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Male birth control: 5 years and forever away
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According to this article, a male birth control pill or implant is about five years of research away, but it won't happen because companies have cancelled their research programs. Why? Because they think there's no market for male birth control.

Let's translate that: "We don't think we can sell men on no-baby sex." Doubleyew-Tee-fucking-Eff.

What appears to really be going on here is that, culturally, responsibility for offspring has been framed as the exclusive concern of women. Even the Wikipedia article calls vasectomies a birth control method that women use. (Can I get another chorus of WTFs?) That's actually the fault of the research cited for the vasectomy rate statistic, but it's another example of how contraception is represented as being exclusively a female concern despite actually being every sexually-active person's concern. For anyone asleep in the back of the class, that's another way of saying it's the fault of institutionalised sexism, also known as patriarchy.

Male privilege is a devil's bargain, in that it's bad for men in a lot of subtle ways despite the apparent benefits. That's not to deny that there are a lot of obvious privileges and that women suffer far worse under patriarchy than men do. This point isn't aimed at telling women "boo hoo being a man is hard", but rather aimed at men who don't realise that it's a shitty deal, like buying an SUV when gas is $1.50 per litre and rising. Women have been pretty good at getting women concerned about women's issues, but more men need to realise that those are actually men's issues too.

So, this is an example of the raw deal: men are encouraged to put the fate of their paternity into someone else's hands if they have (hetero) sex. The alternative is vasectomy, which is... not such a good option. Having already reproduced I'm looking at a future where that's my best option despite not really wanting someone to cut me up irreversibly. If there was a pill that I could take, I would certainly be looking at that first! And it looks like I'm not alone: more Canadian married couples rely on vasectomy than the pill or any other single method of birth control. That doesn't even touch on the market of single men who would rather not rely on their female partner to make sure they don't suddenly become a father.

So, fuck you pharmaceutical companies. You have researchers who are on the brink of something that might be revolutionary, and the statistics tell you it would sell. Women already taking birth control aren't going to stop taking responsibility for their own reproduction—you could be selling to both halves of the hetero market! People have been anticipating this breakthrough for years, you've already put in the hard work, you're almost there, and you're pulling the plug.

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My two thoughts on the issue go like this:

Dear Patriarchy:
Birth control can be EMPOWERING. So get cracking!


Dear Mens:
Side effects? Suck it up. We have for years.



Side effects? Suck it up. We have for years.

Oh so very seconded.

Side effects are part of the reason why the available hormonal birth control is not an option for us. We've got two endocrine systems going on here, let's see if the other one can handle the side effect, yes?

Oh wait, retards are holding the purse strings. But then that's a different rant about capitalism rewarding the wrong kind of decision-making skills.

Idiocy. There's no good reason *other* than the very existence of the patriarchy that I can see, especially if they're choosing to stop the process *after* putting millions into development. Before, sure. Sucky, but... okay. But after? What money are they saving, exactly, at this point??

To be fair, the article does note that the current state of research shows that 10-15% of men don't respond to the hormones, and they don't know why. The researcher interviewed seems certain that if researchers could show pharma companies a 99% rate that it would be a cinch to get them to fund it... but they need the funding in order to figure out that last 10-15% group's unresponsiveness.

So, still epic fail.

But of the 85-90% of men who do respond, it looks like the success rate is very very high. It hardly seems that difficult to go into production with a system that requires testing of men to make sure that they do respond before giving them the green light for crazy nookie, all while working on improvements. After all, post-treatment testing is part of a vasectomy procedure, so the concept isn't even that far outside of male contraceptive experience.

That is, if it's been well-tested for safety regardless of effectiveness, of course.

Yeah, it sounds like they've had 100% effectiveness for those 85-90% of the population.

I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with practical application of the research and everything to do about patriarchal assumptions about men's relationship to their virility. If virility is so important that Viagra can be covered by health insurance, it makes (dismaying) sense to me that the same dick-minded Deciders would think that an anti-virility drug wouldn't be salable, no matter how much real demand for it exists.

Guh. Why would they not sell this kind of thing? They're already selling things to help give erections again, so why not sell birth control, too? Sensible men who want sex, especially those that hate barriers, would love to have birth control available to them so they can engage in their preferred sexual activity.

Why kill a useful thing?

Ah, yes. Arsonists-cum-firefighters Big pharma.

I guess it's back to anal sex

I'm actually baffled by this. Pharma invents problems so that people will buy drugs. If there somehow aren't enough men interested in condom-free sex, then just run a butch of commercials to "ask your doctor about treatments for hyperspermia" or "persistant screaming baby disorder" or claim there's a biological root to paternity cases and this cures it.

I mean I'd take them. And I'm not even a guy.

At least this means less competition for marketing "Gay™: the other all-natural contraceptive*"

*people suffering from gender dysphoria may not find Gay™ to be an effective contraceptive

Re: I guess it's back to anal sex

I know, it's insane. I can't accuse the actors of patriarchy of being perfectly coherent and sane, though. I suspect that there's an overriding cognitive dissonance going on here: contraceptive is all about killing the spermz, which is oh noes emasculatings. And so the patriarchal investment in being virile Manly Mans trumps being able to have baby-free sex. I vaguely recall someone claiming that the male sex drive is directly linked to the potential for impregnating women, which would certainly explain this.

After all, there's already a patented Manly Mans baby-free sex solution: screw around and then skip town, 'cause all that rampant uterine fertility is wimmin's problem to deal with...

Edited at 2008-08-06 06:25 am (UTC)

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