Progress on the male pill

Hurray for contraception! But will men take a pill that prevents ejaculation?

Topics: Broadsheet, Health, Love and Sex,

After a slew of recent attempts by researchers around the world, scientists in Britain may have hit the right formula for a male contraceptive pill. On Monday, the BBC reported that researchers at London’s King’s College are at work on a male birth control pill that would combine medicines currently used to treat high blood pressure and schizophrenia. When taken a few hours before intercourse, the pill would keep the longitudinal muscle in a man’s vas deferens from contracting, according to the BBC, and effectively prevent ejaculation. Scientists predict such a pill could be on the market in four to five years.

Here’s what we think: Fabulous! An opportunity for the responsibility of birth control to be in the guy’s hands, without the excuse of “It just feels better without a condom, baby.” And this method doesn’t involve any invasive-sounding silicone plugs, either. Researchers say this birth control cocktail wouldn’t impact the sensations of arousal and orgasm; men on the pill just wouldn’t release sperm. (It’s worth noting that the pill may have side effects including dizziness and drowsiness, which don’t exactly sound like a recipe for hot lovin’.)

But this development raises the question of whether men will be clamoring at the pharmacy door for a drug that will deprive them of physical evidence of their sexual prowess. Even when a man has a vasectomy and is shooting blanks, he’s still shooting. Could the lack of ejaculation turn men off to this innovation? And if they are willing to take the pill, will it change the dynamics of sex? Imagine a world where men could fake orgasms, or where their partners wouldn’t face the swallowing dilemma. Could the “dry orgasm” alter sex as we know it?

Even if the new pill tweaks things a little, the absence of sperm seems a small price to pay for a successful form of male birth control — especially a nonhormonal version that lasts just 24 hours and doesn’t screw with men’s future fertility. (In this regard, the male pill sounds better than hormonal birth control options for women, which require a long-term commitment.) Still, ABC News reports that only 55 percent of men polled said they’d be willing to take a contraceptive pill. That’s not an overwhelming number. (For context, while 89 percent of fertile, sexually active women are estimated to practice birth control, only about 31 percent use birth control pills, while around 10 percent rely on contraceptive injections, implants, patches, IUDs, diaphragms, sponges, cervical caps or female condoms. The rest use male condoms, practice withdrawal or natural family planning or rely on tubal ligation or a partner’s vasectomy.) Here’s hoping that egos won’t get in the way of a potential step toward leveling the contraception playing field.

Nona Willis Aronowitz is a journalist, Roosevelt Institute Pipeline fellow, and co-founder of Tomorrow magazine.

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