Reproductive coercion is real and is not exclusive to women

Sara Varela


Is coerced reproduction really a thing? Yes, it is. And more common than you think.

A debate sparked on social media recently, after an interview on a pregnancy podcast with actor Ian Somerhalder (Vampire Diaries) and fellow actress and wife Nikki Reed (Twilight Saga) was taken out of context by the media who claimed Somerhalder had “forced” his wife to get pregnant. The couple, who welcomed a baby girl back in July, told the story of how Somerhalder threw away Reed’s birth control pills when they decided to start a family.

The couple addressed the issue through their social media accounts clarifying that getting pregnant was a decision they both had taken. However, they recognized that coerced reproduction is an issue that exists more than people think about. And while it’s sad their experience was distorted, the controversy has brought a tough, important issue to the public’s attention.

Reproductive coercion is basically a form of abuse when one partner decides to force unprotected sex in order to get pregnant. It’s considered a form of intimate partner violence. And while many may consider this an exclusive women’s right issue, we must also recognize that men can be victims too.

Most of the studies have concentrated on exploring how the issue affects women and there’s quite a lot of information out there. But men who have been victimized are ignored way too often. Back in 2011, the Daily Mail published an article relating the experience of four men who had been victims of coerced reproduction. From having their sperm stolen from used condoms to being deceived by their partner into thinking they are using birth control pills, these men were victimized.

And this form of violence, which is basically psychological, can leave terrible scars on the child as well. It’s astonishing to me that there’s basically no talk on how this is a bigger issue than just women’s rights. Nobody has taken the time to explore the long-term consequences reproductive coercion brings.

In the cases of the men featured in the Daily Mail’s article, none of the women wanted to have any contact with the fathers. If we consider the countless psychological studies that show several consequences of growing up fatherless such as proneness to depression, aggression, and more, reproductive coercion can basically be considered a form of child abuse as well.

It’s important that reproductive coercion is treated as an issue that affect women, men and children and that we raise our voices to speak loud and clear about it. Lives can be saved if we as a society address the issue properly and recognize all victims equally.