In the fourth episode of season seven of NBC’s hit sitcom 30 Rock, protagonist and adamant feminist Liz Lemon attends a fundraiser with her boss Jack Donaghy. While there she hears Jack complain to several of his wealthy male peers that his tax dollars shouldn’t go to fund “female promiscuity.”
Unable to hold her tongue, Liz Lemon interrupts. “If birth control fixed boners,” she says, “you’d get it free with your driver’s license.”
Now, just on the face of it, this is complete nonsense. There are pills that fix boners. Pharmaceutical companies have developed numerous medications to treat erectile dysfunction, and they’re always working on more. None of these are “free with your driver’s license.”
Okay, but let’s give Liz the benefit of the doubt and assume she was exaggerating just to make a point. Still, it got me thinking. Comparing birth control with erectile dysfunction medication is a common feminist talking point. In fact, it went viral in 2017. So what it exactly are they referring to? I decided to do a little digging.
Another feminist lie
When feminists try to justify subsidies for birth control by pointing out that the government subsidizes erectile dysfunction medication, they’re being disingenuous. They’re referring to the fact that the US Department of Defense spends upwards of $84 million on ED prescriptions through their Tricare insurance for service members and veterans. Is that really a subsidy? If we’re going to call military prescriptions subsidies, I guess the US government also subsidizes acne treatments. More importantly, Tricare also covers birth control. Service women can easily get prescriptions for everything from the pill to implantable contraceptives, some even without a copay.
Now that we’ve established that there’s no favoritism in the US military regarding birth control versus erectile dysfunction treatments, let’s see if this equality extends to the civilian world.
As usual, it’s actually men who are discriminated against
Let’s stop talking about hypotheticals and take a look at the actual state of healthcare in the United States.
Free or partially subsidized birth control is a global phenomenon. Countries all over the world provide free birth control to their women, and many more provide cheap birth control subsidized with taxpayer money.
The United States finds itself among these ranks. Passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, required employers to pay for their female employee’s birth control with a zero-copay plan thereby forcing male participants–and female participants not on birth control–to specifically subsidize their insurance. Public plans such as medicaid and medicare also provide the pill without copay. This does not even include the federal and state subsidies provided to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that prescribe contraceptives to women.
We’ve established that there are plenty of subsidies for female birth control, so let’s see if that’s the case for ED medications. Well, no, it isn’t.
Besides the DoD’s purchases of ED medications for servicemen, the government doesn’t subsidize these treatments. Medicaid covers the prescriptions as any other with a copay, and most Medicare plans do not even cover them at all. Additionally, there is no mandate from the government that private plans must cover ED medications, and there are no publicly funded clinics devoted to doling out Viagra prescriptions.
Of course, when feminists make the argument that the government subsidizes Viagra, they’re trying to fight back against attempts to defund their subsidies that already exist. Many campaigns to end the birth control subsidy argue that taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund female promiscuity. The idea then is that while birth control gives women sexual liberation because they can avoid pregnancy, erectile dysfunction medications do the same for men–allowing them to have sex when they otherwise wouldn’t.
It seems feminists forget that there’s a much better analogy to female birth control–male birth control. From condoms to vasectomies men also have contraceptive options. Considering that the government gives men the vast majority of child support payments–and higher payments at that–thus making men responsible for children they often didn’t even “choose,” it seems like if birth control is a right for women, it should be for men as well.
Birth control inequalities between men and women
Back to the military, while Tricare does cover surgical sterilization for both men and women, it covers the female diaphragm without covering condoms or spermicides.
Furthermore, Obamacare requires no mandate for male birth control. Insurance companies do not have to pay for condoms, spermicides, vasectomies or any of the recent breakthrough treatments in male birth control.
Why the double standard?
If you can finally get feminists to admit they’re actually being favored with free or cheap birth control instead of the other way around, their argument usually tries to claim that birth control has a social benefit by preventing low income children that would otherwise be subsidized even further by welfare programs. Despite the fact that the US actually has a lack of fertility, not an excess, even if this were a benefit of subsidized birth control, wouldn’t that benefit be enhanced by paying for men’s birth control too?
Regardless of which side of the aisle you find yourself on, you have to admit there’s a double standard here. Why are people fighting so hard to defend a current subsidy for women when one for men doesn’t even exist? Why are laws getting passed in the 21st Century that provide unequal advantage for one gender over the other?
The gender politics will always bring on outrage, but whether you’re in favor of a subsidy or not, surely you’re in favor of equality. Lies and half-truths about government favoritism are definitely not the way to get there. The United States does not somehow fund men’s sex lives while giving women the shaft. In fact, like in many of these debates, it’s the exact opposite.