• Flux Magazine

The Future of Birth Control is Male by Becca DeMent

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

The first time I decided I wanted to go on birth control, I was told I had to make an appointment with my doctor. It hit me very quickly how odd that felt. Why couldn’t I just pick it up from the pharmacy like cold medicine? “Well because you have to talk to your doctor about how it affects you”. We often don’t know if Aleve, Tylenol, Advil, or Ibuprofen affects us better or worse than the others either. We go on Google and read the back of boxes, maybe even try some trial and error, in order to find out. Then we stick to the one that works best. Oh but, “birth control is more complex than that”. Okay... there are multiple options for complex systems like allergies, nausea, cold and flu, bowel movements, dieting, heartburn issues, acne, and many more. We read the backs of boxes, and try different ones to see how they affect us. “You wouldn’t want to trial run it and risk getting pregnant”. Okay, so either one waits to see how it affects them, or that is the responsibility and business of that individual alone. The boney pill, which is used for motion sickness, may or may not work but you still set out to sea. Women should have over the counter access to birth control.

Right now, the only forms of birth control approved by the FDA for males are spermicide, the male condom, and a vasectomy. For women there are over a dozen different individual options. However, to gain access to these female birth control options, one must have a prescription from a doctor. Condoms can be found for free in a public school nurses’ office, and any person with ten dollars can buy themselves spermicide. I have only stated mere facts, and yet they pretty much paint the picture.

Male contraceptives are finally being seriously researched in the forms of gels, injections and pills. On Monday March 25th this year, a male contraceptive pill, which is abbreviated to11-beta-MNTDC, ​was tried by the Endocrine Society for safety. Forty men between the ages of 18-50 years old participated in the trial. Thirty men were given the real pill, while ten were only given a placebo. There were “no serious adverse events” that occured, only lower testostrone levels in the men who took the pill, and a few who experienced some acne, fatigue, headaches, lower sex drive and mild erectile dysfunction. For the sake of comparison, most if not all female birth control side effects can include spotting/bleeding, nausea, headaches, acne, lower sex drive, diarrhea, weight loss or gain and of course, hormonal ups and downs.

An associate director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the Los Angeles

Biomedical Research Institute, Dr. Christina Wang, worked on a similar drug named DMAU that was also at the Endocrine Society last year. Since testosterone is the male reproductive hormone that also affects many other aspects of male body functioning. For birth control, tackling how testosterone triggers the testicals to produce sperm is obviously tricky. The next drug would lower men's testosterone levels in order to inhibit sperm production, but replicate how the hormone supports the other functions for the body. They found that general hormone levels dropped after a month on the drug, but actually stopping the production of sperm may take several months. Dr. Wang anticipates another ten years before we ever

see an oral male contraceptive for the public. Long term studies to make this possible and will take a lot of time, and a lot of money. The first FDA approved pill for females was released to the public October 29th, 1959, yet it’s 2019 and men have spermicide, condoms and the clip. Birth control is about the only thing women ever got first.

Not only did I want to explore the current state of male birth control, I wanted to address its social impact. Just a little while ago, a man I was seeing said to me, “Birth control. You might want to get on that. Condoms aren’t really my thing”. Assuming I was even going to sleep with him, he declared that it was my responsibility to ensure there would be no pregnancy since the options available to him were simply not preferable. Despite the seemingly obvious issue with women having the burden of responsibility in an act that takes two, it is a common preference held by many men. This preference isn’t “wrong” by any means, as any two or more consensual people may make the private arrangement to seek other options besides condoms between themselves and that’s fine. The issue with the overall concept is

that it places the responsibility 100% on women, as if it doesn’t take two to tango. Which, heads up, it does.

Having talked to a few men and doing some research, most men seem to agree with the

effectiveness that the male birth control pill could have, but are afraid of the ​image​. Taking a pill, which is associated by many with “the pill”, aka for women, isn’t macho enough for men’s sex practices. Practicality is the reality and if we shake off our insecurity, the logic is self sufficient. If one wants to have sex, without causing a pregnancy, then one ought to do what they can to prevent it. Changing the image of birth control into a normal day-to-day human right is another goal of feminism and acts as a benefit for men. Birth control is private personal business, and therefore is not the business of your bros.

Birth control is as normal as taking daily heart medication, which 60% of men in America already do. The actual pill may be a decade away, so in the meantime it's our responsibility to continue to normalize birth control, and make it more accessible to more women and men.

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