Male Contraception – ‘Coming’ Soon

When the female pill became available in the 1960s, it created a newfound sense of empowerment and freedom for women everywhere. Having sex became far more enjoyable as the fear of suddenly becoming a parent vanished. And with the possible added bonus of skipping periods, women could wear white jeans without asking their friends to ‘check’ – whilst watching the latest Always advert with a smug smile. This tiny miracle changed lives, and today 17.5%  of ladies between 15 and 44 use the pill as their main form of contraception.

But there are still some women who are unable to take it on medical grounds, including those with high blood pressure or are at high risk of heart conditions. While women have several options when choosing birth control, it is fair to say that the idea of having an injection is scary to most, and having a metal coil inserted up ‘there’ doesn’t sound very appealing either. Contraception is something women take very seriously from a young age – and we are certainly told to be ‘safe’ a lot.

Male contraception has fewer options, but young men probably won’t be considering abstinence or a vasectomy any time soon, thereby reducing options even further. While adolescent girls are given intense, hour long talks in school about contraception (speaking from experience) boys are often told to just ‘use a condom’. It’s a responsibility for women, albeit necessary. But what if this responsibility could now be shared? As revolutionary alternatives to condoms launch into the 21st century, there seems to be more discussion over contraception than ever before – it’s definitely a hot topic right now.

For years, men  have wanted choices in contraception as well.  In fact, perhaps the apparent lack of responsibility men have is purely because of their lack of choice. As US journalist Valerie Tarico asserts, 'Imagine if all people, regardless of gender, could enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure without the worry of an unexpected pregnancy? More and more young men, and not so young too, want options - the ability to control their own DNA, their parenthood, and the trajectory of their future.' A non-hormonal contraceptive called Vasalgel is currently poised as the first approved male contraceptive since the condom, estimated to hit the US market around 2018-2020. Vasalgel is ‘essentially a polymer that’s injected under local anaesthetic into the man’s sperm-carrying tubes’ that works by ‘blocking sperm’ and is expected to be reversible through a ‘second injection that dissolves the polymer’. Nice.

There is, however, still a long way to go until the other half of the population can genuinely consider their options. Previous attempts at making a pill that controls sperm production hit a dead end when it was found to have potential side effects, such as weight gain. A survey by the Telegraph of 84,000 men found that 52% of men said that they would take a birth control pill if it was available.

So why would 48% of men not take it?  I recently asked  two of my male friends whether they would take a contraceptive pill. Interestingly, they would - given there were no side effects and enough tests had been carried out, ensuring its safety and eligibility. Then one of them ruined it and said ‘but probably not if my girlfriend was on it. I’d probably forget to take it’.

Uncertainty seems a fair reason to be hesitant - but if the 48% of men in the Telegraph survey said ‘no’ because they think that contraception is a woman’s responsibility, then this is a perspective that has to change. As equality between the sexes continue to evolve, so should men’s attitudes towards contraception..

Maybe if the pill came in different flavours, like chocolate or mint, they’d be more up for it.


Edited by Sarah Holmes



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