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So. Wikipedia says 86% of reproductive coercion is directed against women. “Wow,” I thought, “that’s awfully high– that’s more gendered than rape is, if you define rape in a non-stupid way. Let me examine their methodology.”

The citation given is actually a legal paper, Birth Control Sabotage as Domestic Violence: A Legal Response, which is mostly arguing that reproductive coercion ought to be illegal. (No duh.) I read the entire paper and found absolutely nothing discussing the gender of reproductive coercion victims, although I am now much more informed about torts, which really made me confused about why Wikipedia was citing it. In fact, it turns out the only time the 86% statistic is mentioned in the paper is this footnote:

Throughout this Comment, I refer to birth control sabotage victims using predominantly feminine pronouns and their abusers with predominantly masculine pronouns. This is because the vast majority of domestic violence victims are women. SHANNON CATALANO ET AL.,BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, NCJ 228356, SELECTED FINDINGS: FEMALE VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE 5 tbl.2 (2009) (finding that 86 percent of all domestic violence victims in sixteen large countries are women). But see Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Controversies Involving Gender and Intimate Partner Violence in the United States, 62 SEX ROLES 179 (2010) (finding that data collection methodologies on the gender asymmetry of domestic violence may skew the gendered occurrence rates of domestic violence). As I argue that birth control sabotage is a form of domestic violence, I have assumed a similar asymmetrical occurrence rate, wherein men are the primary saboteurs of contraceptives and women are the primary victims. Undoubtedly, sabotage and violence by women does occur. See Tara J. Palmatier, “Accidental” Pregnancies, Entrapment and Children as Weapons, SHRINK4MEN (June 17, 2011), http://www.shrink4men.com/2011/06/17/dr-tara-j-palmatier-on-avoiceformen-radio-tuesdayjune-21-2011-accidental-pregnancies-entrapment-and-children-as-weapons (“Deliberately becoming pregnant without a man’s consent, against his explicit consent, as a way to hold onto him or to extort a commitment and money from him is one of the the [sic] most underhanded, contemptible forms of betrayal and theft there is.”). Given the gendered domestic violence asymmetry and the frequency with which birth control sabotage occurs in domestic violence relationships, however, I have selectively excluded male victimization of birth control sabotage.

In short: 86% of domestic violence survivors are women and reproductive coercion is strongly correlated with domestic violence, so the author has decided to use the working hypothesis that the majority of reproductive coercion victims are women too, while acknowledging that male DV survivors may be undercounted. Which, okay, reasonable, I get why you would do that, particularly in a legal paper where the gender ratio of DV is not the point. (Also, Jesus, this lady thinks A Voice for Men is a reasonable group to talk to about male survivors of abuse. Dude no.) Except… that doesn’t mean that 86% of reproductive coercion victims are female. At all.

I would love at this point to be like “after looking in Google Scholar I found out the true ratio” but all the information I can find defines reproductive coercion something like the way this paper did:

In the April issue of Contraception, we highlighted a phenomenon we labeled “reproductive coercion”: explicit male behaviors to promote pregnancy (unwanted by the woman). Reproductive coercion can include “birth control sabotage” (interference with contraception), and/or “pregnancy coercion,” such as telling a woman not to use contraception and threatening to leave her if she doesn’t get pregnant.

Given that I don’t have a source of information other than UTTER IRRESPONSIBLE SPECULATION, I will proceed to utterly and irresponsibly speculate.

Abuse tends to be more gendered the more violent it is. Men and women are equally likely to be survivors of emotional abuse, but women are somewhat more likely to be rape or physical abuse survivors, distinctly more likely to be a survivor of severe physical abuse, and ridiculously more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner. In fact, a lot of the “is there gender symmetry in abuse” debate hinges on whether you use the Conflict Tactics Scale, which tends to lump together violence of different kinds of severity, or a scale which doesn’t do that. (I really like Kimmel’s summary of that debate here.) My intuition is that, since reproductive coercion does not usually involve physical violence, it’s going to be nearer the emotional abuse end of the scale than the murder end.

Furthermore, cis women have a lot more ability to reproductively coerce their partners than cis men do. Cis women can use all the tactics cis men do– refusing to use contraception, poking holes in condoms, pressuring their partners into a pregnancy– plus they can pretend to be on birth control and their partner has no way of knowing if they skipped a pill or didn’t get the shot last week. Cis women have more invisible contraception options than cis men do: abused cis men can’t thwart their partner’s plans by sneaking to Planned Parenthood and getting Depo. Cis women can have abortions and cis men can’t; while abusive partners often stop people from getting an abortion or violently punish their partners for seeking an abortion, cis men don’t even have the option.

While I haven’t investigated the issue fully enough to say, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a bias in family courts against fathers and if it were difficult to convince a family court that a woman is abusive. Regardless, a lot of cis men believe that’s true, which means they might be more likely to stay in an abusive relationship to avoid abandoning their children, which makes reproductive coercion a better deal for abusers. Furthermore, “oopsing” someone is culturally constructed as a thing women do to men (and occasionally as a naughty but basically okay thing women do because they just want babies so much– thank you Cosmo).

So: I in no way believe 86% of reproductive coercion victims are female. I think it’s at least at gender parity, and I wouldn’t be surprised if reproductive coercion was actually the only kind of abuse with more male survivors than female.

Edit: My lovely commenters found a part in NISVS, page 48, which says 8.6% of women and 10.4% of men have experienced reproductive coercion, which is to say that my utter irresponsible speculation is TOTALLY CORRECT and I should have a cookie.