Male contraception: can you handle it?
They call it JQ1. A tiny molecule that reversibly blocks sperm production in mice and rats. It’s the discovery of some American scientists from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and believed to be proof that a male contraceptive can exist.
Sometime in the next five years or so they’ll find a way to bottle it up and farm it out to sexually active men who want to take responsibility for contraception.
About time, some people would say. Particularly women who have spent years resenting the responsibility of remembering to take the pill, or using a diaphragm. But are men up for the job?
The medical community are also divided on the research. Some are concerned that the pill will not prevent STIs and promote complacency. But other health professionals who deal with people in the developing countries are convinced that the male contraceptive will fill a crucial need.
Australian fertility expert Moira O’Brien told the ABC’s AM program yesterday: “It’s really very urgently required and has been for a very, very long time. There’s an urgent third world need. In some cultures it’s the male who is involved in contraceptive choices, and for social reasons - that we can’t change overnight - it’s the male who decides whether condoms are worn, or whether vasectomies are taken or all sorts of other things. So a male contraceptive could have a very significant impact.”
Punch readers were hassled for their opinion on this issue late yesterday afternoon. Their answers ranged from Michelle Anysley’s: “Noooooo” to Lloyd Cooper’s: “I don’t see the harm”.
This post from Julie Ellison was also an interesting one: “Until they [men] give birth the incentive won’t be there.”
But not getting pregnant at inopportune times is a pretty powerful incentive for many people, at certain stages in their life.
Trust and stage of life strike me as the most important deciding factors in this decision. It’s easy to imagine younger, single men feeling a bit more empowered in their ability to “control” the contraceptive process. And why shouldn’t they? Everyone deserves to feel like their in control of every part of their lives.
And older men in longer established relationships might see the pill as a great alternative to vasectomy. Or just a way of sharing another aspect of life with their partners, who might have spent the bulk of the relationship keeping tabs on the contraception.
At the end of the day, more choice in this area of life can never be a bad thing. And just like anything else when it comes to relationships, the decision can only happen with good communication and a healthy dose of trust.
Follow me on Twitter: @lucyjk
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