Tag Archives: contraception

Why The First Male Birth Control Pill Won’t Be Successful (And Why That’s Still Progress)

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When it comes to our health, certain treatments or trends occur faster than others. Fad diets and health crazes can gain favor, fall out of favor, and be forgotten all within the same year. For more serious aspects of our health, the wide acceptance of certain treatments and trends can take longer, even if they work as advertised. When it comes to our sex lives, though, it can be even more challenging.

It’s one thing to be worried about your waistline and your ability to fit into an old pair of pants. It’s quite another to worry about whether certain intimate parts of your body are functioning properly. Naturally, we tend to worry a lot more about the sexy parts. Why else would boob jobs be so popular?

This gets even more touchy when issues surrounding contraception come up. Even when there’s a major breakthrough that has the potential to revolutionize our sex lives and our fertility, it takes time for it to permeate throughout society. It’s also a lot more prone to taboo and political protests than boob jobs.

Just look at the documented history of the female birth control pill. The actual pill itself was invented in 1951. Human testing didn’t begin until 1954 and the FDA didn’t approve it until 1957, but it was only approved to use for severe menstrual disorders. It’s only in 1960 when it’s approved for use as a contraceptive, but it still takes years before it becomes both widely used and socially accepted.

Overall, it took at least a decade before the female birth control pill really established itself as part of modern medicine and as part of our sexual culture. I cite that history because men are close to forging a similar history with contraception. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that men are on the brink of the biggest upheaval in their sex lives since the invention of condoms.

I’ve written about the promise and potential social impact of male contraceptives, referencing developments in products like Vasalgel. However, that method is still in the testing phases and probably won’t get regulatory approval within the next few years. Given that it is also requires a targeted injection, that testing will be subject to a lot more scrutiny, as would be expected of things that involve needles near genitals.

It’s far more likely that a pill will get approval before something like Vasalgel, if only because people are more comfortable taking pills than getting a shot. In fact, as I write this, the University of Washington is conducting a large-scale human test on an oral contraceptive for men called dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU for those who would rather not learn that level of science jargon.

While DMAU doesn’t offer quite as much promise as Vasalgel, it does offer a similar product to the one women have been using for half-a-century now. It’s a one-a-day pill that men can take with their morning coffee. Also like its female counterpart, it uses hormones that effectively block the production of sperm. For men already used to taking pills every day for other issues, it wouldn’t be that hard of an adjustment.

That said, though, this first step towards equalizing male contraceptive methods will face a lot more obstacles than the female birth control pill did when it first came out. In fact, I’d go so far as to predict that if DMAU were approved by the FDA tomorrow, it probably wouldn’t be that successful.

I say that as someone who freely admits he’s not good with predictions, as my Super Bowl picks last year prove. However, being a man who follows these kinds of sex-related issues, I feel like I have more insight than most when it comes to gauging the potential of a major advancement for our collective sex lives.

Like it or not, and I’m sure those versed in identity politics will cringe at this, men are wired differently than women, especially when it comes to their sexual health. There was a very different set of motivating factors behind the female birth control pill, so much so that getting women to adopt it wasn’t too challenging, even if it took years. With men, though, it’s a different story.

Men are already far less likely to go to the doctor than women. They’re also far less likely to ingest something that might impact their hormones and, by default, their sex lives. Since DMAU utilizes hormones in inhibiting sperm production, it’s going to have the potential for side-effects. Even the doctors in the study admit that.

Of the test subjects who completed the study and were taking 400 milligrams (mg) of DMAU – the highest dose tested – few reported symptoms consistent with testosterone deficiency.

The subjects who were given the pill did have weight gains of between 1 and 3 pounds on average, according to Page.

“The weight gain and a small decrease in good cholesterol levels, HDL, are things we’re going to look at more closely in future studies,” Page says.

This is where I have to denigrate my own gender, but when it comes to tolerating side-effects, I think women have men beat in that arena. The many side-effects women endure with contraception is proof enough of that. Men, as tough as we can be, are somewhat dense when it comes to accepting certain side-effects.

