Will there be long-term male birth control by 2017?

anti spermConsidering that “the joke in the field is: The male pill’s been five to 10 years away for the last 30 years,” I’m not holding by breath. But apparently Vasalgel, a long-term reversible form of birth control that blocks sperm after a single injection, is entering human trials and could hit the market by 2017.

At The Daily Beast, Samantha Allen touches on some the barriers to birth control innovations like these. Long-term treatments like Vasalgel often don’t get much funding in a pharmaceutical industry that maximizes profits by selling us uterus-having folks hormonal birth control that must be taken regularly. “Why sell a flat-screen television to a man, after all, when you can rent one to woman for a decade?” Indeed, Allen writes, “the medical industry’s investment in the multibillion-dollar female birth control industry might block men’s access to male birth control just as effectively as Vasalgel would block their sperm.” 

This is too bad for all of us. Despite the fact that birth control is big business, as Ann complained in 2011, we don’t actually have very many great options to choose from — particularly non-hormonal ones. While the pill, patch, IUD, etc. work great for many folks — and clearly the invention of the pill transformed women’s lives and the entire culture for the better — there’s no denying that, pretty much inevitably, hormonal birth control often has shitty side effects. “Interrupting ovulation and fertilization is a complex process that requires a degree of hormonal regulation, often impacting other areas of a woman’s health,” Allen explains. But Vasalgel — unlike a different anti-sperm gel we discussed a couple years ago — works without messing with testosterone.

I’m all in favor of more contraceptive options, and I suppose time will tell how many women would be comfortable trusting their male partners to take primary responsibility for contraception — though it seems like many of us are already trusting them with the riskier pullout method. And, like Allen, I’m suuuuper curious to see how this would change the politics of birth control. Would conservatives continue to see birth control as the root of all social ills if regulating it required interfering with men’s access instead? Perhaps we’ll find out in 5-10 years — or even three!

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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