Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Researchers developed a contraception pill for men. Finally. Only about 60-something years later than the hormone pill for women…- but at last, here we are.
In the state of Oregon (US), the Primate Research Centre has successfully tested a hormone-free pill on monkeys and it worked surprisingly well. The pill is supposed to slow down the sperm through the substance EP055, preventing the fertilization of the female egg. And in case the male client decides one day that he is now ready for kids, he can just stop the treatment and everything bounces back to normal after only three weeks. Sounds great, right?
But: I doubt that the pill for men will enter the free market anytime soon. For 20 years now, scientists and economists alike talk about developing and promoting long-term contraception methods for the male population. And with what result? Nothing. Still: nothing. I mean, obviously it’s great that researchers are (at least) trying and also succeeding in laboratories; and I really do not want to criticize them for being too slow - but when I read about the testing for a (well-functioning) hormonal pill that was cancelled in 2016 because patients were suffering from acne, mood swings and the loss of libido – you know, it’s really hard to not get angry, a bit. Because us women, we don’t know any of these side effects, of course. Because we’re always happy and horny rays of sunshine when we’re taking the pill.
In the same year, women shared their experiences with the anti-baby pill through the hashtag #mypillstory on twitter. Most side-effects probably sound familiar: depressions, weight gain, menstrual pain and a loss of libido. And still, who is taking care of contraception? Women. The German institution for public health consulting, Pro Familia, estimates that more than 70% of women aged 20-29 are using hormone-based birth control methods. Seems like a lot of side effects and tons of money for the pharmaceutical industry to me. From an economic perspective it’s clear: where there is demand, there is supply. And who demands birth control? Women. Because, you guessed it, it’s a woman’s thing. Or did you ever witness a table full of guys discussing how they contracept? I didn’t.
But, fair enough, why would they even discuss it? Because it’s so nice to have all these side-effects – and also to pay for them monthly (since contraception pills are not paid by the state or health insurances)? I don’t think so. And anyways, us women – we’re already taking the pill, right? Even if they would find a long-term, hormone-free and well-working solution for male contraception – I doubt that it will be successful on the market. Because still, it would cost energy, money, time, patience and the strong desire of men to participate in a not very favorable practice. And this is the important point here, I don’t think it’s only about research, but rather about gender-specific expectations. If my partner was already taking the pill to avoid getting me pregnant – be assured I would not voluntarily want to be involved more. Why would I?
Let’s do an experiment: imagine your partner was taking care of contraception now for years. For both of you, this means liberated sex whenever and wherever, no fear of pregnancies and on top of that, you have a free choice of additional – but not necessary – contraception to use. Great! But unfortunately, your partner – let’s call him Alex – is now suffering from acne, cries more often, doesn’t really want to have sex anymore, and has gotten a little “thicker” since you started dating. Oh. And suddenly, it wasn’t so great anymore. Does this not sound completely absurd to you? Even if Alex would not suffer from any side effects – it would be his duty anyways to take care of it and pay for it too. A brave new world, isn’t it?
I don’t think so. Because, let’s be honest: it is not the job of only certain parts of the population to think about contraception. It takes two people to have heterosexual intercourse. In a situation where the woman may become pregnant, why does the responsibility fall on her to prevent it in the first place? So. Let me break it down for you. Only when men and women – both! – come to the conclusion that contraception is not necessarily or naturally a woman’s duty, this thing can change. Change means discussion. It means confrontation; and that’s not always easy or comfortable. But most likely, it is exactly what we need: discussions with our partner(s) to clarify, that contraception involves both (all) partners.
How cool would it be to have free choice when it comes to birth control methods? When it would not be women asking: how do I do that? But instead couples asking: who is going to do it – and how can we do it together? Let’s speak up, now: contraception is not a woman’s duty. Let’s re-think. Let’s discuss. And maybe in a couple of years we will be able to teach girls and boys that pregnancies and contraception involve responsibility from both partners.
Zeit Online Magazine (2017): https://www.zeit.de/kultur/2017-04/hormonelle-verhuetung-antibabypille-mann- nebenwirkungen-10nach8
Pro Familia Website: https://www.profamilia.de/pro-familia/der-verband.html
Spektrum Magazine (2006): https://www.spektrum.de/news/hormonelle-verhuetung-fuer-den-mann/840724
drawing by fruzsolino