Image via The Vasectomist.
On October 18, 2013, if all goes according to plan, men around the world will be putting their “balls on the line” in a worldwide vasectomy-athon that will be performed in front of a live audience and aired live on the Internet.
It sounds more than a little bizarre, but the folks behind World Vasectomy Day 2013 are dead serious about the implications such an event could have on public consciousness. The event is the progeny of documentarian Jonathan Stack and urologist Doug Stein. Together, these two men hope to address issues as monumental as human overpopulation and as potentially intimate as men’s role in family planning.
Vasectomies are not the only way to approach these concerns, but they do offer a new route to do so, says Stack. Pre-existing birth control options clearly have their flaws. There has been much discussion over a male contraceptive pill, but Stack has his doubts.
Instead, the vasectomy as a “permanent form of family planning” (but which isn’t necessarily permanent, since it can technically be reversed) offers a solution that is less burdensome for all involved. According to Doctor Stein’s website, the procedure only takes fifteen minutes and pretty reliably alleviates the possibility of unintended pregnancies. Though exact statistics differ, the Cleveland Clinic cites the failure rate as only one per every thousand cases.
Such weighty goals appear misaligned with the spectacle of a vasectomy-athon. But Stack is not worried about the gimmicky elements of his plan overwhelming the subject matter he intends to address. The planned live-streams and Skype calls are merely intended to be a catalyst for conversation – it is not the raison d'être of the project. “Once we get their attention,” he said, “we’ll be able to have serious conversations, but there has to be a hook.”
As for how voyeuristic the actual procedure will be, Stack says viewers will see very little. “The part of the body visible during a vasectomy is barely a square inch,” he insisted.
Like most topics in the realm of family planning and contraception, Stack and Stein’s World Vasectomy Day is not without controversy. Religious groups both here and abroad have made their discontent known. Notable opponents include the Quiverfull Evangelical movement in the United States and the Catholic Church in the Philippines, where Stein has travelled on his vasectomy missions. In the fifth episode of Stack’s vasectomy-themed webseries, you can see a crew of protesters standing outside Stein’s urology practice in Florida with their standard toolbox of crucifixes and dead baby posters.
But the opposition hasn’t deterred them. Their goals are lofty, their approach unusual, but Stack and Stein are determined. In the second season of their web series, Stein offers a pithy encapsulation of the essence of the World Vasectomy Day project: “What greater gift to future generations than to limit their numbers.” World Vasectomy Day is for the children and to make their future better, there needs to be fewer of them.