On today’s episode of “Things We Do To Make Dudes’ Lives Unnecessarily Easier,” a clinical trial recently started for a new male birth control gel. All a guy has to do is apply the gel to his arms and shoulders daily for a few months and his sperm count will, in theory, drop to such low levels that producing babies won’t be a concern.
I have thoughts.
First off, I’m all for men getting involved in the birth control process. Quite frankly, we don’t rise to the occasion often enough (dad joke completely intended). Guys have been taking a back seat for too long when it comes to contraception ― most expect and assume women will “take care of” that kind of thing, which is wrong on a whole lot of levels.
Women are out here getting tubal ligations, allowing contraceptive devices to be inserted into their bodies, undergoing abortions when necessary, and taking daily birth control pills with nasty side effects. Men, on the other hand, can barely be bothered to use a condom (only 19 percent of men use one every time they have sex), and only 9 percent of men opt for a vasectomy when the time comes for a permanent birth control solution.
A vasectomy is the way to go in my book for couples looking for permanent birth control. I went in for my “snip snip” a month ago, and it couldn’t have been a simpler process. Hell, I’ve been on the business end of well-placed knees from my daughters that were more painful than that procedure. When I talk to the average guy about it, however, they get shook and immediately picture castration via butter knife. And it’s rare for guys to be the one to offer up a condom as a birth control option, especially in the moment. Ladies, how often has a man said to you right before sex, “Hey, I think we should make a smart decision here and use a condom”? I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but more often than not it’s women who are the responsible ones.
“I’m fully on Team Get Men Involved In The Birth Control Process, but we all know most grown-ass men can’t even remember to put the toilet seat down (guilty as charged).”
So how do we get guys to finally step the hell up and become more active birth control participants? By encouraging them to (at the least) always wear a condom? By educating them on what exactly a vasectomy does and does not entail?
No. With shoulder gel, apparently.
Now again, I’m fully on Team Get Men Involved In The Birth Control Process, but we all know most grown-ass men can’t even remember to put the toilet seat down (guilty as charged). So I don’t like the odds that they’d remember to rub this gel on themselves daily for 20 weeks (per the clinical trial description) ― only after that can the gel be used as an effective method of contraception. I picture guys applying this stuff once or twice a week, convincing themselves they’re shooting blanks, and then wondering why there are so many tiny humans running around who look just like them. And I doubt many women would feel inclined to trust their partner to apply the gel daily, since women are ultimately the ones who have to bear the burden of an unplanned pregnancy.
I also question the likelihood the average dude would actually be willing to use the gel, given that the point of it is to basically render a man temporarily infertile through the lowering of sperm count. Why? Because many of us have completely irrational fears when it comes to our junk and how it performs since it’s tied to how we’re viewed as men. That’s why guys don’t go around talking about erectile dysfunction the way they talk about how many times they’ve had sex. If this gel someday came to market, I predict many dudes would give it a pass, worried their hard drives would turn into floppy disks after a few sperm suppressor rubdowns (even though it’s designed to not affect testosterone levels). Yes, I know sperm count isn’t directly correlated to sexual performance — that’s why it’s called an irrational fear. But these thoughts will cross the minds of many men, I’m sure.
If we injected the average guy with a truth serum and asked him what a perfect form of contraception would look like, he’d probably say, “Anything that doesn’t involve me.” That trend has to stop, and for these men, this birth control gel might actually be a worthy contender. It’s apparently painless, and everything happens above the belt, which is exactly what most men want (or demand) when it comes to this sort of thing. That said, you better hope you’re the kind of guy who remembers to apply it daily...
“If we injected the average guy with a truth serum and asked him what a perfect form of contraception would look like, he’d probably say, 'Anything that doesn’t involve me.'”
For these reasons, I’m not convinced this form of male contraception will catch on right away (assuming it survives the full regulatory process ― the clinical trial won’t even be finished until 2022, and that’s just one step of many). As far as I’m concerned, a vasectomy is still the best form of male birth control for those who seek a permanent option. After a weekend of sitting around watching television with frozen peas between your legs, you’re pretty much good as new. But hey, I’m a part of that 9 percent of men. The vast majority of guys won’t consider going under the knife for the sake of being a team player, so the medical establishment is now having to find ways to cater to these cowards … er, gentlemen ... who seek other options.
Here’s the deal, fellas: We’re putting way too much responsibility on women. Let’s throw them a damn bone by at least being active participants in the birth control process. It’s really not that complicated. Good ol’ fashioned condoms and vasectomies are solid options and are available right in front of us right now. Stepping up and actually using them is the best way to show your partner love and respect.
But I’m not naive enough to believe all men will heed this message, so prepare yourselves, ladies. Because if this male birth control gel actually hits the market someday, don’t be surprised if he asks you to be the one to rub it into his arms and shoulders. Because life ― and contraception ― is really tough for us dudes, you know.
Doyin is a father, husband and author dedicated to creating and celebrating a world of great fathers. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook at @daddydoinwork or ask him a question for a future column at firstname.lastname@example.org.