The Pill: The Male Version

In 1960, the female contraceptive pill changed the world. Would a pill for men do the same?


The oral contraceptive pill was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 9, 1960, liberating millions of women from the burdens of unplanned pregnancies and allowing them to enter the workforce in ever-greater numbers. In the 50 years since, various male contraceptive techniques have been touted but none have made it past clinical trials. The problems is that it's easier to control the development of one egg per month than it is to control the production of about 100 million sperm cells per day.

Nevertheless, a recent study showed that monthly injections of testosterone were an effective male contraceptive among Asian men. Combining testosterone with progestin works better for Caucasian men. A just-launched clinical trial will test applying gels to the skin as way to deliver contraceptive hormone treatments. Instead of hormone treatments, some researchers are suggesting that an anti-sperm vaccine might be developed. There was a flurry of interest in 2007 when the pharmaceutical company GTx suggested that its nonsteroidal selective androgen receptor modulators might be turned into a male oral contraceptive pill. Still, on the 50th anniversary of the Pill, it seems that a new male "Pill" is five to 10 years away—and always will be.

But is there a real need for the equivalent of a male contraceptive pill in the first place? After all, men can use condoms to prevent pregnancy and, if they decide that they've finished having children, they can choose a vasectomy. A vasectomy is done by cutting the vas deferens, the small tubes that conduct sperm out of the testes. About one in six American men have had a vasectomy. A new option is the Pro-Vas which involves closing off the vas deferens with a tiny titanium spring clip which can be later removed if the user decides he wants his fertility restored. 

This makes "Don't worry babe, I've had a vasectomy" the most compelling line most men can currently offer about their own fertility—of lack thereof—in the heat of the moment, but women are surely mindful that the males sometimes lie. Would women trust men to take a daily contraceptive pill? A 2009 survey in Britain found that women thought their partners could not be trusted to take the contraceptive pill regularly. But an international survey of 4,000 men and women done in 2000 found that two-thirds of men said that they would use a male pill and nearly all of the women said that they would trust men to use it. If it turns out male contraception can be delivered via an implant, like the female contraceptive Norplant, women could demand to see the implant site before engaging in sex.

Women have more than a dozen contraceptive options besides the Pill and since they are the ones who get pregnant, they arguably have a much stronger motivation to use contraception than men have. However, recent figures show that in the United States half of all pregnancies are unintended, with 44 percent resulting in live births, 42 percent aborted, and 14 percent miscarried. On the basis of those figures, it's fair to conclude that it's not just men who are irresponsible about using contraception.

What about other forms of sexual irresponsibility? For example, a somewhat dodgy 2004 British survey of 5,000 women found that 42 percent of them said they would lie about contraception in order to get pregnant. On the other hand, an unscientific poll over at the website CafeMom found that 80 percent of respondents said that they absolutely would not lie about contraception as a way to have a baby. That leaves 20 percent who said that they definitely would lie, might lie, or are not sure.

An even more disturbing recent poll found that 43 percent of unmarried young males who say that it is important to avoid pregnancy right now, would be pleased if they found out today that their partner was pregnant. Perhaps such a pregnancy is seen as confirming a guy's virility. Only 20 percent of the unmarried women said they would be pleased to find out they were pregnant.

One significant problem with the Pill is that it lowers libido in some women. It's pretty safe to say that if the male version carried even a slight risk of lowered libido or erectile dysfunction, it would be a complete flop. (Testosterone contraceptive therapy tends to increase libido. Just saying.) In any case, a 2007 Zogby poll found that just 14 percent of Americans might be interested in taking or might insist that their partners use a male pill in the first year of its release. Thirty-seven percent said that they would wait a year to see if it's safe before considering it. However, an international poll found that a majority of men would be interested in using some form of hormonal male fertility control.

With the risk of unintended pregnancies further reduced, male contraceptive pills would let men and women feel just a bit freer to pursue sexual opportunities, but its advent would not result in the same kind of vast, and mostly liberating, social and economic changes that the female Pill engendered 50 years ago.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is available from Prometheus Books.

