The Male Pill

Despite there being an extraordinarily broad range of contraceptive options available for women, there are currently still only three available for men – condoms, vasectomy, and the infamous ‘coitus interruptus’ (aka pulling-out). It’s fairly obvious that each of these methods has their own problems. Men have to rely on either a) an option which is only 98% effective, b) an option which leaves them infertile for life, or c) an option which relies entirely on self-knowledge and self-control. What a choice.

Various methods have been tried and tested, such as the “clean-sheets” pill (so-called because it stalls any ejaculate from being released, hah) or the herbal “gendarussa” (which, frankly, just sounds like an STD). But in July 2015, news of a reversible, non-hormonal male contraceptive hit the headlines. Vasalgel, currently being developed by American company The Parsemus Foundation, is a polymer which is injected into the man’s vas deferens (or sperm duct) via the scrotum, which subsequently blocks the sperm from being ejaculated whilst allowing other fluids to be passed through. A second injection then dissolves the gel, offering a long-term but reversible contraceptive.

But the question is; if a reversible, reliable contraceptive is developed, will men use it? For years women have been burdened with the job of organising contraception; ingesting and injecting and implanting various hormones and bits of plastic. So will men be willing to finally share this responsibility?

According to a poll conducted by The Telegraph, the answer is yes (kind of). Around 50% of the 84,000 male respondents said they couldn’t wait to take ‘the male pill’, with only 25% saying they definitely wouldn’t. Although this isn’t a majority, and certainly doesn’t reflect whether these men will actually use contraception if it becomes available, it does show that men aren’t completely horrified by the prospect. According to Elaine Lissner, director of The Parsemus Foundation, “men 20 years ago weren’t interested… but men today sure are.”

Men aren’t used to taking regular medication, and at the end of the day it is the women who are at risk of getting pregnant, so we will always be more motivated to use contraception. But the prospect of a reliable, reversible male contraceptive, and the positive reception to these developments, is very promising. Maybe one day women won’t have to keep using contraception which alters our hormones and produces weird side effects, or keep having to remember to take a pill at the same time every day.

[Katie Fannin – @katfnan]

More info:

Results of The Telegraph’s poll

Problems with the cost of producing male contraceptives


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