The Pill is among the most effective forms of birth control, but it requires that women dose themselves with potentially hazardous hormones every month. It’s time for men to start pulling their weight in the birth control game.
Current options for male birth control
So what birth control methods are currently available for males?
- Abstinence. This is the noble art of not having sex.
- Condoms. These provide a barrier (usually made of latex) between sperm and egg.
- Vasectomy. Surgery to prevent sperm from leaving the body via semen.
- Pulling out. This involves removing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation, but pregnancy is still possible.
- Oral or anal sex. These carry their own potential health risks, but pregnancy isn’t typically one of them.
- Outercourse. This is a fancy term for non-penetrative sex.
- Liking Nickelback. Watch your sexual partner run a mile after reeling off every lyric to “Photograph.”
Other methods, like the Male Pill, RISUG, The Shug, and Vasalgel, are in development/testing but not yet FDA-approved.
Recently, however, researchers have been making progress on new forms of male contraception. This could finally give people with penises more tools to keep the bassinet at bay. The day may soon come when people can take greater control of their reproductive future, rather than letting the female partner do all of the work.
For men, the only real birth control options have been:
- abstinence (telling your little soldier to hang tight)
- the “pullout method” (which is like playing Russian roulette with your peen)
- wearing a condom (the happy medium between A and B, but not *the* most fun way to do squishy sex things)
But wait! Researchers have been working on hormone-based birth control for men, too. From injectable male birth control gels to possible options from Chinese herbal medicine, the future be bright for baby-blocking.
Is there a “male pill”?
“Maybe he’s born with it. Maybe it’s 11-beta-methyl-19-nortestosterone dodecylcarbonate.”
The Pill for Men is closer to reality than ever before (but still not that close to being something you can pick up at the pharmacy along with your lube, Viagra, and toothpaste).
In 2019, researchers from the Los Angeles Biomed Research Institute announced that a male birth control pill containing modified testosterone was shown to be safe and well-tolerated among a group of men who took the pill daily for a month.
This pill — burdened with the profoundly unsexy name 11-beta-methyl-19-nortestosterone dodecylcarbonate, or 11-beta-MNTDC — combines the action of the male hormone androgen and the female sex hormone progesterone to suppress testosterone and block the production of sperm.
But a lot more testing is necessary, and even the researchers involved in the study say a safe, reversible hormonal male contraception is at least 10 years away from being available. Looks like it’s right back to the condom section, lads.
Pinch, pinch, snip, snip.
Essentially, that’s what’s involved in a vasectomy. It’s an outpatient medical procedure where a doctor cuts the vas deferens — or the tubes in your scrotum that carry sperm to your penis. This thwarts their singular goal in life of swimming into the uterus, meeting an egg, and giving you diapers to change 9 months down the line.
The surgery is minor, if not exactly pleasant. It’s still possible to conceive a child in the year after a vasectomy (especially in the first 15 to 20 ejaculations after surgery, where sperm are still hanging about in your semen). But the risk of getting those eggos preggo is still lower than couples who use contraceptive pills and barrier methods.
RISUG, The Shug, and Vasalgel
Another promising form of male birth control with an ugly name, RISUG stands for “reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance.” Think of it as a male birth control shot. Basically, it’s a nonsurgical alternative vasectomy where an injected compound blocks the vas deferens — a procedure dubbed vas-occlusion.
Over several decades, researchers have estimated that RISUG is 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. But although it’s in Phase III clinical trials — technically one step away from possible approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — concerns about its reversibility and lack of interest from pharmaceutical companies have slowed the development of RISUG.
The Shug, also known as the Intra Vas Device (IVD), also blocks the vas deferens. In this case, a physician inserts silicon plugs into the tubes to keep you from flinging your tadpoles left, right, and center. And if you prefer your sperm-blocking to be underwritten by a venture capital firm, there’s Vasagel, another injectable vas-blocker that uses a polymer gel to keep sperm at bay.
Like RISUG, however, the FDA has approved neither The Shug nor Vasagel for use as male contraceptive injections.
New developments and research
The Chinese herb Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (known as “thunder god vine”) has demonstrated reversible contraceptive effects in both mice and human men.
A daily dose of the herb deforms sperm so they can’t swim, but normal fertility returns a few weeks after your stop using it. Also known as lei gong teng or thunder god vine, the herb plays a role in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, lupus, psoriasis, fever, and other conditions.
The goal of male contraception is simple — to prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg. Ideally, condoms (and pulling out) accomplish this, as your swimmers dive bomb outside of the female reproductive system. But other male contraceptives handicap or block sperm before the squirting.
We’re all made from the sperm that swam the fastest when daddy did a splooge. So one way to prevent sperm from swimming Mark-Spitz-style is to bob their tails. Thunder god vine, for example, works by turning sperm into motionless slugs.
A Male Pill would theoretically stop the production of sperm outright, blocking the process known as spermatogenesis.
And vasectomy and the various products under development to prevent sperm from passing through the vas deferens tubes are variations of what’s known as vas-occlusion.
Effective contraception isn’t only about what you put on or in your Johnson — it’s also about what you do with it.
The pullout method
Pulling your dong out before you climax sounds simple, and the overall effectiveness of the pullout method is about 78 percent.
But in the heat of the moment, pulling out doesn’t always go as planned. Even if you do pull out in time, you still have to be careful where you shoot. If even a little semen gets into the female reproductive system, it can lead to pregnancy.
Pulling out of parental responsibilities is a lot harder.
Anyone who has ever been a teenage boy knows that you can ejaculate from sexual contact without having penetrative sex.
Outercourse covers a variety of stimulating activities that don’t involve risk of pregnancy, including:
- mutual masturbation
- using sex toys
- dry humping
- that other form of oral sex — talking dirty
Not gonna lie, that still sounds like a pretty great Tuesday.
Oral and anal sex don’t really count as outercourse because you’re still putting your penis in somewhere. These types of sex also have a low risk of causing pregnancy (as long as the babymaking fluid doesn’t somehow work its way into the vagina). But they still carry the risk of STD transmissions, which some other contraceptives (like barrier methods) can help prevent.
Male contraceptives work by blocking sperm from reaching the vagina, either by physically blocking them or disrupting their ability to swim to and fertilize an egg.
Condoms and vasectomy are still the main forms of contraception for people with penises and are far more effective than the pullout method (and less messy than “outercourse.” Researchers are working on the male version of the birth control pill, but none have reached the market yet; likewise, several types of nonsurgical vasectomy are in the works but still unavailable.