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RJ Tech Talk: Male Contraceptive Pill

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November 12, 2014

Hooray! Male birth control will be available by 2017.

What is male birth control?

The Parsemus Foundation, a company that works on making healthcare affordable, is working on developing Valgasel: a pill made for men that will prevent contraception from happening. Luckily for you, guys, this is not a hormonal method! It targets a physical mechanism that targets the sperms little tiny tails and stops them from swimming. Also, the process if reversible and sperm will completely viable once again. As with any form of contraceptive pill, a barrier method will also be required to prevent transferring STIs between partners.

What happens inside of bodies that take Valgasel? When sperm are created and stored in the testis (aka balls), and when they make there way from their storage center to exit the penis via ejacualtion they have to pass through a really tightly coiled tube called the epididymis. This coily tube has two types of proteins in it that activate sperm tails and get them to swim. Scientists have developed a way to block the protein receptors that activate the mobility of the tails, therefore stopping them from swimming as well and making semen infertile.

Benefits:

Right now male-bodied people have five methods of birth control: condoms, outercourse, vasectomy, withdrawal, and abstinence. Female-bodied people have at least twenty. Up until now, most of the responsibility for preventing pregnancy has fallen on female-bodied people. But, the appearance of male birth control on the market would definitely be an indicator of progress.

It’s also awesome because it isn’t hormonal, and some people have negative side effects when taking hormones to prevent pregnancy. AND people with male physiology will only have to take it once to prevent sperm from being active swimmers for an extended period of time.

Controversy:

Gender roles and structures of dominance could play out in both negative and positive ways, when these technologies are developed. Who is going to have access to this stuff? Contraceptive coverage is not as protected as it once was before the wonderful Hobby Lobby dilemma this summer.

It is interesting to think about gender dynamics and their relation to male-birth control. Because people with male reproductive tracts aren’t yet able to carry a child for nine-months (See: Artificial Wombs), when Valgasel is released female bodies will still be the ones that have to be altered over an extended period of time to make a baby. Would the blame and stigma against female-bodied individuals who take birth control and develop unplanned pregnancies change in the case of a male-bodied person on Valgasel? When male-birth control pills are released, a different level of trust and a new dialogue between partners will be have to happen than currently exists with female-bodied hormonal contraception.

People who have a uterus have historically been the ones with the burden of making sex safe and prevent pregnancy. We’ve had to inject ourselves with hormones, get procedures in hospitals and clinics, scheduled aside specific times to make sure we eat our pills. Guys just have to show up. This stuff could and will be totally revolutionary.

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