Yo Science Yo Science: Where the Male Birth Control Pill At? Sean Morrow

It is one of those things that is always supposed to happen, but never actually seems to; it always gets brought up as being on the cusp of happening, but never does. Much like adaptations of Confederacy of Dunces, various apocalypses, marijuana legalization or Boy Meets World reunions, male birth control is constantly touted as “on it’s way.” You hear about it every couple of months, and people on the internet blabber on about it for a few days, then quickly forget, jumping on the story again the next time it pops up.

I am here to blabber.

A new potential male birth control pill was “discovered” recently when a bunch of scientists accidentally realized their potential cure for cancer also worked as a male birth control pill. Imagine working in an industry where your mistakes add up to “Oh, we accidentally also made a miraculous male birth control pill in addition to this cure for cancer, whatevs.” When I make a mistake, I end up deleting several paragraphs of an article, or getting yelled at by a customer.

Basically, the pill makes testicles “‘forget how to make sperm”, which is kind of hilarious if you think about it, like a man’s spleen would say to his testes, “YOU HAD ONE JOB, GUYS, C’MON, GET IT TOGETHER.”

Scientists are still looking for a pill that “really does just temporarily stop men from making sperm, with no other side-effects,” and this might be the one. There’s a bunch of stuff in this article about tests on mice, gene expression, BRDT proteins and lots of other stuff I don’t understand – I studied political science (coincidentally, I studied at Clark University, which is where the female birth control pill was developed, I think), not regular science.

So my science-science knowledge is lacking, but I came here today to discuss why male birth control is a good thing, from like a socio-political-feminist-progressive-blah-blah standpoint. First of all, new medicine is almost always a good thing, innovation is always good, progress is always good and this is coming from someone who usually avoids pharmaceuticals.

But this isn’t just a scientific innovation, it’ll be a societal innovation. Since the invention of birth control, the burden of acquiring and taking The Pill has been on the woman. Also burdening women were the negative health effects of The Pill, and its effects on hormones. Maybe it’s our (I’m a guy in case that wasn’t clear already) turn to take on that burden? And this is way better than a vasectomy because you don’t have to have a scalpel near your scrotum.

I think there are a lot of interesting questions raised by a potential male birth control pill, but I am more equipped to ask them than answer them, so I’m gonna put these questions to you commenter folk:

Do you think health care providers would be more likely to provide a male birth control pill than a female one do to that whole patriarchy thing?

How will anti-contraceptive religious organizations react to this? What exactly constitutes birth-control-related sin in their eyes?

What would a male birth control pill do for sexual politics?

Guys: would you take a male birth control pill, taking into consideration that it’s new and experimental and we don’t know the long-term effects yet?

And an only half-serious question, for the girls: Do you trust guys to remember to take a pill every morning?

Of course, feel free to sound off on whatever comes to mind about this issue.

Image via Feminists for Choice.

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  1. Sometimes I feel like science is like a boyfriend who keeps promising you that it’ll take the next step but then backs out at the last moment, siting some lame excuse like, “I’m just reevaluating the situation before I pull the trigger, because, ugh, you don’t wanna rush something so important” and then tells you that it’ll happen soon, and it’ll be worth the wait! Dammit, Science! Stop stringing us fake-hormone ingesting ladies along, and give us the man pill already! Please, and thank you!

  2. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the documented side effects were that men become more… feminine? Not in the looks department, but in the I-like-a-clean-house and I’m-in-touch-with-my-feelings and the communication-is-awesome and I-love-wine-and-books sense? A girl can dream I guess….

  3. Go Sean!

    April McLean | 9/10/2012 06:09 pm
  4. This is something that’s frequently been on my mind lately. I’m seeing a guy casually, and we each take responsibility for the birth control that puts our minds at ease. For me, it’s taking my pill every morning, but the control that a female birth control denies him any control. So he provides the condoms. Pregnancy is something that would greatly affect us both, and I think he’s justified in wanting the assurance that birth control is being used and being used properly in our relationship. A male birth control pill would solve that side of the problem.

    • Yeah, that’s a common set-up, but remembering condoms is a lot less of a commitment than taking birth control (and I’m saying this as a guy who has had that argument used against me before, as an occasional condom forgetter.)

