On 25 March 2019, Time magazine published an article about a new contraceptive pill for men that’s in the pipeline. According to research presented by the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute and the University of Washington, the new birth control pill designed for the male body has passed initial human safety tests. Should research and development go as planned, the as-yet unnamed pill could be lining store shelves in a decade.
The average singaporean
What does this mean for humanity? And what does the average person think about a new contraceptive pill for men? We decided to talk to people ranging in age from 19 to 56, to gather opinions across different stages of — reproductive — life. (Most names have been changed in the interest of privacy.)
A common view among our interviewees was that the new male contraceptive would allow men and women to share the responsibility of preventing conception.
William, 28, said, “I think the development is welcome because there are now more options for men and women to choose from. Conception, or the prevention of it, is a shared responsibility between partners, so it’s always good if both genders have options.”
Aaron, 38, echoed William’s sentiments, but added his thoughts. “I’m curious as to why it’s taken this long for people to even have the idea of making a male contraceptive pill. Someone must surely have had thought about this before,” he said. “I’d like to think this is a sign that we have achieved better gender equality. Both partners should take responsibility in family planning.”
While research and development for a male contraceptive pill have only just begun, the first female contraceptive pill, Enovid, was approved in the US 60 years ago, in 1960. Currently, a large number of contraceptive methods are available to women. From vaginal rings, birth control patches to spermicides, contraceptive methods designed for women’s use are relatively accessible in most developed countries.
While most of our interviewees welcomed the potential new contraceptive, they also shared some concerns. Health effects topped the list, followed by effectiveness and affordability.
“I think the side effects need to be carefully identified. Any medication should be fully studied and tested to prevent any form of harm to consumers,” said Miranda, 56.
cost, benefits and risks
“My main concerns are also on the side effects, along with the efficacy of the product. Also, will some people may develop a resistance to the pills over time and render it ineffective?” Charlie, 32, posited.
Jeffrey, 50, has other practical concerns. “Such a contraceptive will require some cost-benefit analysis, at least for me, because condoms are generally affordable. If the new alternative is going to be significantly more expensive, then people may simply choose to continue using condoms,” he pointed out.
no conception does not equal safe sex
Dixon, 19, sees the potential new contraceptive as a boost to his sexual freedom. “I don’t have issues with the product, since it’s not permanent. If you’re young, unmarried and want to experiment sexually, this pill could be a viable option,” he said.
But this is a dangerous position to take – although the said pill can prevent pregnancies from occurring, it offers no physical barrier to body fluids, unlike a condom. Those who practise unsafe sex thus remain at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Since female contraceptives are so readily available, we wondered if the introduction of a male equivalent would encourage women to hand over the responsibility of birth control to their partners. The women we spoke to said they would encourage their partners to try it.
“When it comes to hormonal reaction to medication, guys seem to have it easier than girls,” Kelsie, 23, opined. “If the side effects are minimal, I’d want him to try his version of the pill. If he strongly objects to it, however, I don’t mind just using the female version of the pill myself.”
How safe is safe?
All the men we interviewed were keen on giving the pill a go, provided that it is certifiably safe. Furthermore, several interviewees added that the pill would be a good alternative to undergoing a vasectomy.
One male interviewee welcomed the extra safety net against an unwanted pregnancy. “I’m for both parties taking their respective pills simultaneously. Parenthood is an important step in anyone’s life. Since I’m not there yet, I want to be sure. One can never be too careful,” declared 19-year-old Lucas. “It’s also a matter of personal responsibility. If I absolutely want to avoid getting my partner pregnant, I’d even use a condom on top of taking the pill.”
and if you change your mind
The men also indicated that they would prefer using the new male contraceptive pill to getting a vasectomy, while there were two who opted for the latter.
Perhaps the choice between pill and vasectomy was best summed up by Elton, 19. “I’m not keen on a vasectomy even though I don’t plan on having kids. Why close the door so early in life? Who knows if I’ll end up changing my mind in 20 years’ time, and deciding that I want to start a family after all.”