Book Review: Ejaculate Responsibly
By Gabrielle Blair
Published by Workman Publishing, 2022, 144 pages, $14.99
I was riding a bus in 2018 when I opened Twitter and read, “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 later turned her viral thread into Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion. The book is revolutionary — a manifesto calling straight, cisgender men to take ownership of their fertility.
On March 2, 2023, Blair spoke at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C., with writer and transgender activist Charlotte Clymer. While men cause 100% of unwanted pregnancies, women bear the responsibility of managing their fertility as well as their partner’s, Blair said.
“Fertility is seen as a women’s issue, despite the fact that women are only fertile for approximately 24 hours every 28 days, whereas men are fertile at all times for their entire lives,” said Blair. Taking birth control, purchasing Plan B, having abortions, or even giving birth are a woman’s job. When it comes to using an IUD, taking a pill, getting a shot, or wearing a ring or patch, a woman is essentially “on the job” 24/7 — not to mention all the work that goes into getting the prescription in the first place — regardless of whether she plans to have sex. Men can walk into any bodega, buy a box of condoms for a couple bucks, and hold onto it until they need it. It’s also worth noting women also buy nearly one-third of all condoms sold in the United States.
Clymer, who spent time on staff at Catholics for Choice, also discussed what she called the “surprisingly misogynistic” relationship between birth control and the Catholic church.
As Blair explained, most birth control pill packs include three weeks of birth control pills and one week of sugar pills. The sugar pills do nothing more than allow the body to mimic a period that is not medically necessary. This artificial week of bleeding, Blair said, “was created in an attempt to convince the pope” to accept the birth control pill. As we know, that attempt failed.
When the conversation transitioned to audience Q&A, a Mormon woman from Virginia asked how to navigate these conversations with kids. “Talk in age-appropriate ways about sex in as normal of a way as possible,” Blair said. “When parents feel weird about a conversation, so do the kids.”
Asked about moving the needle in religious communities that prioritize abstinence and men’s sexual needs, Blair talked about the importance of using social pressure for good. She recounted how when she grew up, no one wore seat belts, but when a group of “cool” teenagers from the city came to her town, they refused to start driving until everyone in the car had buckled. From that day on, she buckled her seat belt. “In the same way that I would now never drive without a seat belt, I want men to feel like they would never ejaculate irresponsibly — and say so to their friends,” she said.
"The book is revolutionary — a manifesto calling straight, cisgender men to take ownership of their fertility... I gifted five copies of Ejaculate Responsibly to men in my life."
— Steph Black
As I took notes throughout the talk, I realized that I regret times I tried to act like the “cool girl” by not requiring my male sexual partners to wear condoms because I had an IUD. I took men at their word when they told me that they didn’t have an STI, something they might not have even known about — or worse, could have lied about. I’m now happily married to a woman, so I will never get the chance for a do-over with a male one-night stand (which is totally fine by me), but part of me wishes I could have been like those teenagers who couldn’t imagine starting the car before everyone had buckled.
Did the men I slept with refuse to wear condoms with future partners because I had been the cool girl who didn’t? There are so many societal pressures — and even the potential threat of violence — that explain my desire to be the chill, easygoing girl. But I wish I’d been the cool girl who casually and assuredly puts her clothes back on instead.
I’m not the only one who had a strong reaction to the conversation between Blair and Clymer. Sam, a 20-year-old man from Maryland, learned about the book when his conservative, religious aunt mocked it. He later asked his mother to drive him to the book talk to hear for himself what it meant to ejaculate responsibly. “I definitely plan on learning more about my fertility and being more comfortable talking about this with female partners in the future,” he said.
Corinne, also 20, told me that she has never had a sexual partner, but when her mother left the book on the kitchen counter, she picked it up and began to flip through it. “This book will empower me when I do decide [to have sex].”
Last year I gifted five copies of Ejaculate Responsibly to men in my life. I expected them to laugh off the gift as another of my abortion-related antics, but I was pleasantly surprised. All were curious enough to at least read it and learn more about the attention-grabbing title.
Blair holds, as she puts it, “a baseline belief that people are good and want to be good.” People of all genders want cis men to be part of the solution to the abortion rights crisis. Blair’s work offers men options beyond donating money or attending protests: It invites them to reframe their entire approach to sex. Her book and the conversations it provokes may usher in a new era in which men, rather than women, are the subject of the autonomy and reproductive rights conversation.