Female arousal and male contraception

When it comes to scientific sex research, these days everything's going our way.

Adrienne So
November 9, 2006 1:24AM (UTC)

It's getting better all the time: Yesterday the New York Times reported that an "easy, reversible method" of male contraception may soon be on the market. Sadly, the drug found to cause reversible infertility in mice, which we mentioned in Broadsheet last week, has proved ineffective. However, trials of a male hormonal contraceptive were recently completed with successful results, while in Louisiana this week doctors begin trials on a contraceptive implant device.

John Amory, an internist at the University of Washington, is optimistic regarding the imminence of a male contraceptive solution. "For a long time, researchers have been saying a contraceptive for men will just take another 5 to 10 years," he said. "But now I'm saying it with a twinkle in my eye."


And men are champing at the bit for contraceptive control. Elaine Lissner, director of the nonprofit Male Contraception Information Project in San Francisco, comments: "It used to be that men were content to let women take care of birth control. But men today, especially younger men, want more control over this." According to the National Center for Health Statistics, only 65 percent of the children fathered by American men were anticipated. Twenty-five percent were "mistimed" and a full nine 9 were unwanted.

On the other side of the playing field, CBS reported Monday on a new female-arousal patch that was developed in the U.K. The patch is called Scentuelle, and it contains a mix of chemicals designed to mimic dopamine, which is associated with feelings of infatuation in the brain. Scentuelle joins the ranks of other inhalable remedies that target the brain, rather than the bloodstream, in hopes of turning women on. And its mechanism is awfully simple: A woman affixes the transparent, stick-on patch to her wrist and inhales its aroma once an hour.

Clinical trials of the patch are underway. Jennifer Parks, a tester who tried the patch for a month, is enthusiastic, both about the patch's efficacy and its implications for women's sex lives. She found that the patch worked (though one researcher noted that the patch might provoke a placebo effect) and furthermore said that "it's something that a woman can do for herself to sort of take charge of her own sexuality."

First it was men in the kitchen and women in the office; now it's men on the pill and women on the prowl. Traditional relationship roles have gone down the flusher, and good riddance, I say. And while having women sniff flowers to get hot seems a little retro, as far as female-arousal options go the patch seems pretty innocuous. A splash of Chanel might have the same effect.

Adrienne So

Adrienne So is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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