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Why No Birth Control Pill For Men?

Why No Birth Control Pill For Men?

Two weeks ago, Care2 blogger Ann Pietrangelo wrote an excellent post looking back over the history of the birth control pill, which was approved by the FDA in 1960.  The fiftieth anniversary of the pill has sparked many new retrospective looks at the way that the pill changed women’s lives – although, as Ann points out, it’s difficult to know what was caused by the pill and what was simply happening at the same time.

One question still remains, though: where is the male birth control pill?  Elizabeth Landau explores this issue in an article published today on CNN, although it’s definitely not a new issue – as Dr. John Amory, a researcher, points out, “The joke in the field is: The male pill’s been five to 10 years away for the last 30 years.”  In researching this post, I stumbled upon several articles promising new and exciting leads – all of which seem to be duds.  Landau points out that developing a male pill is more challenging because men produce far more sperm than women do eggs, and men have no periods where they shut off sperm production.  Hormonal injections, though, seem to work, and certainly, we could be researching this more heavily.

Which leads us into a different realm, one that has less to do with science and more to do with demand.  Landau quotes Andrea Tone, a professor at McGill, who points out that contraceptive gels and injections for men “could be very effective in preventing pregnancy, but if there isn’t a clear market for it, companies understandably are a little reluctant to invest heavily in it.”  She also points out that women may mistrust men’s ability to take a pill consistently, although this may be a myth (studies have shown that most women don’t have this fear).

I think there may be another issue that Landau isn’t mentioning, though.  A few days ago, I stumbled upon a post on Jezebel declaring that hormonal birth control for women does reduce sexual desire.  According to the post, “Researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Germany studied 1,086 women, and found that those taking hormonal contraceptives were at higher risk of sexual dysfunction than those using non-hormonal or no birth control.” 

This included other forms of birth control than the pill, but reveals a risk that may be much more threatening to men than to women – impotence.  It’s still socially acceptable (even though perhaps not desirable) for women to have low sexual drives, but for men, virility is still closely tied to masculinity.  There would be zero demand for a contraceptive that would threaten male sexual performance or desire.

It doesn’t really seem fair, though.  Innumerable women can attest that the pill does not do good things for their sex drive, but we have few non-hormonal options.  So instead of giving up on the male pill, maybe we should be thinking about hormonal birth control as a contraceptive, instead of period control (which is how the pill is often marketed), which would lead us to the obvious conclusion that maybe women don’t like its side effects either.  Would that require a dramatic revision in the way that pharmaceutical companies advertise the pill?  Yes.  Would it require companies to admit that people – gasp – use the pill because they’re having sex?  Absolutely.  But would it help us get rid of some of the hang-ups that are preventing a male pill from being adequately researched?  Maybe so.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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138 comments

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7:10PM PST on Feb 21, 2012

My God ! The (male end) GOP, or Obama, much less the rest of the males in the White House have NOT grasped that women are the recievers of (thier) male sperm !! We are incapable of producing without a man !!! NO DUHHHH, OBAMA AND YOU GUYS IN THE GOP, YOU HAVE NOT ENOUGH SENSE OR BRAINS TO FIGURE THIS SIMPLE THING OUT ? AND YOU MEN ARE RUNNING THIS GOVERMENT !!! I say that reply73@yahoo.com is correct and that castration is in DESPARATE NEED !! Hey !! I have a pair of scissors and a knife, and I CAN GET castrator bands too !! A nation of geldings amoung the mares, with available stallions under age 30, would defimately make society safer and drastically slow down rapid global warming !! These guys just do NOT want to be responsible with thier penises !!!

7:36PM PDT on Jul 11, 2010

It disgusts me to constantly see all these ED and Viagra commercials and yet nothing is ever said about drugs that would prevent pregnancy that a man could take. We are so far behind in the times. It's not fair for the woman to have to assume all the responsibility of having to try and prevent the pregnancy. Yes, men do have condoms, but combined with a pill, perhaps there would be a lot fewer unwanted births in the US.