NEXT: Millenials Not Yet Old Enough to Know Not to Trust Their Creepy Uncle

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  1. I do not avaid women, but I do deny them my essence…

  2. “I’ll put it in your ass” is never a lie, and it doesn’t have “-ectomy” in it.

    1. +1000000000000

  3. Got to be kidding me. Men wouldnt take it? and it would have no huge effect?

    Sorry but the greatest fear out there for men right now is becoming a slave to a woman for 18 years.

    More women lie about birth control then your numbers, but go ahead and count the ones telling the truth and the ones lying about wether they lie or not.

    If men had birth control like women have, the birth rate in this country would plummet off a cliff. I suspect many people know this, which is why we will never have a pill.

    1. For serious. I would take the pill in a heartbeat if it was available.

    2. Have to agree. Gimme a pill any day. I’d take it so fast it’d make your head spin– ’cause there ain’t no more little ones in my future.

      1. So why not just get snipped?

        1. Maybe because I may want to actually have a children one day? I realize you can “untie” that later once you get it tied, but the pill seems one hell of a lot easier.

          1. Don’t do it. Children make you broke, keep you broke, and speak jibberish.

        2. Hmm, hacking around my twig and berries with a scalpel, taking a pill, hacking with a scalpel, taking a pill… tough decision.

          1. Come on. We don’t hack. We carve.

          2. We don’t hack Paul. A vasectomy, and subsequent vasovasotomy if desired, are very quick procedures with little down time.

            Much easier than, say, a woman getting a tubal ligation or hysterectomy. Down time is longer for women for each of those procedures, though the tubal recovery rate is fairly quick. See Steff’s post regarding The Female Pill.

            I am curious though, I’ll have to look up real quick what the side effects are of this magical little pill, since I am not a urologist, and not familiar with it.

            1. “Little down time”. I like that.

            2. Of course I’m being facetious.

              However, in all seriousness, I would want to know the effectiveness of both procedures. I know someone who had a vasectomy who got his wife pregnant after.

              Imagine their surprise. Imagine his doctor’s surprise!

              1. I’ll bet my left testicle that they started having unprotected intercourse too soon after the procedure. Almost always, that is the reason why unintended pregnancies happen after the procedure.

                Sperm are hardy little buggers for a reason.

                1. Little down time, little buggers, you’re so on today.

                  1. If they actually were ‘little buggers’ then they wouldn’t have the pregnancy problem.

                    1. I read a science fiction story one time where an anthropologist found an alien race that always seemed to be infested with crabs (the pubic kind, not the delicious snow King kind). In her best liberal mindset-and hardly anthropologic one-she decided it was her responsibility to help them. So she gave them medicine or did something… I forget… but the crabs were taken care of. Next thing she sees is that suddenly there are no little ones running around the settlement. Turns out, those dangerous, annoying “little buggers” were the way the species reproduced, kind of like when a bee distributes pollen to various flowers.

                      Of course this is science fiction, but as Ron pointed out in the article, there’re always going to be some unexpected consequences for trying to mess with the natural order of things; e.g. some women have decreased libido. Best thing to do is for people to be responsible, and adult (in the sense that they can handle any consequences) when having sex.

                2. Is It a running/balance issue?

              2. He didn’t have enough “down time”. Next time prescribe salt peter.

    3. “Yeah, baby, I took it this morning. Right before work. Yeah, right before work. Now give me some more of that titty.”

    4. From the time I met my husband I was on the pill and was OCD about taking it at the same time everyday, I wasn’t ready for a kid and would never have tricked a guy into being a father. I was stunned when my husband told me he was surprised we hadn’t had an “accident” yet when we were talking about having kids after being married for four years. Fertility is not an issue with us, as evidenced by the speed in which our first came along after we decided to become parents.

      I showed him the documentation about the efficacy of the pill when used properly.

      It really makes me wonder about the kind of girls he and his friends have known over the years…..

  4. “One significant problem with the Pill is that it lowers libido in some women.”

    In a lot of women. It’s always amazed me some that many women take the pill so that they can engage in sex more worry-free, and yet, by taking the pill, they want it less… in every women I’ve spoken to on it, some whom I love dearly, a lot less. The sheer fuckery it levels on the natural cycle makes me avoid it like a plague — I was more willing to get a tubal ligation after my second child was born than I was to take that pill.