It’s for that reason why I think DMAU is going to have limited success at most and will likely fall out of favor quickly once more promising alternatives like Vasalgel enter the market. Even without those alternatives, though, I suspect DMAU will not gain widespread acceptance among men, even for those who have been clamoring for more contraceptive options.

Now, and this is where I’m going to make another prediction, I think that limited success or outright failure will actually mark a huge turning point in the history of male contraception and a positive one at that. To some extent, failure is part of the process when it comes to making progress in our health. Again, anyone who knows anything about fad diets can attest to that, some being worse failures than others.

To some extent, the first male contraceptive pill will be like the first cell phone. It’ll be clunky, crude, and not nearly as efficient as consumers wish it were. It’ll also likely be pretty pricy as well, as only the Gordon Gekko’s of the world could afford those early cell phones. However, that doesn’t mean the product itself was a waste or a loss.

Keep in mind, the first cell phone was probably considered strange and unnecessary in a market that was used to making calls from LAN lines. Why would anyone even want a cell phone that was bulky, expensive, and offered only spotty coverage when you could accomplish the same thing with a phone booth and a quarter?

Over time, though, and as the technology improved, cell phones made their way into the market. I suspect that the first male birth control pill will do the same. At first, it’s going to be seen as strange. It may even seem unnecessary to men who can get the same effect from a box of condoms at a gas station for less than five bucks.

The value, however, isn’t in how men initially react to the first male birth control pill. The true value is just putting the idea out there that men now have this option. Even if only a handful of men take advantage of it, that’s still enough to establish a consumer base.

That small consumer base will eventually grow as the idea of a male birth control pill stops being a novelty like the first cell phone and becomes a legitimate consumer product. There will be plenty of room for improvement. There may even be some unpleasant stories about men struggling with the side-effects.

In the long run, that’s a good thing because once a consumer base is in place, they’re going to demand improvements to the product. More improvements will create a better product. It has helped create a wealth of options for women. Eventually, like the cell phone, male birth control will undergo a similar process until it ends up with the contraceptive equivalent of the iPhone.

That process will take time and there will be missteps along the way, just as there were with female contraceptives. The most important part of that process is just establishing the idea this is an option for men who want more choice and control of their fertility. It’s a level of choice and control they haven’t had before, one that women have enjoyed for decades.

Beyond just giving men more options and choices with respect to their fertility, products like DMAU could start the process of narrowing a lingering gender disparity that has been fodder for plenty of gender-driven conflict. The more we can do to alleviate that disparity, the better.

It’s going to take a while for that idea to sink in. In many ways, the first male birth control pill is going to start behind the curve, but that’s okay. The day will eventually come when both men and women can finally say they have equal control over their fertility. It’s still a first step and given how far the technology has to go to catch up to women, it’s a step that needs to happen in the name of true gender equality.

 

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Hard Lessons About Abortion And Society (From A Failed Communist Regime)

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There are a lot of sensitive topics that nobody likes talking about. They make people uncomfortable, anxious, and downright angry at times. Sometimes, that’s a sign that we should talk about them. Then, there are times when discussions on those topics have gone horribly wrong, resulting in important lessons that we would be wise to heed.

Chief among those sensitive topics is abortion. In the pantheon of uncomfortable discussions, abortion is in a league of it’s own. I try not to talk about it too often, but I don’t shy away from it when it reveals so much about society, sexuality, and gender issues.

At the moment, the abortion debate is ongoing, but somewhat stagnant. Sure, there are a few extreme pro-lifers who favor the death penalty for women seeking an abortion, which is an irony in and of itself. As it stands though, abortion remains legal in the United States, but efforts to limit abortion access are steadily growing.

It’s hard to know what the future holds for the abortion debate, especially as advances in contraception continue to emerge. Until we perfect artificial wombs and completely decouple sex from reproduction, the debate will continue. Arguments about the ethics of abortion and when life begins will still generate heated and passionate discussions.

While I’ve tried to contribute to these discussions in a reasonable way, there are aspects of the abortion debate that tend to get overlooked. However, they have less to do with the ethics and more to do with the logistics of abortion, fertility, and managing society. It’s in that part of the issue, though, where there are lessons to learn from history.

