The NYT has a cool piece summarizing all the different methods and some opinions from men on the street:
Dr. John K. Amory, a reproductive scientist at the University of Washington, is studying a drug that was developed for worm infections and was later tried on men because it caused infertility. Using rabbits, Dr. Amory said, he discovered the drug blocks production of retinoic acid, important for sperm production.
Unfortunately, the drug acts like one for curbing alcoholism, so drinking when taking it makes people sick. Dr. Amory is working to make it cocktail-compatible.
“The joke,” he said, “is if it weren’t for alcohol, no one would need contraception.”
Haha! Touché. Tracy Clark-Flory, one of the best writers on sex and sexuality on the internet, sadly chooses to focus on men using the pill to cheat instead of, oh, I don’t know, the fact that men would be able to be responsible for preventing unwanted pregnancies in general, regardless of fidelity:
That raises the dreaded issue of infidelity: A male birth control pill could certainly come as a relief to cheaters who would rather not have their lives complicated by a so-called “love child.” A man who expects to stray but doesn’t trust himself to reliably use a condom could rely on a long-term form of birth control, one that doesn’t have to be taken as a pill every day. While on the subject of lies and deception, we might as well consider that it would be of great comfort to men who worry about partners intentionally missing pills in order to get pregnant without their consent, as well as those troubled by that classic male problem of paternity uncertainty. In an AskMen.com message board conversation about the potential for “the male pill,” one user writes, “i want to be there the first time a girl says to her bf ‘im pregnant, we need to get married’ and he goes ‘well it cant be mine, so have fun marrying the other guy.'”
Cheaters are gonna cheat. Arguing that a male pill will cause more infidelity (particularly without any evidence) isn’t a case against the male pill, it’s a reason to have an open conversation about whether or not the trade off of fewer accidental births is worth an increase in affairs.
Finally, there is bioconservative cartoon Wesley J. Smith. I read his blog, Secondhand Smoke, mostly as rage fuel. The man works for the Discovery Institute, which pushes Intelligent Design, and is a proponent of soul-based human exceptionalism, which means his entire philosophical outlook is predicated on the idea that people are special because God says so. Yet, in a rare moment of lucidity, he said something worthwhile on the male pill, noting it’ll be ethically permissible:
The good news is that safe and effective male contraceptives would have far fewer ethical controversies associated with them than most current non-barrier female methods:
- There would be no arguments about whether the technique was an abortifacient, since the medication prevents sperm from forming or maturing sufficiently to fertilize an egg.
- There would be no argument about whether the contraception prevented ovulation or implantation, as with the female birth control pill.
- There would be no arguments, as often now rage about female birth control that prevent implantation, as to whether creating an inhospitable uterine environment takes the life of an early embryo.
- There would be no arguments about whether a woman carrying an embryo in her fallopian tube is yet actually pregnant.
- Finally, I think a male contraceptive would promote greater societal comity since fewer pharmacists would presumably object to dispensing the male contraception, than female forms such as the “morning after pill,” since by doing so they would not possibly be complicit in the taking of a nascent human life.
But the Catholics will be upset! Oh well, who wants to sleep with them anyway?
There is a groundswell around this issue that has me hopeful.
Bioethics is controversial.
No one endorses the ideas or concepts explored here, not even me.
You will develop a strong opinion about something you find here. I want to hear it. Philosophy is a conversation.
popbioethics [at] gmail [dot] com
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