Are we closer to a pill for men?

Word on the street, okay in the New York Times, is that we are getting closer and closer to getting long-awaited male contraception:

Prompted by women’s organizations, global health groups and surveys indicating that men are receptive, federal agencies are financing research. Some methods will be presented at an October conference sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Male contraception is a critical area,” said Jenny Sorensen, a foundation spokeswoman. “It doesn’t make sense to not include everyone in the discussion.”

Srsly. What the heck has taken so long, one might reasonably ask? Elaine Tyler May has a great chapter on the history of science on the male pill in her book, America + the Pill. She writes:

The emphasis on women is embedded in the institutional frameworks of science, medicine, and pharmaceuticals. Both women and men think of reproduction in terms of women’s bodies and of birth control as women’s responsibility. The fact that hte medical profession generally considers reproduction a female concern has let to a scarcity of doctors trained in male reproduction medicine and a shortage of scientists interested in working on male contraception.

In other words, it’s not so much a problem of science as culture. Because we make reproduction a “woman’s issue,” fewer dollars, attention, and societal pressure get put in the direction of developing technologies that might help men share the load of contraception in more diverse ways. After all, women are supposed to be the responsible ones, right? The New York Times points to an underlying fear haunting the development of the male pill:

Of course, women may have to trust that their partners are using birth control, as men do now. But at least one method, hormone implants, visibly bulge from a man’s bicep. “Guys like it because they can show it off,” Dr. Amory said. “Proof that the male is contracepting.”

I can already hear the craptastic pick-up lines. Lordy.

So the question remains: if you’re the kind of gal who partners with men, would you trust them to take oral contraception responsibly or would you rather keep the pill in your court, so to speak?

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