That history sometimes comes from unexpected places in parts of the world that rarely make the news. For the abortion debate, one place and time period that warrants extra scrutiny is Romania under its old communist regime. For those outside of Europe who never lived behind the Iron Curtain, this part of the world is an afterthought. However, its history with respect to the abortion debate is one worth learning from.

That history is not a good one, as if often the case with repressive communist regimes. Up until the late 1960s, Romania had fairly liberal abortion policies. Most women who wanted one could get one and since access to contraception was so limited, it was the most common form of family planning. To pro-life supporters, it’s basically the nightmare scenario they dread.

That all changed in 1967 when the communist leader of the country, Nicholae Ceaușescu, issued Decree 770. This didn’t just outlaw abortion in almost every instance. It effectively turned every woman’s reproductive system into the property of the state. Women were required, by law, to carry every pregnancy to term and by required, I don’t mean through impassioned protests.

This is a communist country. The Romanian government enforced this decree with the utmost force. It had the secret police spy on women and hospitals to make sure nobody tried to evade the law. It even adopted a birth-focused brand of sex education that are extreme, even by Texas standards. Basically, Romania went from a pro-life nightmare to the a pro-life paradise.

However, Decree 770 had nothing to do with the ethics of abortion, the sanctity of life, or any major concerns about sexual promiscuity. For Nicholae Ceaușescu, this decree was done purely out of concerns for demographics, an issue that is becoming increasingly relevant for some societies.

Ceaușescu had seen that the population of his country had stagnated in the 1950s. He couldn’t have a strong, robust communist country without a growing population of workers. Decree 770 was intended to change that. It may have even made sense at the time, at least from the perspective of a ruthless dictator.

People were still having a lot of sex, as the high abortion rate indicated. By making abortion illegal, the Romanian government would benefit from a fresh influx of young, native-born Romanians who would help build the country’s glorious communist future. Given the country’s current standing in the global stage, it should be obvious how wrong that turned out to be.

To say Decree 770 was disaster would be like saying Ebola is a mild stomach bug. Sure, it might have reduced the amount of legal abortions being conducted in Romania, but the terrible impacts it had on women, society, and entire generations are far beyond my writing abilities.

Women today who passionately protest their right to not be harassed or denigrated would be wise to note the experiences of Romanian women under this regime. In their world, they didn’t just have sleazy Hollywood producers harassing them. Under the Romanian government, they were basically state-sponsored breeders. Any role beyond that was considered criminal.

The punishments for subverting Decree 770 were as harsh as you would expect for a communist society. Women and doctors were thrown in prison. Since contraception was also banned, it forced women to resort to dangerous extremes that added even more suffering. Take this little anecdote from the Irish Times.

“Out of desperation, women would resort to insane methods,” Dr Elena Borza told the Inter Press news agency in Romania recently. “They would use salt, detergent, or any other substance which they thought could help them get rid of the baby.”

This policy was horrible for women, to say the least. However, it’s the many children they gave birth to who may have suffered the worst. Beyond the issues of having larger families in a country that later got hit with a severe economic crisis, this surge in birth rates led to a surge of abandoned children that flooded streets and orphanages alike.

The stories of these children are not the kind that would make it into a light-hearted Disney movie. The conditions that these abandoned children endured were nothing short of traumatic. There was abuse, exploitation, and violence of all types. When there are so few resources to go around, but more and more mouths to feed, it leads to conflict.

I don’t want to belabor just how awful things got for the generation that Decree 770 created, but if you want to learn more or are just a glutton for dark parts of our history, check out a documentary called “Children Underground.” It’ll describe and depict the horrors these children endured in a way that’s graphic, but real.

Even if abandoned children isn’t proof enough of Decree 770’s failure, consider how Nicholae Ceaușescu’s regime ended. He was not hailed as the ultimate anti-abortion leader. He was brutally executed by his own soldiers, some of which were likely children born as a result of that policy. Some might call that irony. Other’s might call that fitting.

Whatever you call it, the legacy of Decree 770 is worth scrutinizing because it provides a case study in what happens when you take anti-abortion policies to the utmost extreme. I’m not just talking about the potential links between abortion and crime, which is still very controversial. I believe a much bigger part of that legacy is how it reduced an entire society to state-sanctioned drones whose only purpose was to work and breed.

