Whore Pills for Men: The Contraceptive Dream That May Actually Come True

Illustration for article titled Whore Pills for Men: The Contraceptive Dream That May Actually Come True

Women have long had the honor of being the only ones with birth control pills available to them, but new research suggests this could soon be changing. Two new studies have just come out which make non-hormonal contraception for men look like it could be a real thing someday soonish — and we might even be able to treat certain kinds of male infertility while we're at it. We'd better start brainstorming some fun nicknames for this drug, since "whore pills" is already taken.

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The first of the studies was conducted by Lee Smith of the University of Edinburgh. His team used drugs to alter various genes in mice, and then they identified which of the mice ended up being infertile. They looked at which genes had been modified in those mice and examined the effect they had on sperm development. They were able to pinpoint one gene specifically, called Katnal1, which plays an important role in sperm formation. If the protein it makes is not present, the mouse's sperm doesn't mature in the testes and won't be able to fertilize eggs. Basically, you end up with a bunch of immature sperm running around with no idea what to do.

So, you can see where this is leading. They suspect this same gene may be at work in humans, and if they can find drug that turns it on and off, then they might be able to a) cure any infertility that results from the gene not working and b) create a temporary form of non-hormonal birth control for men. Oh, no big deal. Ha. Of course if they could do that, the entire human population would freak the hell out because FINALLY it would be men who had to remember to take their pills every day, etc. There's also talk of being able to use gene therapy to turn the gene off forever, a kind of genetic vasectomy, but that seems like the least pressing of the issues, since the regular "snip snip" vasectomies are probably much easier than trying to manipulate people's DNA.

As promising as Katnal1 sounds, there are doubtless other genes which also play a role and could be modified. Identifying some of them was the goal of a second study, led by researcher Carole Ober of the University of Chicago, which cast a wide net looking for all possible genetic areas that affect male fertility. The study started by looking at the Hutterites, a religious group that lives in colonies sort of like the Amish. The Hutterites aren't allowed to use any contraception, and they prefer very large families—that's lucky since that's where using no birth control often leads… Anyway, they studied Hutterite men who had one or more children and looked at family size and birth rate. They were able to pinpoint more than 40 genetic regions that influenced fertility in these men. They then compared this with another sample of men in Chicago, and nine of the regions matched up. So, now there are some general areas on which to focus further research, similar to what Smith has already been doing with Katnal1.

As glorious as all of this genetic birth control sounds, Smith admits it will be "relatively difficult" to accomplish. Still, he estimates that treatment for gene-based infertility could be here within five to ten years, and a "genetic vasectomy" could be available within the same time frame. It's safe to say that a large percentage of humanity is gently urging them to figure this out ASAP. The sooner men have their own version of whore pills the better off we'll all be—and just think how much fun it's going to be to watch male politicians rush to provide these pills free of charge to every man in the country without even calling them sluts first.

Infertility Genes Could Lead to Male Contraception [LiveScience]
Male contraceptive pill hopes after gene discovery [Telegraph]

Image via Peteri/Shutterstock.

DISCUSSION

This is awesome - it'd finally be nice to have complete control over my reproductive rights. And it'll be interesting to see the new dynamic this brings to relationships and marriages; no more "oopsies" with the birth control pills that lead to "accidental" pregnancies.

And it will be nice to have a backup to a pretty unreliable birth control method so I can stop being so damn worried about whether the thing is still on, paranoid about it failing, etc.

Hey: put that pitchfork down, and hear me out. We have ZERO rights over our sperm.

PUT. THE. PITCHFORK. DOWN. AND. LISTEN. Seriously: if you're tired of bein' mansplained to, I'm tired of all the womansplaining - dismissing MY reproductive rights.

Men have been raped and then forced to pay child support; in one case, the guy was passed-out drunk on the couch and the woman bragged about it after the fact. There was a man who had sex with woman, used a condom, threw the condom away, then she fetched the condom and emptied it into herself and become pregnant. I'm not making any of this up - in both cases, the women admitted to it, and in both cases, they sought (and received) child support via court rulings that were appealed by the men and the men lost.

Recently in my state, there was a case where a woman blackmailed a guy into giving her his banked sperm; if he didn't do it, she was going to turn him in to INS. So he agreed, and his lawyer drafted a contract which said that if she accepted the sperm she agreed not to pursue child support.

She gets pregnant, has the child, and promptly goes after him for child support. It goes to the state supreme court, and the state supreme court says "aww, too bad. That contract and the fact that she blackmailed you for your reproductive material, and you gave it to her under duress? Doesn't matter. Still your child, so pay up for the next 20 years."

Condoms suck, and for more than a few reasons. No, it's not just us being whiny little men. Sex in a condom IS pretty sucky; I once was having sex with my partner, and all of the sudden we're both REALLY getting into it, REALLY enjoying things and YEEEEEEEEEEEHAAA. Afterwards: "Er, I'm missing something. I think you have it." Hunt The Condom followed (which was kind of fun, I will admit), but we were both damn glad she had an IUD.

Part of the fault lies with what's commonly available in retail markets; top-end condoms are more pleasant as they're much thinner. But it's still much less enjoyable, and half the time you're more worried about feeling whether it's still on (instead of enjoying the sex ) and distracted thiking about how you REALLY don't want to get this person pregnant. And YES, stop hyperventilating, I KNOW that a pill won't protect against STDs, I'm talking about situations where two people are monogamous and are both regularly tested, or guys want a backup when also using a condom.

They're one of the least reliable common birth control methods available (does anyone actually still use sponges?), and the ONLY one available to men that isn't surgical. Yet we have absolute liability; that condom fails, my partner gets pregnant, and I'm on the hook for...over half a million dollars?

Meanwhile: women have birth control pills, patches, implantable birth control, female condoms, IUDs, morning-after pills, and the final option: abortion. A virtual cornucopia of options, and complete control. Few of them are verifiable by their partner; it's not like your belly button is a birth-control indicator (popped = safe?), though with an IUD, you can check the string is there.

It'll be interesting to see how this changes relationships and marriages; before, a woman could stop taking her birth control without her partner's knowledge, get pregnant, and that's that.