“I’d like to see the conversation shift from women’s bodies to what men can do to prevent pregnancy,” said Gabrielle Blair, author of Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion.
As the political landscape continues to regress, it’s time to rethink how we talk about abortion. Gabrielle Blair, a Mormon woman and mother of six, argues that the onus of preventing unwanted pregnancies should fall to those who cause them: men.
In her new book, Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion, Blair reframes the conversation about sex, contraception and abortion in 28 succinct arguments.
The book is based on Blair’s 2018 viral tweet: “Men are 100 percent responsible for unwanted pregnancies.” Blair posits that men should share contraceptive responsibility and become active participants in conversations around birth control.
I sat down with Blair to discuss her journey from viral tweet to publishing a book.
Steph Black: Tell me about yourself and what brought you here.
Gabrielle Blair: My background is in graphic design. I started a blog in 2006 called DesignMom about the intersection of parenting and design—and believe it or not, it’s still going! That little intersection allowed me to write about anything I wanted, and that means I can even write about abortion. That surprises some people if they’ve only known me for my house tours or recipes. But I was always writing about current events and political things that I was talking to my own children about.
I’m a mother of six, and a Mormon. I have a good understanding of arguments surrounding abortion, religious and otherwise. I’ve been listening to men grandstand about women’s reproductive rights, and I’m convinced men actually have zero interest in stopping abortion. Here’s why…— Gabrielle Blair (@designmom) September 13, 2018
Black: Your book really started with a viral tweet thread back in 2018 when you wrote that men were responsible for 100 percent of unplanned pregnancies. What has the journey been like from that tweet to this book?
Blair: It was my very first thread. I had never really used Twitter for anything other than promoting blog posts. That changed during the election. I had written this piece about abortion, but I wasn’t sure where to put it on my blog. It was a little angrier maybe than other things I had written. I sat on it until the Kavanaugh hearings, which was politician after politician grandstanding about abortion. None of them cared or knew anything about abortion. It was just so maddening. So I decided to publish that thread and it went viral instantly.
Overwhelmingly, the response was positive. I had been sitting on the thread for six months or so, so in my mind, these ideas were old. But they were new ideas for a lot of the people. I was hearing from really progressive women that they never thought about these things, and now they’re suddenly having conversations with their partners about vasectomy or the realities of birth control’s side effects. There were women crying to me saying they didn’t know someone could share this burden with them.
It was also really amazing to hear from so many men for whom it just clicked. You can see in the comments of the thread that they’re mentally going through their past sexual experiences thinking, Oh crap, was I ejaculating irresponsibly? Was I choosing my own few seconds of pleasure over her body? You can see that they’ll go into their next sexual experience more responsibly, more aware of what’s at risk.
And the thread has been retweeted every day for four years, sometimes thousands of times a day, because abortion is in the news.
So I’ve had four years of arguing this point, exploring it and explaining it to people who might not understand it. I’m going, Okay, let me try and rephrase this. Let me come up with another story. Let me get another example.
Right after the tweet went viral, I was approached by a bunch of publishers that wanted to turn it into a book. And I couldn’t see it. Then someone posed the question to me, If Twitter had an edit button, would you change anything about the thread? Immediately I said yes. I know where people get stuck. I know where there’s new updated data, where the link I shared no longer works. That was this trigger for me to write the book—I know how to explain and expand on my tweets.
I sat on it until the Kavanaugh hearings, which was politician after politician grandstanding about abortion. None of them cared or knew anything about abortion. It was just so maddening. So I decided to publish that thread and it went viral instantly.
Black: What was it like to actually turn a viral Tweet thread into a book?
Blair: I was hesitant at first. I guess because I write about so much and this is such a specific topic that I wondered if it meant I could only ever write about abortion again. I finally I decided I wasn’t waiting anymore.
We did a lot of back and forth to figure out what was going to be most effective. I landed on wanting to do a book that you can read really quickly, that if you if you are trying to remember something from it, you can find it really quickly. I wanted a really usable, easy to read book. I didn’t want this to be an academic book, even though I’m talking about serious things and linking to serious sources. And inexpensive. I want someone to have this in their back pocket. It’s easy to buy a copy in and share it. You read it, you hand it on to someone else. Maybe there’s a future book that’s longer.
Black: The thesis of this book is really in Lesson 13, that men are the cause of and responsible for all unwanted pregnancies. How did you come up with that? What triggered that specific argument?
Blair: I was reading statistics in probably early 2018 of how many abortions there had been that year and the numbers surprised me. They were higher than I thought and I was like, Why am I surprised by this?
I feel in my core that women are very aware and careful of their bodies. There’s a sense from women that we’re not eager to get medical procedures like abortions. So why are we having so many? Then immediately I was like, Oh, I know why. I know exactly why. Birth control is super hard. And I was saying this as someone who had six babies and got to choose when to have them because I use birth control.
But I hated birth control. I hated it. I would have mood swings, I would have breakouts. I hated the maintenance. Besides what it was doing to my body, I had all these young kids. How am I supposed to go to get a yearly exam, just for birth control? I had little kids and was moving a lot, I needed a new doctor, my insurance was changing and I would have to start the process of getting a prescription all over again. It was such a pain. But It works. So that part I didn’t hate.
