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Are we ready for the male pill?

In a world where sex seems increasingly easy to get, women still shoulder the burden of making sure the ‘babies stay at bay.’ However, a new male pill is set to hit the shelves in 2017 and change the sex and contraceptive game forever. How ready are we societally for men to shoulder some of the contraceptive burden?

Condoms or a vasectomy. These used to be the main forms of birth control open to men, along with other, lesser options, like pulling out or the ‘let me just put it in for a second’ charade.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, women are blessed with such treasures as the female condom (some types of which have to be put in eight hours beforehand), the copper coil (which is probably as scary as it sounds), the diaphragm, the patch, the shot, implants and, of course, the pill.

We have a long history of stuffing everything from sponges to herbs up there, in order to keep babies at bay. The moral of the story being birth control has always been firmly placed within the realm of female responsibility.

Basically, the rhetoric is ‘ladies, handle that birth control.’

However, the balance of responsibility may soon change as Vasagel is set to hit the shelves in 2017 and would be the first approved male contraceptive since the condom. It is a polymer gel injected into the vas deferens, rather than cutting the vas, which is what happens in a vasectomy. 

This ‘male pill’ has been invented 52 years after the female pill and a millennia after men have been trying to give most passing people a little more than a friendly handshake. The issue is, as one psychologist pointed out, that men may be adverse to wanting to engage with birth control beyond the, ‘it will only be in for a second’ and ‘double bagging methods.

Of course with any new technology there are some social barriers; certain concerns that could keep people giving a product the societal side eye. One of these concerns is the effect of contraceptives on women, and what a similar product would do to men.

Many a horror story has been told about how the pill has the ability to turn someone from a fairy-tale princess into the wicked witch of the East; how it can destroy your sex drive or make you want to cry because the office has run out of sugar. It can even go as far as inducing early menopause. One person spoke of being unable to eat or breath whilst on a particularly bad one. There are many who have had extremely adverse reactions to the pill, to such an extent that they would not wish that on their male partners.

Men too share these concerns, as one male respondent said they would take it after a few years, when they were sure it was safe, because they were one of those ‘version 2.0 peeps’. 

Image: WebMD
Image: WebMD

The novel nature of the pill may have many men potentially sidestepping it, as they harbour fears of ‘what if my dick falls off’ and other gruesome scenarios. Some of these concerns are understandable, as Vasagel is injected under local anaesthetic into a man’s sperm-carrying tubes.

However, according to reports, some of the worst side effects of the pill have been mitigated in the male pill.

Despite having the technology to send men to the moon, developers of contraceptives have only now managed to make the male contraceptive pill have no hormonal side effects. This is possibly because they knew that if men caught on that condomless sex also meant having a small cry every time someone commented about the Arsenal loss on your Facebook status, this would tank the market.

Outside pf physiological concerns, there are the sociological ones of taking responsibility for the act of sex. Many women feel that it is time that men took some heat off them in terms of this, ’keeping the baby at bay’ business. However, this was coupled with a concern as to whether men could really shoulder this responsibility. Could they be trusted to be as committed to the birth control regime? Many, especially those in long term relationships, were skeptical.

The argument was this: men do not carry the child, therefore they may not take the act of contraception as seriously as a woman would.

For anyone who has taken the pill, you know it is not joke. Certain pills must be taken on certain days and many of these pills must be taken at the same time everyday. It does not matter whether you are deep sea diving, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or walking briskly through the CBD, tablets must be taken. I have witnessed people sneaking out of conferences to go find water to wash that sucker down.

Much as some men would protest that they can do it, one man stated that the truth was, ‘men are not good pill takers; even finishing a Malaria dose is a problem.’

Women, rightly so, harbour some fear that the men will not take this dance of the deadlines seriously, as they do not have to directly deal with the consequences of bearing children. This is one of the major problems within society in terms of child rearing, because from the onset the onus of having or not having children lies primarily with the woman, thus the raising of the child either falls mostly or fully to her, with dads getting the ability to either be ‘fun’ secondary parents or absent all together.

Image: The Health Education Council
Image: The Health Education Council

No sir, looking after your own child for the afternoon is not called ‘babysitting;’ you are not a stranger.

Men have been left out of the sexual reproductive rights conversation for so long that they barely speak the language. This may be a way of drawing them in.

And they need to join it.

There are men out there who break into a cold sweat at the thought of a woman being pregnant, so much so that they sit and stare a woman down who has taken the morning after pill, making sure that she doesn’t throw it up. As one man put it, he would take it because ‘his fear of babies is the worst’.

As one person put it, ‘men need to start taking responsibility for their sperm’.

Sex is fantastic, and clearly none of us is willing to give it up. With there being so many ways to find long and short term hookups, we may need to all start taking responsibility for the way the sexual act happens. Times are moving forward and we should move with them. Although the male pill is 50 years late, at least it is now here and we can all make sure that Jr. is not coming too early.

Women do not lie by themselves when they are having sex, unless it is masturbation, and that is a whole different story.

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