  5. i can’t imagine most guys wouldn’t be just as willing as girls to participate in the contraception game, but i don’t think you can discount that, at least very very very generally speaking, a man’s masculine identity (in his own head and/or to society) is significantly tied to the status of his junk. which isn’t to say women aren’t valued for their own set of reproductive junk and ability to reproduce, but the fact that men’s reproductive organs are external and women’s are internal, i think there is likely a visual aesthetic aspect. if a man’s junk does not appear “normal” or “capable” or “manly” then he must be lacking in worth – at least that’s the message that’s put out there. as a result of all of this (and that rich conservative white men tend to be the most influential in public forums) i think male contraception is a long way off from being accepted scientifically (for side effects) and socially (the stigma of being less masculine).

    everyone’s human, and everyone has an instinct to protect their reproductive organs. this topic, IMO, is at its core about rationalizing with ourselves a situation in which are willing to mess with our most valuable & sacred bodily function for the benefit of ourselves, our potential future children, and society as a whole.

  6. *who *would**

  7. who would want that?! I love science but you are right! this isn’t a scientific innovation nor would it be called an achievement. They just want to stop the population from blooming. i mean that’s great, i think, so we’ll make less pollution and all..i think. But that is not a right solution. I’ve had my s** education and I wouldn’t even know anyone i know who buy that. And regarding to the population bloom, I think they can think of a better way to solve that problem..
    :)

  8. Allowing the responsibility of birth control to fall on both partners would be great! I’m echoing a lot of what has already been said, but it would lessen the worries about unwanted pregnancy if you’re both regularly taking birth control, it would let women whose bodies are averse to hormonal birth control to not have to continue to go through trial and error with pills that simply don’t agree with them, and it would definitely change the conversation about health care and reproductive rights. And to the ladies mentioning that their partners would never agree to take on this responsibility or even be bothered to remember to take it, or think that taking it would make them less masculine – Ew. Stop sleeping with these men.

  9. I did a project in my final year of undergrad on potential male forms of birth control, and while many of the pharmaceutical ones have tonnes of side effects (way more difficult to work with men`s hormones than females since it`s not just a matter of keeping you at a particular point in your cycle) there`s a neat form in trials in India… It`s like a polymer they inject into the vas deferens and as sperm swim thru it disrupts the charge on them killing them… no real side effects and if you want it reversed the polymer can be dissolved out. Called RISUG, they`ve got a patent in the states too… might be around sooner than you think….or then again maybe not.

  10. A friend of mine is just starting to worry about birth control with her fiance, since her family is notorious for getting the vicious side effects of the pill. This would be a great option.

    My thought on what the misogynistic male POV would be: Of course I would take it every day. That way I know that I’m not going to get a girl pregnant, and not just hope she’s telling the truth.

    And if the side effect is that they never be able to have children ever, or with a very slim chance, serves them right. Isn’t that what early birth control pills did in the long run? Time for men to take on that lovely burden for a few decades.

  11. I doubt they will be able to develop a pill with no side effects; after all this time of having all kinds of female contraceptives, I still see girls’ bodies being wrecked by the pill!

  12. I feel like several men are going to reject it just out of the whole idea of “if my sperm isn’t active then I’m less of a man”.
    And on another note… I’d never trust a guy to remember a pill everyday.

    • I dont see guys rejecting it because “if my sperm isn’t active then I’m less of a man”, if that was our way of thinking then women wouldn’t take it either! Our bodies were made in a really intricate and specific way so that we would be able to create children. When we take any contraceptive, we are tricking our body to not perform one of its basic duties and that can really mess with anyone!

      If this pill were to work, I would totally trust my guy to take it every day, especially since he is as concerned with preventing pregnancy as I am! I think most guys will appreciate having a better way to help prevent pregnancy without having to leave all the pressure on us girls (and having to trust that we are remembering our pill! seems stressful..)

  13. It would be great if it finally happened. I’ve been in a relationship for nine years now and can’t take the pill any more due to side effects of my other medication so the insecurity would finally be gone! I really hope it’s not just empty promises this time. :)

  14. It’s interesting how, for male birth control, scientists need to find a pill with no other side effects but the intended purpose, while for female birth control, we have to go through months of searching just to find a pill or method with the least amount of side effects.

    • I think the goal is always to find a pill with no side effects, but when they find that impossible they release it with side effects.