The image below is an advertisement for Essure, a sterilization procedure for women. It vividly illustrates the heterosexual male gaze in the marketing of birth control: the female observes his leisure experience, while their children play in the background. She sits upright, supporting his head as he lays with his eyes closed. The male’s need to avoid “worrying about unplanned pregnancy”, so he can relax and enjoy a day in the park, takes priority, despite the fact that this procedure permanently modifies the female’s body.


The following video uploaded by Essure offers a more blatant effort to use male perspectives in their marketing:

Using male fears about having their scrotums operated on, the appeal of female sterilization over vasectomies is made clear. “Let’s face it: when it comes to their balls, guys just don’t have any… Essure: because you can only wait so long for him to man up.” While the narrator is addressing potential female consumers, the gaze is again fixed on the (unwanted) male experience of sterilization.  Her experience of the surgical and emotional process of sterilization is erased, meanwhile indulging men’s fears is used as justification for forcing women to take responsibility for birth control.

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Dan Rose is an assistant professor of sociology at Chattanooga State Community College in Tennessee.  His research focuses on medical sociology and health inequalities in minority neighborhoods.
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