It removed agency from couples who didn’t want children. It removed agency from pregnant women. It removed agency from families. It led to terrible situations that resulted in parents abandoning their children. Say what you want about a policy, but when it leads to child abandonment, then that’s a clear sign.

In many ways, Romania still hasn’t recovered from Decree 770. The effects this policy had on an entire generation and their parents left some pretty significant scars, to say the least. Those scars, however, can be critical lessons when discussing issues involving abortion, sexuality, and child rearing

That’s not to say that the experience in Romania completely discredits all anti-abortion arguments. Remember, and it’s worth emphasizing, Romania was a communist country where individual rights, freedom of choice, and personal liberty aren’t established traditions. Its situation is unique and subject to some pretty brutal circumstances.

Never-the-less, the experiences and legacy of Decree 770 provide a critical insight into the complexities of the abortion debate. It shows what can happen when one side is taken to extremes with brute, uncompromising force without first convincing the population of its merits. It’s not just tyrannical. It’s damaging.

At the moment, attitudes towards abortion are fairly mixed, but stable. The majority of people believe that abortion should be legal under certain circumstances. The nature and extent of those circumstances vary, but they’re rarely conducive to extremes.

That’s why whenever a particular side gets too extreme in this heated debate, it helps to remember the lessons learned from Decree 770. Regardless of whether it occurs in a communist country or rural Alabama, those lessons are important to recall. They’re also the kinds of lessons we don’t want to re-learn.

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Natural Contraceptive App Blamed For Unplanned Pregnancies (As Expected)

Pregnant woman standing outside on a sunny day

There’s no question that advances in contraception have had a profound impact on our society. Some applaud it. Some resent it. Either way, there’s no uninventing it. Contraception, be it male or female, is a big part of our society and further advances promise to have an even bigger impact.

I’ve talked about the future of contraception before, as well as the potential impacts of those advances. There are a lot of things in development, as I write this, that men and women alike should get excited about. Between better IUDs and more birth control options for men, we’re quickly entering an age where we have unprecedented control over our fertility.

It’s for that very reason that it’s necessary to take a step back and remind ourselves of the existing flaws we have with the current state of contraception. There’s a reason why those advances I mentioned are in development to begin with. What we have now is pretty good, relative to older, more archaic forms of birth control. However, there are a few shortcomings that tend to lead to dramatic, albeit predictable failures.

One of those shortcomings/failures made the news recently and left several dozen women very disappointed, to say the least. According to a story from TheVerge, a recently-developed contraceptive app called Natural Cycles is being blamed for 37 unwanted pregnancies. Anyone who knows anything about pregnancy, female biology, and nature in general probably isn’t surprised.

That’s because the app in question basically made something like this inevitable. According to the article, the Natural Cycles app is supposed to help women who rely on more natural family planning methods. In terms of the actual process, these are the basics:

The app uses an algorithm and measures factors like temperature to determine the period when a woman may be fertile. It’s a popular alternative to hormonal contraceptives like the pill because it lacks side effects.

It’s pretty basic, but the principle makes sense on paper and isn’t based on radically new ideas. The concept of a woman tracking her fertility to determine the times of month when she’s most likely to conceive a child is fairly well-known. It’s most commonly called the “Rhythm Method” and according to the Mayo Clinic, it takes a lot of preparation.

To use this method, a woman needs actively track her menstrual cycle, accurately determine the parts of that cycle where she’s most fertile, and plan her sexual activity around those time-frames. It takes a great deal of physical awareness, as well as a certain measure of discipline, which some people are better at than others.

The Natural Cycles app is supposed to supplement those principles by aiding in that tracking process. It even tries to provide the woman with more data so that she has a better understanding of her body while tracking her cycle. In theory, having perfect knowledge of her biology will ensure a woman knows when she is or isn’t fertile.

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It’s that exact theory, however, that makes this news about a surge in unplanned pregnancies so unsurprising. There’s a good reason why this sort of approach to contraception is rarely practiced by anyone other than committed couples and is often discouraged as a general form of contraception.

