Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Male Pill

Years ago a partner of mine suggested that if I were as serious about not having children as I say I am (I am), and if I were as serious about feminism as I say I am (I am), then I would go ahead and get a vascectomy. I looked into it, and found that the expense at the time was more than I could afford, being without health insurance. And yet, years later, when my health insurance would cover at least part of that operation, I hesitate. Why? Likely in part because I'm acting from a place of (perceived?) male privelege. That is: I can't get pregnant.

It's more complex than that, of course, but she had a point, really. I can, of course, always wear a condom, but when in a closed relationship of some sort, both partners might not want that if there are other options. Up until now, as far as what men can do, condoms and/or vascectomy were the only options. (This is leaving out the fact that not all sex is penis-in-vagina intercourse, which is an important fact.)

It's looking more and more like men will have more options soon regarding contraception, and I just don't see how that can be a bad thing, at the outset. The newest news I've read (be sure to check out the article, if only to see the cheesy stud-taking-a-pill picture) is that there may be the possibility of a new pill which keeps a man from ejaculating, and may even be taken just hours before sex, with the effects wearing off in a way that a hormonal-based pill can't. It's interesting to me that the article at least touches on conceptions gender-based inequality when it comes to contraception:
Experts believe it could transform family planning by allowing couples to share the responsibility for contraception - a role that traditionally falls to women.

The new contraceptive is likely to appeal to women who are uneasy about the female Pill's ability to raise the risk of strokes, heart attacks and potentially-fatal blood clots.

I like the way the article puts this, actually, because it points to the fact that, in the near future, the impetus for contraception may in fact be 'more' on the man than on the woman--perhaps not as regards consequnces, but as regards who ought to be taking the pill; if men have a simple, non-hormonal based option, then it seems like the responsibility will more fall upon them, given various potential health problems regarding the sorts of contraception choices women have.

And, all-in-all, it seems to me that, when it comes to contraception, more choices is always going to be good.

(This discussion also leaves to the side the fact that it has seemed more important to come up with a safe, easy, 'comfortable' male pill than it has been to come up with something similar for women; it may be that biology may limit these possibilities somewhat, but it's likely that sexism has played a role there too.)

(Hat tip to Feministing)

[[Update]]
Looks like Dave's intuitions were spot on, at least according to one article which quotes various doctors as being pessimistic about men wanting to use such a method of birth control:
"Whatever medication this is going to be, it's not going to influence the sperm," notes McGuire, citing the reported lack of hormones. "It's going to influence the ability of the sperm to get into the prostate to be released during ejaculation - and dry ejaculate is not preferable."

"Not a great idea," agrees Fisch. "The ejaculate coming forward is a significant part of a man's sexuality.


Although, I, too, wonder exactly how the pill may work--and, to get graphic, exactly what it would be like to orgasm without ejaculating--talk about 'the ejaculate coming forward is a significant part of a man's sexuality' cracks me up, and strikes me as one person's opinion that may not jive with the larger male population.
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