    1. This is accurate Steff and one of the myriad of reasons why women, even though it’s convenient (relatively), don’t like The Pill as a form of contraception.

    2. Word. I recently read that IUDs are increasing in popularity among young, never-had-children women. Myself and a number of my friends who have switched off of hormonal BC in the last year or so have all been very happy with the results.

      1. How quickly you forget Jr., The Steve Smith Chimera. Apparently, Steve Smith is having some sort of fundraiser for his past victims, selling a Jr. doll.

        The cervical ring (NuvaRing) is also quite popular as well, but must be replaced every 30 days.

        1. Jr. did not have a conventional entrance into this world. I think Steve Smith tore him from the darkest corner of my soul, post-metaphysical rape.

        2. Actually, the NuvaRing is the same damn thing as the Pill, hormone-wise, it just comes in an obnoxious ring form that has to be replaced every month and can be dislodged during sex.

    3. I guess I’m lucky…my girl ain’t affect at all. Thank Jeebus!

    4. The sheer fuckery it levels on the natural cycle

      I’m confused, if my girlfriend takes the pill, will I get more fuckery, or less* fuckery?

      *Cavanaugh will be in here to tell me it would be “fewer fuckery”

  5. Now give me some more of that titty.

    Um, you’re doing it wrong.

    1. See, the pill is already working.

      1. I think Xeones is a dude.

    2. You have no idea what you’re talking about. I titty-fuck Michelle all of the time.

    3. It’s called foreplay. Woman love it. Give it a try sometime.

      1. myth

        1. Right. Women just hate getting their pussies licked.

          1. but your name is so…

  6. Also condoms are NOT a good subsitute. They suck, no matter what the ads promise.

    Bareback for me !

    1. STDs for you!

    2. Despite the propaganda, condoms are not reliable birth control.

      As long as it doesn’t kill my libido, I’d take a male pill in a heartbeat!

  7. Whenever the subject of the male pill comes up at Jezebel, there’s a hue and cry about how the lack of it speaks to Teh Patriarchy’s unwillingness to take responsibility for contraception, etc etc. Total bullshit- rational people will want to take responsibility for their own reproduction. If I were a dude, the thought that some one night stand could come back to haunt me would freak me out.

    1. Um…right. Me too.

    2. I love the assumption that the medical establishment could just magic an effective male contraceptive into existence. Typical (lack of) reasoning from that crowd.

      1. Damn those withholding, woman-hating scientists!!1!

    3. negative. some of us want offspring in every State in the Union, and every country in the EU.

      not saying I have, mind you.
      at least not that’s been proven in any court of law.

      1. All fucking ‘cats’ have litters;-)

    4. I bet if a pill for men came out women would be against it. Can you imagine. A man screws a girl without telling her he is on the pill? She is hoping to get pregnant by him or someone else and blame it on him. He is immune to such attacks. Oh yeah, women will love to lose that power.

      1. Are you serious? Since when are chicks running around trying to get fat, have an 8 lb parasite live off of them and then worry about first the drooling then the getting into everything, then whining, then breaking things, then school and all that drama, then them impregnating/getting pregnant.

        I don’t know any chick looking for that from random guys… I do know about the ” Come on baby, I’ll pull out, I promise, Condoms don’t feel good” BS from guys… occasionally followed by the “you don’t need to get the morning after pill, let’s just see what happens, it might be fun” crap from idiot guys.

        If they came out with a male contraceptive pill, I don’t know that I would trust a guy to take it… they seem to want offspring way more than most women I know.

        1. one of my friends got pregnant on purpose by telling her boyfriend that she was on the pill when she wasn’t, just so she could rope him into getting married. Obviously, that didn’t end well… now she’s single, 22, and has a 4 year old daughter. Life ruined. I’m convinced women do this sort of thing all the time.

          1. Ryan, your friend is an idiot. I’m sure there are other idiots like her out there, but I sincerely doubt that the majority of women would consider doing such a stupid, evil, self-defeating thing. And yes, I’m accounting for the fact that the majority of women are, like everyone else, kind of stupid. But not that fucking stupid.