As with so many other theories, the actual practice of the method doesn’t always work in the real world. That’s because the real world is a lot more chaotic, varied, and unpredictable than concepts on a piece of paper. That applies even more to human biology, male and female.

Now, the appeal of natural family planning like the one Natural Cycles promotes is undeniable. You don’t need to take a pill. You don’t need to have something inserted into your body. Plus, it gives you a chance to really know and understand the workings of your body. For both sexual health and general health, that’s has many benefits.

Unfortunately, the human body is not known for being that transparent. It does not come equipped with a USB port or a wireless interface that provides us with accurate, real-time data about our insides, although that’s one advancement science is working on. Absent that data, natural family planning, even with the aid of Natural Cycles, is going to be either incomplete or flawed.

I don’t doubt that the use of Natural Cycles helps in the process, but there’s a good reason why the same Mayo Clinic that so thoroughly lays out the process of natural family planning also identifies it as one of the least reliable forms of contraception. This is what they had to say about the risks associated with this method.

Using the rhythm method as a form of birth control doesn’t pose any direct risks. However, it’s considered one of the least effective forms of birth control. How well the rhythm method works varies between couples. In general, as many as 24 out of 100 women who use natural family planning for birth control become pregnant the first year. Also, the rhythm method doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections.

Given this information, the fact that some of those using the Natural Cycles app ended up pregnant should surprise no one. The shortcomings of natural family planning are well known and, for the moment, no app is capable of circumventing those shortcomings.

It’s not just that even the most basic activities of the human body are so difficult to quantify and track. Doing so and trying to plan around it assumes all those involved behave with perfect discipline. While I still believe that most human beings are inherently good at heart, I don’t doubt that human beings can also be erratic, irrational, and just plain stupid at times.

There will be moments when a woman misjudges or mistimes her fertility over the course of her cycle. There will also be moments when the passions between a woman and her lover will override whatever discipline they had promised to exercise during that time of the month. Even when people aren’t stupid, they can be overwhelmed by a moment.

That’s the ultimate flaw of natural planning and apps like Natural Cycles. It’s not just prone to human error. It relies on the absence of human error in order to work perfectly. That’s not just flaw. Those are unreasonable expectations that no population of healthy human beings can hope to meet.

It’s sad that several dozen women had to learn this the hard way, even if the outcome was fairly predictable. If nothing else, it should remind us just how much work we need to do on improving contraception, women’s health, and our overall understanding of our biology.

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Pro Life, The Sanctity Of Life, And The (Literal) Value Of Life

People participate in the annual March for Life rally on the National Mall in Washington

As a general principle, I limit my discussions on abortion to a maximum of three per year with zero still being the preferred amount. Last year, I wrote a couple articles about it, but that was it. I tried to make clear on both occasions that while I don’t deny the seriousness of this issue, I generally have little to contribute.

It’s not just because I’m a man and will never need an abortion. Pretty much all the arguments surrounding abortion are intractable. Like debating creationism, there’s no way to convince someone who is set in their opinions to change them. You’d have a better chance convincing someone the sky is green, Mars is made of cheese, and “The Emoji Movie” wasn’t terrible.

All that said, abortion is still a serious issue that is evolving before our eyes both culturally and legally. This is one of those issues that affects everybody, either directly or indirectly. Regardless of whether you’re a baby, an old man, or an aspiring erotica/romance writer, abortion’s reach is vast because it involves life, sex, family, and the propagation of our species. The stakes can’t get much higher than that.

Even with those stakes, the only reason I’m talking about it now is because I live less than two hours away from Washington DC. When there’s a major protest, I generally know about it before it starts trending on social media. The latest gathering was the annual March For Life protest, a demonstration dedicated to decrying the ills of abortion and supporting “pro-life” legislation.

Now, I put “pro-life” in quotes for a reason that I hope will make sense in a bit. I’ve already criticized that term because there are those who use it to hide the fact that they care more about maintaining consequences for those who have more sex than churches, mosques, and synagogues prefer. I don’t intend to belabor that argument, but it is somewhat related to the point I want to make.

