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IEET > Rights > ReproRights > Life > Enablement > Innovation > Staff > Kyle Munkittrick

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Why I Want A Male Birth Control Pill

Kyle Munkittrick
By Kyle Munkittrick
Science Not Fiction

Posted: Mar 29, 2011

The 50th Anniversary of the Pill was last year. Lots and lots of people mentioned how good, bad, unimportant, or essential the Pill has been. Our society changed the way it thought about sex, about reproduction, even about love and relationships.

Women being able to take control of their reproductive abilities is one of the greatest advancements in the history of modern human biology. Even if it isn’t universally beloved, the Pill is worth defending and improving. It makes the world a better place. Female hormonal birth control is an exemplary form of human enhancement.


But, astonishingly, non-barrier birth control for men doesn’t yet exist. The current choices are condoms or vasectomies. That’s it. We are in want of a form of birth control that makes men temporarily and reversibly infertile. We don’t have it, we need it, and when it comes out, it’ll be as revolutionary as the Pill itself. It’s on my list of must-have forms of reproductive enhancement, along with artificial wombs.

Which brings us to the question at hand: where the hell is it already? Much like cold-fusion and flying cars, male birth control is always “just around the corner.” The Bright Pill is trying to inhibit the reproductive function of sperm. Ultrasound might be able to interrupt sperm production so that a man is temporarily sterile for six months at a time. Hormones might also be an option.

If there are so many options, why don’t we have one that works? The problem seems to be the sheer number of sperm. Females ovulate once a month, meaning one, count -em, one egg is released. Men are, uh, different. To quote an expert:

“Men make 1,000 sperm every second,” said John Amory, a male reproductive specialist at the University of Washington, Seattle. “It’s proven to be a lot more difficult to turn that degree of production off compared to one egg a month.”

That is just way too many sperm. But pure biology doesn’t seem to capture the problem. Other problems include male willingness to take the pill, impact on libido, and other social and physiological side-effects.

Which brings up new questions about the male pill: Will men remember to take it? Will men want to take it? Will it emasculate men too much to be worthwhile? Are men just too stupid and awful to have that kind of responsibility?

Just as all of the articles recounting the impact of the Pill on our society weren’t talking about chemical compositions or dosages, the reason male birth control is important is not the science. It’s the sociology. Male non-barrier birth control has the potential to change society as much as the female birth control pill. And that’s why we need it so badly.

The male pill isn’t just about safe sex and birth control, oh no. It’s about the way we think about safe sex and birth control. Once you understand, you’ll want the male birth control pill too.


Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
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And the best argument concerning this topic to brandish at fundamentalists is: gays don’t need birth control, nor do gays need abortions.

Not convinced. The original pill was revolutionary - a classic case of disruptive technology - because it empowered women, gave them more control over their own bodies, and severely weakened the link between sex and procreation. With empowerment has also come responsibility: it makes far less sense today to hold men responsible for a pregnancy (except in case of rape of course). I don’t see a male pill - desirable as it might be - having the same effect. It will not make it safer for women to have casual sex with strangers: better take a pill themselves than take our word for it. And of course it has no relevance with regard to sexually transmitted disease.

Male birth control pills are an awesome idea.

@Peter Wicks
One of the advantages to a male birth control pill is wider coverage. Not all women use the pill, and of those that do, some forget, and a tiny percentage don’t work. With men taking the pill as well, you get the advantage of redundancy.

You bring up these questions:

“Which brings up new questions about the male pill: Will men remember to take it? Will men want to take it? Will it emasculate men too much to be worthwhile? Are men just too stupid and awful to have that kind of responsibility?”

I think, in general, that men would not have those problems (at least not any more so than the statistical average for people in general).

Think about it this way: most men will view it as a means to getting more sex, increasing the likelihood that they’d take it.

Here’s the catch: taking these pills will not grow my bank account or increase my social position, so it doesn’t increase the likelihood of me getting laid.

Unless they include some kind of pheremonal enhancer along with the pill, but I guess that could be controversial, idk.

Not being able to get a woman pregnant is a huge benefit for men, but where’s the advantage for women? (I mean, besides the obvious one of unwanted pregnancy prevention - something that doesn’t really stop people now - so I’m just pointing out that this pill won’t make men more attractive to women, and that might be it’s stumbling block)

As with so much technology, the technology itself can not be fully evaluated outside the context of usage.
If you come from a perspective that values individual rights and responsibility and as much equality as possible between the sexes, then the male pill is a great idea. It helps men share in the responsibility for pregnancy prevention and it empowers men to feel safe if they fear that their partner may be lying about taking precautions (though I personally wonder about the wisdom of having sex with someone you don’t trust).
Be prepared for it to be nicknamed “the cheater pill”. Peter’s point about STDs is relevant in that if it does increase the risk of infidelity, then unsuspecting women may be at greater risk of being infected. (again questionning the wisdom of sex with someone you don’t trust).
If you come from a male dominating culture that values the rights of men over the rights of women, the availability of a male pill for family planning could lead to reduction/elimination in the availability of birth control methods for women and an increase in infidelity because fear of getting another woman pregnant would be reduced.
That said, should development of the pill be contingent on the fact that some will abuse it? Not in a culture that values equality between the sexes.

“unless they include some kind of pheremonal enhancer along with the pill”.
Hmm, NOW I’m getting interested! smile

All I care about is any weapon to use against fundamentalists.

A male pill would be such a powerful tool for young men that it maybe blocked by feminist moreso than men not using it.  Think of the athletes starting in high school through the pros and other financially and socially successful men avoiding the “whoops” babies and making it through the hyper sexually active years and avoiding pregnancy.  The Number of women getting into their late thirties and fourties childless will go up, along with the number of never married single dads going down.

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