Spencer got his vasectomy in December. He and his wife had been discussing it for a year, and they decided together that it was time to take the big snip.
“Her IUD was coming up on its expiration date, and she really didn’t want to get another one put in, which was traumatic and very painful, or go back onto birth control,” he told me. They live in Arizona, one of the most hostile states toward abortion rights, and they don’t want to have children in the future. His getting a vasectomy—the outpatient procedure that severs the tubes that carry sperm from the balls to the urethra—was “the simple solution to all of the issues,” he said.
On Monday, a leaked draft majority opinion indicated that the Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that’s protected the right to legal abortions at the federal level. The outcry from abortion rights supporters has been tremendous, as people grieve a foundational right to bodily autonomy coming another step closer to being stripped away in the U.S.
In what they see as both acts of solidarity and public service announcements, it’s prompted many people who’ve gotten their sperm-tubes snipped to talk openly about their balls—and their own roles in the demand for abortion access—online.
“It’s one thing to read a meme, but it’s a whole other thing when you can connect with somebody”
Spencer talked about it publicly for the first time in his Instagram Stories this week. “I’ve been holding off on posting a bit because I haven’t told my family yet, but I think it’s important for men to talk to other men about the procedure,” he said. “Everyone has heard horror stories, but few have heard the success stories. After seeing how much pain my wife had to go through getting her IUD installed and removed and how relatively painless my vasectomy was, I can’t let people continue to put the pressure on women to bear the weight of birth control.”
Several of the men I spoke to cited having directly benefited from abortion as a reason to take more control of their own part in the baby-making process.
“I’ve gotten people pregnant when I was in my early 20s and I felt so guilty putting my partner through all that stress—stress which was compounded by repressive reproductive laws making it harder to get care,” Timothy Faust, who got his vasectomy in 2020 and currently works at an abortion clinic, told me. “So I figured I’d nut up, so to speak, and do my part to prevent it in the future.”
Dave, who got a vasectomy about four years ago, said that his partner’s sensitivity to contraception prompted them to make the decision together. “If we can take the worry out of her mind, why not, right?” he said. He’s never wanted kids, so the choice seemed obvious. After the Roe news this week, he posted about his experience on social media. “It’s one thing to read a meme, but it’s a whole other thing when you can connect with somebody, connect with their experience, and for them to be like, ‘I have never thought about any of this.’”
Chas Christiansen, a professional cyclist who also got his vasectomy four years ago, told me that watching his current partner go through the process of getting an abortion was the decision-making moment for him. “It’s like, what can I do to take responsibility for this and it’s something that I had been thinking about for a long time… I think ultimately, for me, it was the fact that I have never wanted to have kids, and that I’ve been a beneficiary of a number of abortions that have allowed me to continue to live the life that I live without having to take responsibility for raising a child.” Christiansen said he’s been vocal about the decision ever since, online and off. Every time he brings it up, he gets direct messages with questions about his experience, or finds more people who’ve also had their tubes snipped and want to talk about it.
The bar for reproductive justice set incredibly low for cisgender men, Faust said. “It’s incredibly easy to get someone pregnant and then go ‘whoops’ and bounce, and society accommodates that. Contraception is ultimately made the problem of the person who can get pregnant; if they don’t have an IUD or if both partners decide not to use a condom or Plan B or whatever, it’s pretty clear who has to deal with it,” he said. “Which isn’t to say that both partners should get a say on whether the pregnancy is terminated, but that the consequences of sex are borne almost exclusively by women (and nonbinary people, trans men, etc.). And that sucks! That’s super unfair.”
Getting a vasectomy as an act of allyship or solidarity for one’s partner isn’t a new phenomenon, just as abortion rights have been under attack by Republicans, conservatives, and the religious right for years. In 2021, Pennsylvania state Rep. Chris Rabb introduced “parody” legislation that would require men to get vasectomies after their third child or once they turn 40. “As long as state legislatures continue to restrict the reproductive rights of cis women, trans men and nonbinary people, there should be laws that address the responsibility of men who impregnate them,” Rabb wrote in a memo, according to the Keystone. “Thus, my bill will also codify ‘wrongful conception’ to include when a person has demonstrated negligence toward preventing conception during intercourse.”
There’s already an endless supply of “Don’t like abortion? Get a vasectomy!” merch floating around for sale on the internet. For “World Vasectomy Day” in 2021 (held on November 19, for those who celebrate), a doctor toured New York in a mobile clinic to spread the good word.