We don’t ever talk about that—we act like it’s super easy, like I’m just going to stop at the pharmacy and pick up my BandAids, Neosporin, Ibuprofen and a pack of birth control pills.
So why would we have abortions when we don’t like medical procedures? Because birth control is awful for a lot of women. Inaccessible, too expensive, it’s not great on the body.
Well then I thought, What can men do with this? I was like, Oh, condoms!
The contrast was so clear. Condoms are free. There are programs for free condoms in literally every state or just drop by a local clinic. Condoms are in vending machines, 24 hours a day, no prescription needed. You don’t have to ingest them every day. If you’re not gonna have sex that day, you don’t need to wear one.
For birth control, you’re absorbing those hormones every day, whether you’re having sex or not. Condoms don’t have side effects.
Then I realized, Oh, I know why men don’t use condoms. Men hate condoms.
So that’s what got me to exploring these topics which became that thread.
The contrast was so clear. Condoms are free. There are programs for free condoms in literally every state or just drop by a local clinic. Condoms are in vending machines, 24 hours a day, no prescription needed.
Black: You wrote this book really calling on men to step up. How has your husband responded to this?
Blair: He’s probably my biggest advocate. He calls himself my first convert. He got it immediately. He was looking at our marriage going, Whoa, why did I wait to get a vasectomy? By the time I wrote this, he’s had a vasectomy for years. He was like, I wasn’t really aware of the side effects, I wasn’t aware of how difficult it was for my wife get the birth control, I wasn’t supporting that and I should have been. I could have made the appointments for her, I could have made it so she doesn’t have to take off work, or I could have arranged childcare.
I say this in the thread, you think women would be mad at men about this, but none of us were taught to think about this. So I can’t be mad at him because I wasn’t thinking about it either. This is a cultural phenomenon.
Black: What do you think men should be taking from this book?
Blair: I’d like to see the conversation shift from women’s bodies to what men can do to prevent pregnancy. Men can cause pregnancy every time they have sex but they can’t get pregnant. A woman’s orgasm has never caused a pregnancy, it can’t impregnate anyone. Ovulation is involuntary. Ejaculation, and the location of that ejaculation, is always voluntary.
Black: How does shifting the burden of pregnancy prevention from women to men factor into the conversation around abortion?
Blair: As far as the abortion conversation goes, my argument takes the emotion out of it. So many people want to debate me on when life begins and when it’s murder. These are philosophical and religious conversations. We’re not going to agree on that. I’m going to be pro-choice and I’m going to say I trust a woman to decide when she wants to be a parent or if she doesn’t want to be a parent at all. I trust her to end that pregnancy.
If we talk about prevention, it removes all that emotion. You and I haven’t talked about babies at all during this conversation because we haven’t needed to. Because there is no baby because the man ejaculated responsibly! We have solved the question of abortion because there was no baby to murder.
Nothing abortion opponents are arguing for is actually reducing abortions. We know how to prevent pregnancies and if we prevent pregnancies, abortions go down. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
I’ve experienced pregnancy and I did not enjoy it, even though I chose it. It was the hardest thing my body has done. I would love to see the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions go down because that means that someone who didn’t want to experience pregnancy is not having to experience it.
If abortions go down, it would also signal that men are not treating women’s bodies so casually. It’s a big deal to ejaculate inside someone else’s body. They should understand the damage their sperm can cause. If the number of abortions go down, I take that as a signal that men are maybe contemplating how their actions affect women.
Though I hope abortion remains legal. I want it to be legal. I want anyone who needs or wants an abortion to get an abortion. But I would be so delighted to see men stop causing unwanted pregnancies so that women didn’t have to even make the choice in the first place.
I think men can handle it.
I’ve experienced pregnancy and I did not enjoy it, even though I chose it. It was the hardest thing my body has done.
Black: Switching gears a little bit, I’m also from a minority religion. I’m Jewish and I know you’re Mormon. I don’t know about you, but I often encounter people who are surprised to learn that Judaism is a very pro-choice religion and in some cases, not only permits abortion, but requires it to save the life of the pregnant person. How do people respond to you being Mormon and pro-choice?
Blair: I love this question. Yes, I’m a Mormon. Yes, I’m pro-choice and I’m very comfortable identifying as both of those things. But I know people will make assumptions about my views when they I hear I’m Mormon. I try to use it to my advantage. It allows me to discuss this topic with people with very conservative opinions in a way that they wouldn’t normally be able to.
In my thread, I start with the fact that I’m a mother of six and I’m a Mormon. That was very intentional. I wouldn’t say Mormonism is even one of my top identities, but I knew it would be useful to include because people would be more likely to read the whole thread.
Some people think my argument is actually stronger because I’m from a conservative religion and because I have six kids. They see I’m obviously pro-having kids and I’m not trying to stop people from having families.
Not all Mormons would agree with me, but I study our doctrine and I feel like it fits very neatly with abortion. I have no issues being both pro-choice and Mormon.
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