As of now, if you would like to do all of the sex things with someone of the opposite gender without yielding a squalling newborn, you basically have two non-permanent options: you can use condoms, or the woman can take care of it (via birth control pills, an IUD, a diaphragm, etc.). As a woman who uses contraception, you're responsible for obtaining it, making sure it ends up inside of you, not losing it, not forgetting about it, and so on — meanwhile, the men with whom you fornicate get to sit on the couch eating Fritos without a care in the world. Very unfair.
Preventing unwanted and unplanned pregnancies is hugely important for both men and women — so why do we think that it should be women's sole responsibility to take care of any non-condom business? At the present moment, research for male birth control is 50 years behind research on female contraception. 50 years! That's two Rihanna-lifes of time. According to the National Institutes of Health, that difference isn't the result of the complexity of suppressing male fertility — it's due "to social and economic/commercial constraints." We tend to not think developing reliable male birth control is important, and birth control research isn't as well-funded as other types of clinical trials.
According to a recent article on RH Reality Check, however, the horizon is swarming with promising possibilities, all of which are in various states of research. It's great news! Here are some of the most interesting/auspicious options-in-development:
"The Clean Sheets Pill." My mouth dropped when I read about this and I emitted a low moan of "whaaaaat...", which is, I think, entirely appropriate. Researchers are currently working on developing a pill that relaxes those muscles in the vas deferens that normally propel semen out. According to Techcitement:
It’s affectionately dubbed the “clean sheets” pill due to the fact that it inhibits release of any semen whatsoever by relaxing the longitudinal muscles of the Wolffian duct system while still permitting the circular muscles to contract, resulting in a sphincter action of the circular muscles on the lax longitudinal ones so they clamp down on the tubes carrying sperm and semen. Because all fluids are stopped before emission, that means they remain where they are (no retrograde ejaculation into the bladder, etc) and are recycled by the body as naturally as in total abstinence.
The "clean sheets" pill doesn't diminish pleasure or the sensation of orgasm: all it does is prevent ejaculation. All the sex, none of the mess! For obvious reasons, its been lauded as a very good method of preventing the transmission of STDs, especially HIV — unfortunately, though, the research is woefully underfunded and has been halted for 6 years.
RISUG. RISUG stands for "reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance"; it's a process in which a liquid polymer is injected into the vas deferens, coating the walls. Sperm passing through the vas deferens is rendered completely unable to penetrate an ovum. Currently, trials are underway in India, but the process is slow due to a paucity of volunteers.
Vasalgel is very similar to RISUG, but it's being tested in America (on rabbits) instead of in India. Clinical trials are set to start in 2014.
Testosterone and progestin. When absorbed through the skin, testosterone reduces sperm production but doesn't halt it entirely. When taken in concert with progestin, however, it effectively suppresses sperm concentration in nearly 90 percent of men. Currently, researchers are exploring the best combination of the two.
You can read about the rest of the male birth control possibilities being researched and developed here. Seriously, it's about damn time.
"Better Birth Control For Men: 8 Possibilities" [RH Reality Check]
Image via Kim Reineck/Shutterstock.