A hospital in China wants to help men empathise with the pain their partner feels during childbirth – by rigging them up to an electronic device that allows men to experience it for themselves. Doctors in Jinan, Shandong Province, use electric shock machines to stimulate men’s abdomens, causing pain that’s supposed to be just as awful as contractions and full-on labour pains.
Sure, the pictures of men screwing up their faces are funny. But on the subject of baby-making in China, this “project” is missing the point.
▼ Feel the pain: men participating in a similar experiment on Chinese TV.
The photos from these ‘Pain Experience Camp’ sessions, which you can see in a slideshow from Xinhua, are wonderfully surreal. As the electrode pad strapped to their stomach does its work, men writhe in “labour pain” on the couch. Some are on the brink of tears. In another picture, a woman squeezes a man’s hand sympathetically as he convulses in pain, a comical reversal of the usual childbirth set-up.
A hospital spokesman said the event was aimed at “creating awareness and more respect for childbearing women, especially highlighting the entire laborious nine-month process leading up to birth”. Also, presumably, to get us all to look at the adverts for water births prominently featured in one photo and remind us how much less painful a water birth apparently is.
▼ Water births: the choice of a new generation.
The Daily Mail quotes one participant:
“My wife is expecting a baby in three months, and we had a row when I told [her] not to make such a fuss…When she found out about this project, she told me [I] had to sign up for it, so I also know what it was all about.”
There’s nothing wrong with encouraging men to empathise with their pregnant partners – that’s wonderful. But it’s hard to say how much the men in this ‘experiment’ will actually learn from having their stomach shocked.
Over 13 million abortions are performed annually in China, and studies show lack of knowledge about sex and contraception to be the cause. Sex education in schools is virtually non-existent, and a recent survey by the China World Contraception Day Organisation found that more than two-thirds of Chinese women did not know the difference between oral contraceptives and the morning-after pill. Only 1.2 percent of women in China take oral contraceptives; and only around 10 percent of people said they use condoms every time they have sex.
These studies show that what young people desperately need is better sex education and ways to access information; an environment where they are not embarrassed to talk about sexual health. When it comes to pregnancy, China has a lot more to worry about than whether men are ‘feeling women’s pain’ or not.
▼ Still waiting for your daily dose of schadenfreude? Here’s the full video of a similar ‘experiment’.