Monday, March 29, 2010

I Vote for a Male Birth Control Pill

In poking around in the blogosphere, I stumbled on this fact I had never really thought about before: women have a choice of 11 kinds of contraception, but men only have two: condoms and vasectomies. And, if gender bias were not an issue and the research were being funded and made a priority, we could have a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) for men. It could work through hormones, though there are sexist fears that the side-effects of testosterone might make some men feel unmanned. It could work by stopping ejaculation, since ejaculation has no effect on orgasm, but that might make some men "freak out". The research for a male birth control pill is 50 years behind the female birth control pill, due in part to these gendered stories. 

I think this is a crying shame. A pill to stop ejaculation? All the orgasm, none of the clean up? Sounds awesome. No more socks or towels with their special home by the bed. Less worry about condom efficacy. No more choice between permanent birth control (snip snip!) or latex sheaths. I wonder what kind of effect it would have upon the tantric goal of male multiple orgasms? Would it make them easier? Common, even?

Even better, a male birth control pill could help even the contraceptive playing field. Both (or all) sex partners would be able to be equally responsible for prevention of pregnancy. It would empower men to better control whether or not they are sowing seeds. It would take the onus of birth control off of women and bring more equality. And it could get men in to see their doctors annually, like women do now for their female birth control prescriptions. There are a lot of benefits to that, as I understand it. 

Also, what about the fact that vasectomies are much easier and less invasive for men than tubal ligations are for women? Could a male birth control pill be easier and less risky for men than female birth control is for women, with its elevated risk of blood clots and all? 

"Permanent" birth control, also known as "getting fixed" or vasectomy/tubal ligation also comes with all kinds of strings attached. There are mandatory waiting periods, minimum age requirements that come only after 20-25 years or so of fertility, minimum procreative requirements of so many kids, of these sexes, etc. If a sexually active man really wants to make sure that he does not accidentally father any kids, his choices now are to rely on condoms with their 16% ineffective rate or jump through the hoops and hope someone will give him a snip, thereby foregoing a change of mind or incurring the expense and inconvenience of a vasectomy reversal. 

I sincerely hope the money and research on this one gets stepped up, because it sounds to me like we are past due for this one.  

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