            1. When I was in the military, it was pretty common for the local girls to try and get knocked. They would either get married, or half the soldiers pay. Either way, they would be taken care of.

          2. but it turned out ok, because I love you now…

  8. Hmmm.
    When my seed is medicated.
    you’ll be penetrated.

    1. Where was this shit when I was a bang-machine?

      1. Wouldn’t have mattered for me, none of Claudine’s kids were mine…

    2. That sound more like Jesse Jackson or Johnny Cochran.

  9. It’s pretty safe to say that if the male version carried even a slight risk of lowered libido or erectile dysfunction, it would be a complete flop.


  10. A pointless argument, none of this will mean anything when we all have robot sex slaves.

  11. The problem with the male pill is that any potential side effects will be taken *very* seriously. Something like a 0.00001% chance of impotency would send us men running away… very fast.

  12. But is there a real need for the equivalent of a male contraceptive pill in the first place?

    This is racism straight up.

    1. Word, sister. Fucking white men. I hate them all!

  13. More study is necessary:

    The Penis Study In 1997, Harvard funded a study to see why the head of a
    penis was bigger than the rest of it. After one year and $180,000.00,
    they concluded that the reason the head was larger than the shaft was to
    give the man more pleasure during sex.

    After the U.S. published the study, Sweden decided to do their own.
    After $250,000.00, and 3 years of research, they concluded that the
    reason was to give the woman more pleasure during sex.

    Poland , unsatisfied with these findings, conducted their own study.
    After 2 weeks and a cost of around $75.46, they concluded that it was to
    keep a man’s hand from flying off and hitting him in the forehead.

    1. And the money we saved went towards our nocturnal mission to the sun…

  14. I have the God-given right to trick my sister’s man into getting me pregnant!

  15. I find that women, especially those that are strong feminists, have a bizarre dislike of the idea of male contraception, with an almost rage-like intensity. Why, if I didn’t know any better, I’d get the impression that giving a man control over his own fertility offends them.

    1. Yeah. Me too.

  16. Why is the British survey “somewhat dodgy?” Because the result makes you uncomfortable? Get over it. Women lie.

    The percentage of children whose biological father differs from the man that a woman has chosen to pretend is the father is quite staggering.

    1. Maybe in years past, but with DNA testing it’s a whole new ballgame.

    2. It might be “dodgy” because of peculiarities in the British welfare state that make its results less applicable to other cultures.

      The current public (“council”) housing guidelines essentially move single mothers to the head of the line… thus if you’re an 18-year-old girl whose career prospects aren’t great and want to move out of your parent(s)'(s) house, then the best approach is to have a kid.

  17. Our women aren’t going to believe us when we tell them we took our pill that morning. They’re going to hide it in our ice cream.

    1. You’re damn right…

  18. Women aren’t stupid. They know a stiff wiener has no conscience.

  19. Nobody’s reported the leak of Kerry-Lieberman yet?…..rade-bill/

  20. Men lie. Women lie too. The chances of both of them lying at the same time are less if they both can take control of their fertility. Then if they do, well aren’t they both just begging for an “accident?”

  21. The funny thing about this entire conversation is that nobody even mentions how pollutive the pill is for WOMEN…let alone some new version for men. The pill blocks the natural cycles of women; it’s not healthy. Check out this great article for more great info on sexuality, reproduction and more…this is info you’ll likely never have encountered before. Enlightening stuff!:

    1. Ah, that oh-so-credible, well-known scientific bastion of “Detoxtheworld”.

      Anti-scientism is getting worse.

      1. You only say that because of your cloak of anonymity.

  22. And thus what was left of fertility among westerners vanishes. And thus ends western civilization, not with a nuclear holocaust but with a contented post coital sigh.

    1. 1. Who cares

      2. What are you going to do about it? Force people to have children?

      1. 1. We should ALL care-especially when peoples who don’t have your hatred of children begin to outnumber us. Demography IS destiny child.

