Sex Will Be More Fun and Equitable, Thanks to Widely Accepted Male Birth Control
Four experts on how male contraception will rewrite the script on reproductive planning and responsibility.
The journey to create accessible birth control for men has faced considerable roadblocks. Despite efforts to develop a contraceptive pill for this group starting in the late 50s, various international trials have failed to pass safety reviews.
Myths about male contraception, such as that men won't use birth control and that women won't trust them to take it, studies show are untrue and outdated.
As more of the scientific community rallies together to make a safe and effective new form of birth control, we reached out to experts to learn what they think could be the most exciting possibility of such an innovation.
Heather Vahdat, Executive Director of Male Contraceptive Initiative:
“One of the most exciting possibilities (there are many) is the potential to breathe new life into sex education programs. One of the most consistent stories we hear from individuals is how poor their sex ed experiences were.
“What has been most surprising to me is how globally consistent the complaints are! We always hear a variation on the theme of boys and girls being separated, told vague and sometimes scary threats of what will happen if you have sex, and, finally, a condom demonstration that changes the way we all look at a certain fruit or vegetable a while.
“With more male contraceptive options, the script will have to be rewritten, allowing for the inclusion of themes related to shared responsibility for planning reproductive outcomes. This, in turn, will set future generations off on the right foot with respect to understanding that protection from an unintended pregnancy is not only the right and responsibility of women, supporting our continued evolution toward a more gender-equitable society.”
Lisa Campo-Engelstein, Director of the Institute for Bioethics & Health Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch:
“New male contraceptives are exciting because they would benefit not just men, but everyone. Men currently only have two options for contraception—vasectomy and condoms. Vasectomy is a permanent method that limits future reproduction. Condoms can interfere with the sexual experience and have a high failure rate in actual use, especially compared to women's hormonal methods.
“Without good options, it is more difficult for men to control their fertility and they must often rely on their female partner to use contraception. But it’s not fair for women to saddled with the burdens of contraception. New male contraceptives would benefit both women and men by allowing heterosexual, cisgender partners to share contraceptive responsibility. And not worrying about unintended pregnancy makes sex more fun!”
Dr. Logan Nickels, Research Director at Male Contraceptive Initiative:
“The most exciting piece of the whole picture lies within how people engage with each other about sex and sexual responsibility. There are other parts of male contraception that are compelling, like the potential for on-demand contraceptives, or products that are akin to vasectomy and offer years of protection or even the potential for unisex contraceptives.
“But what I'm really thrilled about is that this brings men into the fold in a way that truly gives them a stake in the game. Once a new male contraceptive is released, it will give couples the ability to talk about their options together in a meaningful way, and choose a contraceptive option that makes sense for them together, rather than the female partner feeling pressured to pick from a wide but still imperfect set of products.
“I'm hopeful that these conversations lead to men being more engaged in not only their own sexual and reproductive health, but their partners as well, which ultimately can foster better trust and communication between partners.”
Bridgette Engeler, Futurist and Senior Lecturer in Strategic Design, Foresight, Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Swinburne University:
“What’s most exciting about male contraception? It's the accompanying cultural change.
“Assuming that in a hypothetical near future, male contraception is cheap, safe, and accessible—and profit-producing for large manufacturers—then it’s also fair to assume that women can trust the men they are sexually intimate with to be responsible for controlling their own (men’s) fertility.
“And male contraception might just grant agency to those who think fatherhood could be coerced onto them.
“According to Dr. Gordon Campbell of Swinburne University, a significant consideration for men is the need to protect their sex partners and loved ones, and their self-evaluation in addition to their own health.
“This means that the moral norm for many men is to behave altruistically and this will ultimately influence the choices and decisions many men make.”
The above response is an excerpt from a longer article penned by Engeler, which pinpoints human behavior as a critical factor in determining the success of new contraceptive methods.
Image sources: Marco Verch