Having seen plenty of these protests, I notice a common theme that is at the forefront of the “pro-life” movement, but is rarely scrutinized. That’s the whole concept of the “sanctity of life.” I put that in quotes too for the same reasons I hope are obvious by the end of this article. Unlike the anti-sex crowd, this concept is central to the overall movement.

Beyond the intractable belief that life begins at conception and abortion is the taking of a life, the idea that there’s an inherent value to all life, regardless of what stage it’s at or how it affects the life of the mother bearing it. Without there being substantial value, then the whole arguments about when life even begins becomes meaningless.

I’m not going to make the argument that life has no value or that life, in general, should be devalued. I’m of the belief that we only get one life to live and that makes it valuable to some extent. However, I do want to take a minute to try and quantify that value, if only to provide some context to the “pro-life” movement.

I’m not first one to try this. The late, great George Carlin dug into this issue with more candor and brilliance than I or anyone else ever could in 1996. He dared to ask this question in a way that still came off as funny, yet insightful.

“Only living people care about it, so the whole thing grows out of a completely biased point of view. It’s a self-serving, man-made bullshit story. It’s one of these things we tell ourselves so we’ll feel noble. Life is sacred, makes you feel noble.

Well let me ask you this, if everything that ever lived is dead, and everything alive is going to die, where does the sacred part come in? I’m having trouble with that. Because even with the stuff we preach about the sanctity of life, we don’t practice it.”

It may sound cynical, but it’s relevant if the “pro-life” movement is to have any logical and moral validity to it. If it’s going to ascribe a high value to life, then that value can’t be too vague. There has to be some part of it that translates into real, tangible value. Without that, “pro-life” arguments are just empty rhetoric wrapped in inflamed emotions.

So in order to give that value to life, I want to pose a couple questions to the “pro-life” crowd. I don’t expect anyone to answer, but I think it’s important to put this question out there to put context into the anti-abortion arguments that seem so intractable.

“If you truly believe abortion is murder and want to save the lives of unborn children, are you willing to pay women to carry their unwanted children to term?”

That’s a simple yes/no question that shouldn’t be too hard to answer. I have a feeling many answers will be quick and brash, as most are in highly emotional debates. I expect the phrase “personal responsibility” to get thrown around a lot. That seems to be a catch-all word that conveniently provides an excuse to not help someone in a bad situation.

I’ll set aside the issues with that concept for now and ask the second question. This is where it gets more specific.

“How much are you willing to pay someone to not get an abortion and carry a child to term?”

I expect more variation with this question. I also expect more vitriol because I’m basically asking someone to put a price on a human life. I understand that very thought makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Nobody likes to think of themselves, a loved one, or a child as having some sort of number attached to it.

Then again, we don’t seem to mind that when we get our social security numbers, our addresses, or our paychecks. Like it or not, we’re all ascribed some amount of numeric value at some point in our lives. That doesn’t mean some lives are inherently more valuable than others, but it highlights the fact that we can and do link life to numbers.

Now, in order to help out those who may struggle with this question, allow me to do some simple math that should help make this question more palatable.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 652,639 legal induced abortions in the year 2014. In addition, the average total cost for pre-natal care according to the Kaiser Family Foundation is approximately $2,000. Since that’s only for healthy babies, let’s make it $2,500 to account for complications.

Now, multiply 652,693 by $2,500 and we get $1,631,732,500. For the sake of redundancy and accounting for other possible complications, let’s round that up to a total of $1.7 billion. So for $1.7 billion, you could conceivably cover the cost of pre-natal care to every woman seeking an abortion. For that price, there could’ve been zero abortions in 2014.

With that number in mind, would you be willing to pay that price? I know $1.7 billion seems like a lot, but in terms of the US economy, it’s pennies. The size of the US economy is measured in trillions these days. Even with respect to government spending, the defense budget alone in 2014 was $614 billion. A sum of $1.7 billion barely would’ve registered.

Even if you’re against the idea of the government spending money, on principle, that kind of money is out there in the private sector. According to OpenSecrets.org, the pharmaceutical companies alone spent over $3.7 billion in lobbying over a 10-year span.