        1. And Destiny Child is a survivor.

        2. I don’t hate children. In fact they pair nicely with a wide variety of red wines.

  23. I agree that a male pill *would* have a pretty big impact, though not as big as the womens’ version (partly just because the one came first.)

    Responsible men would flock to it — why risk either being stuck zero choices in the case of a goof, with court ordered child support for 18 years (if unmarried), or an abortion kept secret from you by law (even *if* married).

    I also agree that feminists would find a reason to hate it — if enough women wanting to get pregnant find their husbands have been taking the pill on the sly, I guarantee the feminists would rediscover the procreative aspect of civil marriage and find the man at fault.

    Hell, in this day and age, at least in my state, for me to get a vasectomy my wife had to sign an acknowledgment that *she* understood the effect of the procedure — de facto consent/veto power. I have no problem with that because marriage *is* at its core about reproduction, and joint decisions in the name of ‘truth in advertising’ are a good thing.

    Yet the feminists and the feds don’t return the favor, not even let married men simply be *notified* (not consent) their wife has requested an abortion of his/their child.

  24. I had a vasectomy 10 years ago, so I don’t really have a cock in this fight.

  25. A male pill would probably move the coming world population decline ahead from 2050 to 2025. The interesting thought is: would the addition of a male pill move world total fertility (TFR) from a gradual decline (1.9) into a death spiral (1.4)?

    1. Best prank ever!

      Let’s crush up these pills and start putting it in the food we export.

      We’ll start with France!

      1. UK Guardian Headlines : May 2020

        French Population in massive decline.
        France decides to disband its Military – World doesn’t notice

  26. PUNK’D

  27. Child support and alimony are much more effective.

  28. There is a far superior male contraceptive technology which has been known for decades, and is very slowly inching toward the market.

    Injection of 60 mg of the polymer compound styrene maleic anhydride into the vas deferens coats a section of the tube; sperm passing through are damaged and cannot fertilize. A single injection provides up to ten years of sterility, and the effect can be reversed at any time in a few weeks by flushing the tube with DMSO or baking soda.

    The method uses no hormones and has no apparent side effects.

    Unfortunately, unlike a “male Pill”, it produces no revenue stream, so no pharma companies are interested. The Indian government is working on it.

  29. The pill also in men verson is equal for women.

  30. A vasectomy is an outpatient procedure and is quite painless. But it requires approximately 30 post-operation ejaculations and 2 sperm tests to make absolutely sure you have “flushed out” any remaining sperm! People forget to do this and impregnate their partner.
    Otherwise, a vasectomy is almost failsafe — you can get the rare instance of a person’s vas deferens reattaching. Mine won’t happen because they cut out about 2+ centimeters of my vas deferens.

  31. I had a misdemeanor d be for the 96 gun law now i will be forced to sell my bussines after 35 years auto salvage yard to abide the law .Because of shells and guns in alot of them in my possesion Clean Record Since.

  32. which limited the actions of Congress and by extension had to be incorporated, the Second Amendment stated that RKBA was not to be infringed, and lacked detail as to by whom, and therefore applied to all government. By its very language it was already applicable to the states!

  33. i like your website, its very good!

  34. The funny thing about this entire conversation is that nobody even mentions how pollutive the pill is for WOMEN…let alone some new version for men.

  35. In Sex Allergywithin five or ten minutes after sexual intercourse, the sufferer could begin to experience swelling around the vagina,
    and/or the sensation of obstruction to the nose, severe sneezing, swelling around the eyes, generalised itchiness over the whole body,
    and the frightening sensation of the throat swelling, leading to difficulty in breathing. However, the immediate and severe reaction is quite rare,
    and it’s more common to have the symptoms come on over a longer period of time, and to be less severe. Some patients reported that the symptoms
    gradually worsened over a few days, and then spontaneously resolved by themselves.

  36. Check out this great article for more great info on sexuality, reproduction and more…this is info you’ll likely never have encountered before. | RAN ran ran ??? ??? ??? |

  37. Thank you for your comments and good information. Useful to me.

  38. Women have more than a dozen contraceptive options besides the Pill and since they are the ones who get pregnant, they arguably have a much stronger motivation to use contraception than men have.

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