Why Isn’t There A “Pill” For Men?

Why Isn’t There A “Pill” For Men?
Nick BrothersThe Free Weekly Managing Editor

Nick Brothers
The Free Weekly Managing Editor

In honor of The Free Weekly’s annual Valentines Day/Smart Sex issue, I wanted to talk about the thing that made the sexual revolution possible, birth control.

I should point out that this column comes from me, a cisgender, heterosexual man. At first I thought a lot about this column through my own perspective, but soon realized that this situation is not exclusive to cisgender men and women. So apologies up front for any unintentional stereotyping.

Birth control methods (whether or not they worked) have been in place for millenia. The thing everyone refers to as the “the pill,” originated in 1960, finally giving women a choice to determine pregnancy on their terms. Beyond that, women have access to patches, shots, rings, implants, IUDs, diaphragms, cervical caps, spermicides, and sponges. They’re all widely used, too. More than 99 percent of women aged 15–44 who have ever had vaginal intercourse have relied on at least one method of birth control to prevent pregnancy, according to the Center for Disease Control.

As for us people with penises, we’ve got three options: condoms, pulling out (which ain’t really a contraceptive) or getting a vasectomy. Other than the procedure, contraceptives are pretty affordable, too. Oh, and condoms can be bought at any age, at just about any general goods store.

While options are a-plenty for women, there are considerably more hoops to jump through to get the birth control pill. Costs range from $0-$250 for the initial appointment and $0-$50 a month depending on insurance. Not to mention, it’s very dependent on punctual dosing and there’s a laundry list of potential side effects that can lower sex drive, cause weight gain and cause nausea among other things. Several other methods run the risk of uterus damage, pain and other hormonal changes.

However, the pill and IUDs are highly to near-perfectly effective. Condoms are pretty effective in a perfect scenario, but how often does sex play out perfectly? They can break, fall off or deteriorate if not stored properly rendering them useless — horrifyingly, unaware to the user.

Since science somehow figured out how to control a vagina’s reproductive processes in the 1960s, why hasn’t “a pill” been created for men?

Short answer: there has, but it isn’t a pill. It’s called Vasalgel.

Vasalgel looks like a home run if you want to put off having kids for a while. Essentially, it’s a gel that is injected into the vas defrens —the tube the sperm swim through — and it prevents sperm from leaving the penis, effectively shooting blanks. The gel lasts about 10 years, and if the man wants to remove it, it can be flushed out with a baking soda solution to return to full on baby-making ammunition. So far, no reported side effects have been noted, and it’s reported as being 99.9 percent effective. Those near foolproof numbers make it comparable to a male version of an IUD, minus potential hormonal side effects.

So what’s the hold up?

Vasalgel began clinical trials this year, and is predicted to be in U.S. markets by 2018 if all goes according to plan. One big issue is no pharmaceutical company wants to support an effective, long-term solution that won’t be as lucrative as the myriad and costly options of birth control available to women. Moreover, it would take millions of dollars to put a new contraceptive out in the market. So why bother?

There’s also the ol’ stereotype that men just aren’t interested in contraceptives, because they’re assumed to be too macho to care or just lazy. However, multiple international surveys have shown that a majority of men would be interested in taking a pill to control their reproduction. It’s also no secret that men prefer sex without condoms.

But man, that’s kinda sexist. Just because men presumably don’t want to deal with it, pregnancy should be considered a woman’s problem? Kind of a shitty reason to justify that, and shouldn’t be an acceptable notion. Last time I checked, it takes two to do the baby tango, and pregnancies normally result when a man orgasms inside an ovulating woman. I’m no Einstein, but wouldn’t that make the man responsible?

Not only that, but birth control is nowhere near as easy to acquire, or as affordable than a man’s trip to Walmart to pick up a $10 pack of condoms. Sure, there’s plenty of options for women, but why risk it for something that isn’t less than near-perfect?

I would love the opportunity to sign up for something like Vasalgel. I would contribute to a crowdfunding effort for it. It’s peace of mind. If I find someone I want to make babies with later on, then it’s just a quick trip to the urologist to return to previous production levels. It’s a win-win.

My point here is, when you open your eyes to how systematic things work, like oppression, it’s an ugly thing to see. It’s like you’ve been fooled, caught off guard. I think the issue of birth control, while initially liberating for women’s choice in pregnancy, has an ugly double standard over all of it.

Then there’s the whole topic of society condemning the sexually active woman, regardless of if they’re having safe sex or not. And as we’ve seen in the Hobby Lobby and Planned Parenthood funding fracas, there are people who think women’s health and contraception choices are up for debate. Yet, even mothers who have children have society’s back turned on them. Paid maternity leave isn’t mandated in the U.S.

So until Vasalgel becomes available, it might be a hip idea to be a good, supportive partner and help pay for the costly birth control pills, or whatever method you use. I mean, it’s mutually beneficial.

Categories: Commentary