Sir Michael Parkinson created a sensation back in the 1970s when he publicly revealed that he had had a vasectomy.
The legendary chat show host, who died on Wednesday at the age of 88, made the admission over 50 years ago in a 1972 interview with Cosmopolitan UK.
The headline declared it ‘the most beautiful thing a man can do for a woman’ and the magazine subsequently sold out by lunchtime on its first day.
A vasectomy is a type of birth control for men first used in the late nineteenth century.
It’s a surgical procedure performed on a penis that cuts or seals the tubes that carry sperm, permanently preventing pregnancy resulting from sex.
Earlier this year comic and presenter Jason Manford revealed he had plumped for one too, but when Sir Michael first spoke about it, it was neither something that men openly referred to nor what was expected of a then 37-year-old rising TV star.
Recalling the events in a 2010 interview with The Times, Sir Michael revealed: ‘The story of my vasectomy was passed on to a journalist without my knowledge. I don’t know where or how the leak occurred. But it did and I did an interview for Cosmo.’
Sharing his thoughts on the importance of his comments in the aftermath, he added: ‘At that time the operation was not talked about and the ignorance among men particularly was remarkable.
‘Maybe my ‘confession’ helped dismiss the notion prevalent in those days that a vasectomy equalled a sex change or, at the very least, emasculation.’
Looking back, the Parkinson host branded them ‘interesting times’.
This is something with which intimate health expert Dr Shirin Lakhani, who treats men for a variety of intimate health issues, including sexual dysfunction, certainly agrees.
‘Before Michael Parkinson spoke out about his vasectomy, the procedure was taboo and men didn’t speak about it. Men are seen as virile throughout their life and thought a vasectomy would change that view,’ she told Metro.co.uk.
‘His confession helped change the view that a vasectomy meant emasculation.’
That the late star’s comments also helped change men’s attitudes meant a big leap forward for women too.
‘He helped to change the views on vasectomies and that it was a way to support your partner, who would potentially no longer need to take the pill for birth control. It is safer and easier to perform than female sterilisation,’ Dr Lakhani added.
Gynaecologist and surgeon John Guillebaud – the world’s first professor of family planning – also shared his gratitude for Sir Michael’s comments with The Times as well.
He confirmed that there was ‘no doubt that Michael Parkinson saying what he did caused a huge boost’ in those opting for the procedure.
Explaining the benefits of vasectomies to Metro.co.uk, Dr Lakhani shared: ‘There are few complications and, according to a UK study from March, around 11,000 vasectomy operations are performed every year in the United Kingdom.’
She describes vasectomy as ‘a very reliable and safe contraception method’ and also praised Sir Michael for starting to help try and dismiss the taboo surrounding it over 50 years ago.
‘There are many topics in intimate health, where taboos need lifting and we need a much wider conversation on this. There is still a huge taboo around erectile dysfunction for men too and we need to let men know that they can and need to discuss their intimate health issues, whether that is a vasectomy or something else, with medical professionals without fear of embarrassment or judgment.’
Sir Michael married his journalist and presenter wife Mary, 87, in 1959.
The pair met on a bus in Yorkshire and have three sons – Michael Jr, Nicholas and Andrew – and eight grandchildren, all of whom survive him.
In most parts of the UK, vasectomies are available on the NHS, but in France it was generally considered illegal until 2001, due to provisions in the Napoleonic Code (the French civil code still in force but frequently amended) forbidding ‘self-mutilation’.
Iran banned the procedure in 2014 in a bid to boost the country’s birth rate.
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