Whether you’re aware or not, it is very likely that male birth control will be made available within our lifetimes. Actually, with clinical trials in the US scheduled to begin last year, it may be available as early as 2015 if approved by the FDA. When you consider the fact that it’s already been successfully tested in animals and humans for over 25 years, there is little doubt it won’t be approved. However, even if successfully tested, the question remains whether there is a viable market in the US for male birth control or will it be about as popular as dental dam and the female condom? (Bonus points if you even know where to buy dental dam or a female condom; Watch The Throne status if you’ve actually used one or both.) When this discussion arises, as it did on my Twitter timeline last week, there are generally three main points of contention.
How Does Male Birth Control Work?
I’m no scientist, so I have no earthly idea. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t know how my smart phone works or how women’s birth control works. I just know that if used correctly they are effective 99.9% of the time. Although according to Wired.com, male birth control is 100% effective. They describe the process in the following manner:
The procedure is known by the clunky acronym RISUG (for reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance), but it is in fact quite elegant: The substance that Das injected was a nontoxic polymer that forms a coating on the inside of the vas. As sperm flow past, they are chemically incapacitated, rendering them unable to fertilize an egg.
If the research pans out, RISUG would represent the biggest advance in male birth control since a clever Polish entrepreneur dipped a phallic mold into liquid rubber and invented the modern condom. “It holds tremendous promise,” says Ronald Weiss, a leading Canadian vasectomy surgeon and a member of a World Health Organization team that visited India to look into RISUG. “If we can prove that RISUG is safe and effective and reversible, there is no reason why anybody would have a vasectomy.”
But here’s the thing: RISUG is not the product of some global pharmaceutical company or state-of-the-art government-funded research lab. It’s the brainchild of a maverick Indian scientist named Sujoy Guha, who has spent more than 30 years refining the idea while battling bureaucrats in his own country and skeptics worldwide. He has prevailed because, in study after study, RISUG has been proven to work 100 percent of the time. Among the hundreds of men who have been successfully injected with the compound so far in clinical trials, there has not been a single failure or serious adverse reaction. – Source: Wired.com
What About STDs?
The STD discussion is an interesting one because people are selectively self-righteous when it comes to STDs. Most of us have taken a sexual education class, so I won’t bother you with the statistics on the prevalence of STDs in our community, but it seems rather hypocritical to have a discussion about STDs when it comes to men’s birth control, unless we’re willing to have the same discussion about STDs regarding women’s birth control. In fact, we should probably have a discussion on STDs seperately, because whatever we’re currently doing is clearly not very effective. Further, as far as I know, there isn’t a birth control on the planet, male or female, designed to prevent STDs. As the name indicates, birth control controls – within a reasonable amount of error – for unplanned births, not unplanned STDs.
Similar to women’s birth control, I imagine that in order to ease any STD related fears you may have about your partner; you should both get tested whenever you agree to an exclusive, committed relationship. In theory, this is something that should occur regardless of the means of birth control or protection (i.e. condoms or anything short of abstinence) that you decide to employ in your relationship. Perhaps more importantly, if you can’t trust your sexual partner to be faithful to you or at least protect himself or herself when they are apart from you, then that is indicative of a larger issue between you two that has little or nothing to do with your choice to use or not use male birth control when it becomes available. In this instance, you should either: 1) continue using condoms or 2) probably not have sex with someone you clearly don’t trust beyond the four walls of your bedroom.
Finally, can women trust men to take birth control? Why guess? Check out page 2 to see what the statistics say.
1Can Women Trust Men to Take Birth Control?
While this is a singular question, it actually has two parts: 1) Would men use birth control given the option?; and 2) Can women trust men to use birth control?
Would men use birth control – Well, according to a study published by the aptly named website, AskMen.com, “An international survey conducted with 4,000 men and women revealed that 66% of the men said they would use alternative male contraceptive methods if they were available — 75% of the women said they would trust their partner.” Additionally:
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the condom has a failure rate of about 14% under typical conditions, while the failure rate of the female pill is less than 1%. Although the male pill has been proven 100% effective so far, the results of the current clinical trial are necessary before any definite conclusions can be drawn. – Source: AskMen.com
In my opinion, this clearly indicates that men would use birth control if they had the option. Not only does this give men more options when it comes to their choices of birth control – and perhaps even a safer option than a vasectomy – it gives them a viable option besides placing this responsibility solely on the woman or women in their lives. Further, as the second paragraph above shows, male birth control would be exponentially more effective than the current form of “birth control” the majority of men already rely on, condoms.
Can women trust a man to take birth control – This is an interesting question for a number of reasons. First, there is the obvious risk that in an instance of failure, much like today, the primary responsibility – at least initially – would continue to be the woman’s burden. In other words, even if “100% effective,” if the male birth control failed, it is the woman that would still get pregnant and therefore, at minimum, she would initially be responsible for the child’s first nine months of life. Secondly, if approved in its current form, male birth control is actually more effective and less obtrusive than female birth control – one shot that last 10 years (for men) versus a pill, shot, or patch that must be taken monthly, annually, or in some cases daily (for women). Lastly, as it stands now, men must trust women to take birth control even if they have no way of confirming she is taking it at all or taking it as recommended. To me, the issue is less about whether a woman can trust a man to take birth control – given that she could (and should) verify the procedure was performed by a doctor, which is actually far more reliable an option than most men currently have in the inverse – it’s whether she can (or should) trust the man she is sleeping with, period. That, however, is a completely unrelated discussion to male birth control, but it is a discussion worth having related to the status of your relationship and if men are less moral than women when it comes to interpersonal relationships.
Another topic for another day. Today I want to know…
1) Everybody, what are some of the concerns you would have about a viable male birth control option? Currently, birth control is primarily the responsibility of women – should it remain that way? Would male birth control more equally distribute responsibility?
2) Fellas, would you use male birth control? Why or why not? Currently, other than condoms, how do you know whether a woman is using or properly taking birth control?
3) Ladies, would you trust men to use birth control? Why or why not? Would you continue to use your preferred method of birth control either way?
Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to make as many videos as I used to (seen here), but I recently did a photo shoot with @WMSPhotography, which I posted to my personal YouTube account. If interested, you can check it out by clicking here. Thanks! – WIM