Like a lot of unchaste women, I take birth control every day. I do this because, as an underemployed person, I am not interested in housing a baby Meags in my Meags-parts. It sure would make my life easier if my man-friend-for-life had to shoulder some of the burden in this scenario. But, as is painfully obvious to most women when considering their reproductive options, reliable contraceptive options for our male counterparts are limited to a vasectomy or the ol’ not-so-trusty condom.
Why is that? Is it because gentlemen are too busy making all of our business deals and playing all of the holes of golf? Haha, no, it’s for the normal reason that pharmaceutical companies don’t want to do anything unless it nets one quazadrillion bucks. Thanks, gang!
According to Jalees Rehman, a physician at the University of Illinois at Chicago, there are two forms male birth control might take: a hormonal or non-hormonal method. Either approach would be a game-changer for women who can't take oral contraceptives or use IUDs due to potentially fatal side effects. Sorry gals, the profit margin just isn't sizable enough for the pharmaceutical industry to care. Hormonal methods of male birth control have been largely abandoned, due to questions of efficacy, safety, and yes, lack of profit. But Dr. Rehman argues that the efficacy and safety issues could be addressed with better clinical trials, which the pharmaceutical companies won’t sponsor due to fears of efficacy and safety. “We have reached an impasse,” Dr. Rehman says.
As far as a non-hormonal approach, a doctor in India has developed “reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance” or “RISUG.” RISUG is an affordable chemical vasectomy that works by, and I’m paraphrasing here, injecting something into something else and then some science happens and the sperm doesn’t impregnate anyone. The non-profit foundation that obtained the rights to the RISUG approach is pursuing clinical trials here in the US, but it’s uncertain whether the method will be generally or widely available after that. This is mostly because RISUG doesn’t stand to make much money. RISUG is made from inexpensive materials, and one injection is effective for a number of years—not particularly attractive to the pharmaceutical industry.
Okay, fine. Capitalism strikes again. But can someone explain “low T” to me then? “Low T” is apparently some devastating drop in testosterone that causes men to, according to the commercials, suffer from low energy and get the sads in their Johnsons. Depressed wieners cause the men in the commercials to lose interest in birthday cake and long road trips with their wives. This is clearly a serious medical problem, because only a diseased person would want to skip a road trip on a dusty-ass country road! Fortunately, there’s a cure. All the gloomy-penised men have to do is rub the Low T gel in their armpits and, like magic, they are invigorated! Impressive use of scientific endeavor. Give Low T all the money immediately.
The only problem with this is it’s a solution to a problem no one’s having. Low T is barely even a real disease. The pharmaceutical companies that developed the gel would have you believe that Low T is as predictable and inevitable as menopause, but it’s not. Less than one percent of men in their forties, fifties, and sixties suffer from it. Unsurprisingly, the ads for Low T gel seriously downplay the side effects—not just for the men who rub it all up in their pits, but for anyone who might find themselves in the proximity of said pits. Low T gel is known for the ease with which it transfers to other people and things. Exposure to the gel has been shown to cause facial hair growth and deepened voices in women, not to mention early puberty in children. Just so like, seven crusty ding-a-lings can feel more vibrant as they age?
Why has this weird testosterone stick taken priority over a male contraceptive? As a lazy and forgetful person, I would love it if Big Pharma could help a sister out by exploring RISUG or a hormonal option for the fellas. I’m not the only one—Dr. Rehman notes an international study that showed that the majority of women surveyed support a “male pill” and thought their partners would use one. A subsequent study also showed that the majority of men surveyed in Spain, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, and Sweden were willing to use a male contraceptive. (American dudes were not completely sold—only 49% were interested. Sexists.)
So, we have a drug that people actually want and need versus a drug with no real market that exists only to assuage mens' fears of aging and becoming impotent. It seems like the money might be better spent on the former, but what do I know? I am not some dark pharmaceutical overlord. Maybe it makes more sense to keep rubbing a needless creep-gel all over our ancient bodies in the hopes of being more virile elderlies. I'm sure our bearded, pubescent infants will understand.
Meagan Hatcher-Mays is a recent graduate of Washington University Law School in Saint Louis. She does a significant amount of yelling on Twitter.