Even religious organizations have money to spend on this issue. Back in 2015, CNN reported that the vehemently anti-abortion Vatican had over $8 billion in assets. That’s just one denomination, too. According to the Giving USA Foundation, churches received over $114 billion in tax-free charitable donations in 2014. Given that sum, is $1.7 billion really that much?

It gets even better than that, though. Abortion, as a whole, is on the decline. That means it would be even cheaper to pay the price to stop all abortions in 2018. Abortion still happens, though, and if you genuinely think abortion is murder, then there’s just one more question.

“If you’re NOT willing to pay any price to stop all abortion, then how can you say life is sacred and has intrinsic value?”

I understand that sounds like a loaded question after overly simplifying the issue. I concede that if stopping all abortions were as easy as writing a check for $1.7 billion, somebody would’ve done it by now. It’s not that easy an issue. Abortion wouldn’t be such a hot-button issue if it were.

What I’m trying to get at here is that a general unwillingness to put any tangible value on life essentially undermines the arguments of the “pro-life” movement. We’re willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a smart phone and more than five bucks for a latte. What does it say about someone’s stance on abortion if they say life is sacred, but won’t put up any actual money for the lives they’re trying to preserve?

The March For Life demonstration, as well as most anti-abortion demonstrations, didn’t stress measures like encouraging women to carry a child to term, lowering the cost of pre-natal care, or improving contraception access so that abortions aren’t necessary. Most of it centered on favoring legislation that would make abortion more difficult to obtain.

Never mind the fact that such legislation often has some fairly detrimental effects on women’s health, as John Oliver highlighted a couple years ago. That effort doesn’t vindicate the arguments of the “pro-life” movement, nor does it even accomplish their stated goals. It’s basically a way to claim they’re winning the debate and, as I’ve pointed out before, winning a debate isn’t the same as being right.

I feel like I’ve already talked enough about abortion for one day/month/year. If I want to make one point with this article on abortion and the March For Life protest, as a whole, it’s being “pro-life” and promoting the inherent value of life is a great emotional argument. However, if there’s no substance behind that argument, then it’s not a movement that can logically sustain itself in the long run.

Now, do you understand why I put “pro-life” in quotes?

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Advances In Male Contraception And What It Means For Women

I wasn’t planning to do a follow-up on yesterday’s big post about male contraception. In fact, I originally had an entirely different set of topics to discuss this week. However, some issues are just so relevant and so tantalizing that I can’t resist. I know contraception isn’t an overly sexy topic, but let’s face it. It has some very sexy implications.

It’s not hard to see why. Contraception does affect our sexual behavior as a society and a culture. The fact that the Catholic Church hates it is proof enough of that. Their hate doesn’t change the fact that contraception is as old as civilization, if not older. The problem is that, with the exception of condoms, most of these methods focus on the women.

Now there are logical reason for this that have nothing to do with some grand patriarchal conspiracy and everything to do with the inescapable tenants of male/female biology. Radical feminists may claim otherwise, but high school level biology is working against them.

It’s due to these biological restrictions that the modern history of contraception is closely tied to the modern women’s movement. It’s no coincidence that the advent of reliable birth control in the 60s also coincided with the women’s movement that began in the mid-60s.

From a logistical point of view, it makes sense. Contraception didn’t just give women more control over their fertility than they have at any time in human history. It leveled the playing field. Now women could participate in the economy and not be subject to the frequent interruptions of pregnancy, which could even prove fatal in some cases.

Again, the Catholic Church hates this. The idea of genders being equals does not sit well with certain institutions that would rather see women as breeding factories who regularly pump out new adherents/workers/tax-payers/soldiers/consumers. However, if we’re to create a more equal society with more balanced romances, then contraception is key.

That balance has already played out in ways that modern generations don’t even realized. Despite what the anti-gay marriage crowd would have you believe, modern marriage is very different from what it has been for most of human history.

The biggest difference, by far, is the concept of marrying for love. As an erotica/romance writer, that’s pretty jarring because marrying for love is often part of the narratives we craft when molding romantic stories.

