Hey, so today I saw a post on male contraceptive pills. It was said that they stopped testing it,as the side effects were similar to female contraceptive pills. Do you know how accurate this is, or is information conveniently left out for the sake of feminism? Or can we, for once, consider this an actual male privilege? I also want to thank you for this blog, it is pretty great. Actually backing up your statements with statistics is awesome, and too rare on tumblr. — imping-aint-easy

Yes and no.  There were a number of male hormonal contraceptives tested, and most have been abandoned.  It’s true that one of the reasons they were abandoned could be described as “similar side effects to female contraceptive pills”.  However, this has to be taken in context.  For example, a common side effect was breast growth.  In women, this isn’t a huge deal.  Plenty of women get expensive surgery to grow a cup size, and the overall difference was fairly small.  Most men, however, consider sprouting breasts to be a pretty serious issue.

There were other issues, as well.  Some types would simply fail to function in about one in ten cases, without any obvious indicators short of a sperm count test.  Others were simply just not that effective.  In the end, the problem was that male and female contraception is not a single problem, it’s two very different problems that have to be approached differently.

For women, it’s fairly simple.  (Note, this is really over-simplified.)  Women don’t ovulate or menstruate when pregnant (as a rule).  Women’s hormonal makeup changes when they’re pregnant, these changes cause the cessation of menstruation.  The pill basically tricks a woman’s body into thinking it’s pregnant, causing her to not ovulate.  A placebo portion allows for menstruation to continue, avoiding some potential health effects from lack of menstruation.  (Some modern pills allow for the reduction of menstruation to once every two or three months, though.)

There simply isn’t a clear male analogue.  Unlike women, men basically continue producing sperm all day, every day until they die without interruption.  Inhibiting this, thus, requires inducing a state that does not normally occur, period.  Not only is this much more difficult, there is more potential for side effects.

In short, there’s a difference between pumping a woman full of female hormones and pumping a man full of female hormones.  For an opposite case, see things like steroid use.  The male contraceptive pills tended to have both worse and more objectionable side effects, were less reliable, and were pretty much inferior to even the early iterations of the female pill.  They were a disaster.

Despite this, there was another attempt at a male pill using entirely non-hormonal methods.  Dr. Coutinho talks about it here, particularly the feminist reaction.  Gossypol-based contraceptives were eventually abandoned due to concerns over high rates of hypokalemia, irreversibility, and potential toxic effects in cases of mis-dosing.

Currently, the primary hope for long-term reversable male contraception is RISUG/Vasalgel, a non-hormonal solution that uses a non-toxic polymer injected into the vas deferens.  They’re still not exactly sure how it works (one theory suggests that the polymer develops an electric charge mosaic that basically tears sperm apart as they pass), but it works effectively perfectly, has no known side effects, and has been in clinical trials in India for over a decade.  Right now, development efforts in the U.S. have come through a non-profit group called the Parsemus Foundation, and things seem to be going pretty well.

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