His & Hers: The Male Pill
What do a Friends reunion, a SPICE GIRLS comeback and the male contraceptive pill all have in common?
We keep being promised them, but they haven’t yet made an appearance.
The Male Pill. That famous, false alarm that rings every few months when yet another headline claims a breakthrough for the elusive, miraculous, male contraceptive pill. It’s the 21st century fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, but this time he’s tweeting ‘#NotAllMen’.
At the moment, many would argue that contraception is a mutual responsibility. But even though men can support their partner through appointments, fittings and consultations, can they really understand the self-flagellation of missing a pill? The anxiety of anticipating your next period after taking emergency contraception? What about the mood swings, unpredictable bleeding and weight gain that accompany some forms of contraception? Don’t think so.
We’ve been through the brief history of female contraception (spoiler alert: it’s really not that straightforward), and by comparison, the history of male contraception is… abrupt. Men pretty much have two options: wear a condom, or have a vasectomy. It’s understandable that both genders are feeling short-changed by those options.
In ellaOne’s research, only 34% of women told us they were accompanied by a partner when purchasing emergency contraception. Maybe the majority of women don’t mind going to the pharmacy alone but it certainly seems that it’s easier for men to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to dealing with contraception.
Could the male pill be the answer? Could it finally balance the gender equality scales when it comes to contraception? My Morning After investigates…
What Science Says…
A pill has been developed that temporarily inhibits sperm’s ability to reproduce. The ‘Bright’ has been tested on mice, where it made them infertile for a limited period depending on the dose. Professor Breitbart, inventor & namesake, told Popular Science: “The mice behaved nicely; they ate and had sex. They were laughing and everything” – #RelationshipGoals anyone? (We’re not sure how mice laugh, but there you go.)
The science behind the possibility of a male pill is complex, but given that in 2016 it was reported that studies into erectile dysfunction (ED) outnumber those into premenstrual syndrome (PMS) 5 to 1 – despite only 19% of men suffering with ED compared to 90% of women with PMS – there might be greater biases at work here. There seems to be an interest in developing drugs that help men to enjoy sex, while the responsibility of avoiding unplanned pregnancy rests solely with women.
We spoke to Imogen from The Femedic, a website dedicated to giving health advice to women, about this inconsistency: “The appetite for new forms of male contraception, from both genders, is definitely there. Last year, we conducted a survey asking women in the UK about contraception, and 94% of respondents said they felt that there should be more investment into developing forms of contraception to be taken by men.”
“It is a telling reflection of society's attitudes towards women’s health that trials of a contraceptive pill for men were stopped when the men began showing depressive symptoms, a side effect often mentioned by women on the pill.”
“It simply boils down to the prevailing attitude that contraception is a woman’s problem. The science is there – it’s the mindset of those with influence that we need to change.”
What You Said…
We asked nearly a thousand women at UK festivals this summer, and 63% of them would not trust a man to take a male pill. It’s great to know that so many women feel confident to take charge when it comes to their contraception (that’s what #MyMorningAfter is all about) but it’s a striking lack of trust in your male partners. We believe in starting conversations and listening to all sides of the story, so we boldly crossed sides to pose the question to some guys. Here’s what they said…
*All quotes come direct from our sources*
The Final Word
Maybe the male pill is on the horizon. Signs point to it certainly being a scientific possibility, but is society ready? The men we asked were certainly divided on the issue (and lucky them, for having the freedom to have opinions without actually bearing the burden).
At present, women experience contraception more directly than many men. Until that changes (if ever), we can take charge of the narrative, and take control by refusing to stay silent about our experiences. By educating each other, and men, we can overturn the stigma attached to female sexuality.
Bekki Burbidge, Deputy Chief Executive of the sexual health charity FPA gave #MyMorningAfter this message:
“We welcome continued research into the development of new and safe methods of contraception – and we know that many men would welcome the chance to take responsibility for contraception. The more choices that are available for both men and women, the more likely it is that people will find a method which suits them and their lifestyle.
“It’s important to remember that condoms are the only method of contraception that can also help protect against sexually transmitted infections, so even if men were using a contraceptive pill to prevent pregnancy, they may still need to think about safer sex and how they can stop infections from being passed on.”
So, ladies and gentlemen, in the meantime: don’t be silly, wrap your willy. If you ever suffer a contraception mishap and you are not ready for a baby, you can always find ellaOne, the most effective morning after pill, in your local pharmacy or order it online.