THE VASECTOMIST is a documentary film following Dr Doug Stein, a urologist from small town Florida on a mission to save the planet by “spreading the gospel of vasectomy”. Doug has performed more vasectomies than anyone – 30,000 – throughout the US, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
As he travels the world, Doug confronts the difficult ethical questions surrounding birth control and the reluctance of men to be involved in family planning. He comes up against conservatives and religious groups who believe family planning is akin to genocide, every bit as evil as abortion. But he also upsets liberal groups who challenge him for bringing family planning to poor countries, arguing this is a slippery slope towards imperialism and racism.
THE VASECTOMIST is a journey through these difficult and divisive issues, crossing cultural, religious and political taboos. Through this quixotic character and his highly personal encounters with men as they exit the gene pool, the film provokes a new conversation about population, consumption and the planet’s environmental tipping point.
Doug Stein is driven, amusing and often naive about the controversy he creates. His single-minded calling is to save the world one vasectomy at a time. And nothing will stop him… While the mathematical absurdity of his vasectomy missions haunts his every procedure, the questions Doug raises about the future of humankind are critical to our collective wellbeing.
THE DOCTOR Doug Stein
For Dr Doug Stein, vasectomies are more than a career – theyʼre an obsession. He’s determined to make sure this procedure is available to every man in the state of Florida (all seven million of them) and as many others throughout the world that he can convince. He goes to places no other vasectomist is willing to go, and he does so with unparalleled passion and commitment.
A legend among doctors around the globe, Doug is not your typical urologist. In Florida he is famous for his billboards that loom across interstate highways promoting low-cost, scalpel-free vasectomies. For three weeks out of every month, Doug takes his practice on the road. Piling all his supplies into a mobile van, he performs vasectomies all over Florida, often at county health departments and Planned Parenthood sites for men who have no health insurance.
And several times a year, with his own money, he travels overseas to perform vasectomies in the slums and remote areas of developing countries, hoping to establish a male-orientated component to a global family planning movement that will reduce poverty and relieve women from carrying the sole burden of birth control.
Every day between 15 and 30 men come to Doug and literally drop their pants, ready to get their vas clamped and put to rest forever the possibility of making babies. The reasons are as diverse as the men who show up. For some it’s the decision to take the burden of family planning off their wives, for others it’s simply economic pressures that make parenting unappealing. Our film captures the vulnerability of fully exposed men as they have intimate conversations, humorous exchanges and personal revelations about manhood with Doug as they get ‘the snip’.
For me, Doug is a bit like Don Quixote in the Man of La Mancha, a person pursuing the impossible dream. Sometimes I think he’s like that mythic character, Sisyphus, pushing the boulder up the hill only to have it come down on his head once again. In any case, Doug is doing a lot of people’s work and providing us the spark to have a much-needed conversation about some big issues about population on the planet. So my hope is that this project makes his work a little less impossible, and a little less lonely!
- Jonathan Stack (Director)
For the official lowdown on Doug and his credentials, you can visit his website here
THE DIRECTOR Jonathan Stack
I’m a filmmaker, a father, a son, a brother, a man, a human being and always a storyteller. As such, I’ve spent most of my life traveling the world trying to learn as much I could and, as a kind of karmic give back, share as much as I am able to. The result has been a lot of amazing experiences, a lot of fantastic conversations, many friends and colleagues, lots of films, endless stories and a profound hope and faith in humanity.
Now, given how much misery I’ve witnessed, how much chaos I’ve experienced and how much stress there is out there, it begs the question, why do I continue to be an optimist? The answer is simple… while the objective truth is not fantastic (i.e. we’ve got a lot of challenges on this Earth and it’s not looking so good), the experience of encountering each individual is remarkably positive. Amazingly positive in fact. Of the tens of thousands of people I’ve met on my life’s journey, there have been quite a few mediocre encounters, and plenty of forgettable ones, but the vast majority are positive and quite a few are extraordinary. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had even a handful of really horrible ones…
Is that good fortune? I guess so, at least in part, because there are certainly plenty of people doing bad things out there. That said, it’s not just luck or coincidence because even when traveling to very difficult places, I meet great people who are eager to contribute to the positive flow of life. Maybe, I’ve found even more great people the worse the place is.
Why is this? I think it’s because people, when given the choice to participate in something positive that gets acknowledged as such, they jump on it. People love to be recognised, yes, even applauded for doing good. And that’s at the heart of all the films I’ve done… it’s simple… find the best in people in the worst of circumstances. Again, my hope is to celebrate the best of what a person is capable of offering, even under the most challenging circumstances… And that’s why I love the vasectomy project so much.
We men get to do something good for ourselves, for our family, for our community and for the planet. Yes, it’s what we choose to do, but by choosing to do it, we make a huge difference. I was one of those men who made babies without planning it. Am I grateful for the children that were born because of my unconscious decision? Of course, I am. But do I believe that this is the healthiest way to bring human life into existence? No, I do not. I don’t regret it, but I wouldn’t want my children to do it the way I did it, and that’s a very telling lesson.
I love making films and I’m excited to share as much of the process with you as possible. Even more, I love making positive things happen and the most powerful way of making positive things happen is by working together. This project is an opportunity for men to do something very personal and positive for ourselves that can also have a positive impact on everyone else. That’s huge.
I can imagine all of this, but I can’t do it alone. That’s where you come in… Subscribe to our campaign newsletter, follow the journey and get involved as much or as little as you like. All men and women welcome!
- Jonathan Stack
Find out more about my background here
THE DIRECTOR Saralena Weinfield
Saralena Weinfield is a New York based documentary filmmaker who graduated with honors from Barnard College of Columbia University.
In 2010, she directed, wrote, and co-produced with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jonathan Stack AFTER THE SPILL: THE LAST CATCH, a National Geographic documentary about Louisiana fishermen affected by the BP oil spill.
In 2011, Weinfield directed and produced JUSTICE AT HERSHEY’S, a labor campaign launched by the National Guestworker Alliance, which went viral and prompted a state department investigation of Hershey’s factory conditions.
Other projects include an initiative she directed through TED Conferences to bring camera phones to refugee camps around the world. And as a freelance producer, Weinfield has story produced numerous documentary series for Discovery Channel, History Channel, National Geographic and Animal Planet.