4:51PM PDT on Jun 1, 2010

maybe I do a little. You've been so nice and warm on the kilt forum. Thanks

1:52PM PDT on May 18, 2010

Jack, not that I care what you think of me, but so that you will know if your head has enough room, there was a computer glitch that reposted my comment. I wouldn't waste the time to post the exact same thing to you twice.

1:49PM PDT on May 18, 2010

I actually thought you were going to be civilized, Jack. I made a mistake and admitted it to Nellie. What is your interest in it?

I applaud your ability to capitalize on an opportunity ....to rub my nose a situation where I was woman enough to admit I was wrong. Being married to a soldier, I've learned that tactics like that are simply desperate acts of someone who has no real leg to stand on.

The truth is you didn't like my exposing your attitude as a form of birth control and you are simply retaliating. Fine You just proved to the forum exactly what I've said all along -- you are irresponsible and you have a horrible attitude about women. Your wife must be an angel to commit her life to a man who degrades women and laughs it off. I couldn't do it. I need a real man.

Luckily, I found him and married him. I am truly happy with my life, and for that you call me smug. Jealous people often attack those they secretly wish they were like.

Bottom line: I find you, your sarcastic remarks, and your opportunistic attacks on me to be immature and inappropriate on this forum.

As for your response to my comment about the sex drive being the most powerful drive humans have, I would like to see you try to control yours, and your disgusting comments and speak respectfully on this forum or get off it.

I never disrespected you. I asked real questions.I answered your sarcasm respectfully. Suggesting I'm crazy is inappropriate. You're lucky I don't flag you.

1:45PM PDT on May 18, 2010

I actually thought you were going to be civilized, Jack. I made a mistake and admitted it to Nellie. What is your interest in it?

I applaud your ability to capitalize on an opportunity ....to rub my nose a situation where I was woman enough to admit I was wrong. Being married to a soldier, I've learned that tactics like that are simply desperate acts of someone who has no real leg to stand on.

The truth is you didn't like my exposing your attitude as a form of birth control and you are simply retaliating. Fine You just proved to the forum exactly what I've said all along -- you are irresponsible and you have a horrible attitude about women. Your wife must be an angel to commit her life to a man who degrades women and laughs it off. I couldn't do it. I need a real man.

Luckily, I found him and married him. I am truly happy with my life, and for that you call me smug. Jealous people often attack those they secretly wish they were like.

Bottom line: I find you, your sarcastic remarks, and your opportunistic attacks on me to be immature and inappropriate on this forum.

As for your response to my comment about the sex drive being the most powerful drive humans have, I would like to see you try to control yours, and your disgusting comments and speak respectfully on this forum or get off it.

I never disrespected you. I asked real questions.I answered your sarcasm respectfully. Suggesting I'm crazy is inappropriate. You're lucky I don't flag you.

12:28PM PDT on May 18, 2010

Jen: " This is truly the most powerful drive we as people have. It is real. It is powerful. It is real powerful........
Sorry, Nellie, I got carried away......."

Jeez! I think you have a real problem with your real powerful drive there, Jen! Have you consulted a therapist for help?

4:29PM PDT on May 17, 2010

Sorry, Nellie, I got carried away. I started the post to you and then began to talk to everyone. Please forgive me.

4:27PM PDT on May 17, 2010

Nellie, maybe someday,something will work. I hope, because I think both males and females are responsible for what they do with their bodies and the outcomes. It is not fair to blame one or the other, nor is it fair to simply say "abstain" or "keep your legs crossed and your zipper up" This is truly the most powerful drive we as people have. It is real. It is powerful. It is real powerful....

4:23PM PDT on May 17, 2010

Thank you, Jack. Maybe you can also give in about blaming women and stating that women alone should bear all the possible outcomes of sex? That's what started this.

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