Some insurance plans cover the cost of vasectomies, but out of pocket, the procedure plus follow-ups can cost between a couple hundred to a thousand dollars. (For comparison, birth control for people who can get pregnant—such as pills, vaginal rings and IUDs—can cost hundreds of dollars or more a year without insurance, and many, many hours of doctors’ visits, copays, and complications, even with insurance. Getting a tubal ligation is much more invasive and often inaccessible, financially or because doctors frequently deny them for patients of childbearing age.)
“Vasectomy is typically done in the office setting and takes about 30 minutes under local anesthesia,” Tony Chen, MD, clinical assistant professor at the Stanford School of Medicine urology department, told me. “The physician will feel for the vas deferens, numb the area, make a tiny hole/incision where they can lift each vas deferens out, and then seal the vas deferens off through various means.” If you’re having a hard time visualizing all this cutting and lifting, here’s a demonstration on CGI nuts:
Everyone I talked to had a relatively easy experience, and reported a mostly-painless procedure and recovery. Christiansen was nervous about getting back to cycling, but was on the bike again within weeks; the weirdest part of the process, he said, was “smelling barbecue, because that was my own nuts burning as they cauterized everything.” But ultimately, he said it wasn’t any worse than going to the dentist.
Afterwards, patients need to take it “really easy” in the first 24 to 48 hours, Chen said, and might be able to go back to work within that time frame, depending on what they do. Heavy lifting, sports, exercise and sexual activity are out for a week, to avoid pain or bleeding. And you’re not sterile immediately after leaving the doctor’s office—it takes a few weeks to months. “It takes something like two dozen ejaculations to clear you out of sperm, so I appreciated that I was medically required to masturbate,” Faust said.
Spencer’s vasectomy was performed by a doctor he calls the “Kobe Bryant of Vasectomies.” “I was awake the whole time and my doctor just chatted about vintage video games with me,” he said. This particularly prolific doc had performed 114 vasectomies in the month he got his.
“This guy was a fucking pro, and probably why my recovery was so smooth. He had a very minimally invasive process that was just so simple to heal,” Spencer said. “I kept waiting for the really terrible pain to come, but it didn’t. Around the third day it felt like someone had given me a swift tap to the balls, but that was it.” He was out riding his bike again within a week.
Many of the people posting about vasectomies this week are emphasizing the reversibility of the procedure as a good reason to dive in—but Chen cautions that people should think of it as a form of permanent contraception, since reversibility isn’t always 100 percent successful. There are options, however; you can “freeze your guys” before getting snipped, as one vasectomy patient put it, or sperm can be retrieved directly from the testicles to be used in combination with IVF treatments if they want to have kids in the future.
“I have not regretted a minute of being sterile nor has being unable to have children had negative consequences for my dating life or long-term relationships,” Eric, whose own vasectomy was almost 10 years ago, told me. “If anything, having a vasectomy has improved this area of my life as I find many women are attracted to a man responsible enough to undergo the procedure,” he said. His current partner matched with him on Tinder because he mentioned having a vasectomy in his profile.
“Upon learning the news of the possible Supreme Court decision on Monday evening I made plans to make a post about my vasectomy the next morning,” Eric said. “I wanted to clear up any misconceptions about the procedure and encourage other men to ask questions and rethink their role in this mess.” He told any vasectomy-curious followers to reach out. “I have received so many responses and it is encouraging to see how much that initial post was shared and discussed.”
“If sympathetic men collectively sit back and watch the reproductive movement pass them by, it is hideous that other men will be the ones who unravel or repress it.”
Everyone, regardless of gender, “should consider a rolling back of established precedent on the right to privacy and reproductive choice a dangerous direction that needs to be pushed back on,” Chen said. “Men should not idly assume that the type of justifications for attacking female reproductive choice couldn’t also be conceivably used to take away their rights as well, such as their ability to obtain a vasectomy. These deeply personal and medical decisions should be left to a patient and their doctors.”
If you don’t plan to procreate, “get a fucking vasectomy,” Spencer said. “A vasectomy doesn’t affect my being at all. Once again it’s truly the simplest and most effective solution, and it’s time more men took the control into their hands to change the status quo.”
“It’s critical that the movement which guarantees abortion on demand, no questions asked, includes men,” said Faust. “If sympathetic men collectively sit back and watch the reproductive movement pass them by, it is hideous that other men will be the ones who unravel or repress it. We have a responsibility to clean up our own mess instead of expecting our girlfriends, mothers, wives, and friends to pick up after us, so to speak.”
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