two plus sperm. You really have to have the sperm to make this happen. And men are much better positioned to prevent pregnancy than women are. There are no questions around whether they are fertile or not. They actively choose where they put their sperm. It’s their sperm; the woman can’t choose that for them. They have to choose that. And also they have really great birth control options, but we don’t talk about them much. Condoms are easier, more convenient, more accessible, safer, and more affordable than women’s birth control options. They also prevent [sexually transmitted infections], which women’s birth control options don’t do. And then, of course, there’s also vasectomies, which are awesome.
Why don’t more men use birth control, especially, as you said, condoms?
From what I can tell is there’s just a real cultural stigma that condoms are the worst, that everybody hates condoms. … No one said that to me growing up. No one ever gave me opinions about condoms. But I definitely knew the idea that men would try and talk women out of using a condom or that it was sort of a triumph that they could have sex without a condom. ... I’ve really talked about this almost every day for 3½ years, [and] plenty of men have said that it’s fine [using a condom]. Like you got to practice, you got to figure out which kind of works for you, figure out what kind of lubrication you like. Lots of men have said It’s fine. There are some men that say it’s the worst. It’s horrible. But it’s interesting because if I dive down and they’re willing to be not anonymous ... you’ll find out that it’s a kid who hasn’t really had sex yet. Like, you’re telling me about how much you don’t like condoms, but you don’t really have any experience yet.... Adult men who’ve had enough experience with this are like, ‘Yeah, you can figure it out. It’s not that big a deal.’ And if they really, really hate it, there are lovely vasectomies waiting for them, which is fantastic.
You said in your Twitter thread that some men say condoms slightly reduce their pleasure from 10 to 8, but they’re willing to risk the health of their partner for that little dip.
American culture, but almost the world culture, has this ingrained idea that sex is for men. It’s an activity for men and their enjoyment…. I really don’t think men are out there trying to be evil about sex at all. I just think that it’s been taught to all of us that their pleasure during sex is the most important. … If he’s having sex with a woman, he’s putting her at risk so that he can feel slightly more pleasure. Again, it’s not like it’s not pleasurable with a condom. It’s just maybe not as pleasurable.
What, if anything, do Latter-day Saint teachings about sex have to do with your perspective?
I think about my faith’s take on sex and my faith’s take on abortion, and they both affect how I’ve come out on this. We definitely have our own weird things about sex and Mormonism, People who have tried so hard to remain chaste until marriage and then they find once they’ve gotten married, they have mental blocks that don’t even allow them to enjoy sex because they were so terrified that they were going to do something bad or just associate it with being a bad person or being dirty somehow. So for sure, that plays into all of this. And there is the same sort of focus on sex is for men and sex is for men’s pleasure. Our sex ed is not very good. Often it’s not fact-based. It’s not frank. It’s not straightforward. We’re so afraid that the kids we’re teaching about sex will actually have sex someday, that we want to withhold information from them. And that, of course, is the opposite of what we hope it’s going to do.
To hear the full podcast, go to sltrib.com/podcasts/mormonland. To read a complete transcript and receive other exclusive “Mormon Land” content, go to Patreon.com/mormonland.