What About Men?

“What about men?” This is a question I often receive as the lead maker of the Bedsider.org program and it is a question that I’ll address at a session of the upcoming American Public Health Association annual conference in New Orleans. Without a doubt Bedsider’s focus is women and, as a new evaluation shows — details of which will be soon published —the Bedsider program improves knowledge about contraceptive methods, and results in less unprotected sex and fewer unplanned pregnancies. But the question remains…because men are such an obvious part of the equation, what are we doing to reach and serve them?

Apart from the important fact that most birth control methods are made for women’s bodies, our initial research in 2008 into the reasons people weren’t getting their birth control right showed that most men were at a different stage of behavior change than women. Attempting to create one intervention to serve two audiences would have produced a result that worked for neither group. Women, we found, were already using birth control but were unaware of the full array of methods, ill-prepared to deal with side effects, and in need of motivation to find the method that best fit their body and stick to it. Many men, on the other hand, weren’t active participants in the decision-making about birth control and often didn’t even want to engage in any conversation on the topic; it wasn’t “their thing.”

Bedsider was borne out of those initial insights (and many more) and became a successful tool for helping women become better users of birth control. Demographic data, however, show that 30% of the visitation to Bedsider.org is by men. Who are these men? These are the men who are already taking an active part in decisions regarding birth control and are at a stage of behavior change that Bedsider serves. The preponderance of images of women on the Bedsider site apparently is not a barrier to men’s learning about birth control.

So what about the other 70%?

We realized that, to reach the men who aren’t ready for Bedsider’s main offerings — those who are not at the right stage of behavior change — we needed to do something else and that something else turned out to be humor. Laughing your way to learning — especially about difficult or taboo topics — is a common educational method. In fact, research suggests that humor produces psychological and physiological benefits that help people learn. So, we invented the Guy’s Guide, a video tour of birth control that uses humor as a way to capture and keep the attention of men; it’s designed as a guide for guys and the women who love them.

Visitation to the Guy’s Guide shows that it is indeed reaching the target. In the last year there have been more than 300,000 views of the videos and half of all visits are by men. The success of the Guy’s Guide and the positive reviews about it in men’s outlets has convinced us that we are on the right track. We will continue to use humor — especially on other channels that reach men — through video. The goal is to move more people from one stage of behavior change (or state of readiness to learn) to another where they — man or woman — become the perfect candidate for Bedsider.