However, for most of human history, we didn’t marry for love. We often married whoever our parents told us to marry. Love was even seen as disruptive to this institution. So whenever someone talks about “traditional marriage,” they might as well be referring to a loveless marriage.

Contraception changed that. Contraception made it so people didn’t have to get married for children. They didn’t have to get married because they got too horny one night and the woman ended up pregnant. People could actually choose who they married. What a concept right?

This concept couldn’t have worked without contraception because it gave couples control over their fertility. Men and women could spend time to find out whether they were romantically and sexually compatible. If done right, then it makes for a more loving, intimate bond. However, as the divorce rate indicates, there’s room for improvement.

That brings me back to Vasalgel, a potential game-changing contraceptive that the Catholic Church is sure to hate. What the birth control pill did for women in the 60s, Vasalgel could do for men today. It effectively levels the playing field in a way human civilization has never experienced.

It’s exciting and somewhat scary, but it is coming. The effectiveness of Vasalgel has already been proven to work in monkeys with no ill-effects. There are now monkeys in labs that can hump all they want and never have to worry about a monkey baby mama. Those are probably some very happy monkeys.

Within the next three to five years, after further testing with the FDA, this product could become available for men everywhere who also want to avoid baby mamas. Unlike condoms or pills, Vasalgel is as close to idiot-proof as you can get when it comes to contraception. For certain men, that’s very important for reasons I hope are obvious.

As a brief refresher, Vasalgel works in a way that’s not unlike a non-hormonal IUD for women. It involves injecting a special gel into the vas deferens of a man, which are the tubes that carry the sperm from the testes. This gel allows seminal fluid to pass through, but not the sperm. Without the sperm, there’s no possibility for conception. Even the anti-abortion crowd can’t complain about this.

There are no hormones involved so it doesn’t mess with any biology, which has been a big problem with past male contraceptives. It’s also easily reversible, requiring only another injection into the vas deferens to dissolve the gel. After that, the man can go back to making babies like a wannabe Dugger.

It’s also completely passive. Men don’t have to think or worry about it in any capacity. They don’t have to remember to put on a condom. They don’t have to remember to take a pill. Given how much thought and energy men put into video games, football, and extreme sports, that’s also very important.

Once injected, Vasalgel lasts for approximately 10 years. That’s 10 years of men never having to worry about a woman showing up on their doorstep with a baby and a legal document saying they owe them back child support. Ask any guest on Maury Povich why that’s very important to many men.

Beyond giving lawyers one less recourse to screw men out of their money, there will likely be other major impacts on men, women, and society as a whole. Think about it. What will this do for men and male sexuality in general?

Make no mistake. There will be an impact. We saw it with the birth control pill for women. We’ll definitely see something similar with men. I already painted a scenario in my last post for a man who doesn’t want to worry about having children. For this post, I’d like to focus on the women.

In order to do that, I’ll have to remind women of a few unpleasant, unspoken truths that some men harbor towards women. Remember last year when I did a post where I tapped into the mind of a misogynistic man? Well, there’s one key component to that mentality that needs to be highlighted.

One of the unspoken, but rarely-discussed attitudes that men have towards women has to do with using their horniness against them. Men hate it when women use their insatiable desire to have sex to manipulate them. As men and as human beings, we can’t turn off our horniness. It’s what drives us to jump through all the hoops that women make us jump through, even when they have serious legal ramifications.

The biggest manifestation of this disdain comes in the form of women who get with men for the sole purposes of locking them in with marriage and/or child support. While marriage is difficult in that it requires legal documents, getting pregnant does not. It just requires that a woman have sex with a man at a time when he’s too horny to remember to put on a condom. Given how horny men can get, this is not a difficult feat.

It’s this kind of manipulation that makes men say and think some of the horrible, misogynistic crap that makes radical feminists hulk out. They hate that women use their sexuality against them. They hate that they can’t always control the outcome of their short-sighted sexual escapades. When you’re that horny, you just don’t think things through.

Vasalgel changes that in a big way by removing that traditionally easy method that women can use to manipulate men. If a man uses Vasalgel, then it doesn’t matter what the woman does to get him into bed. He won’t get her pregnant. He won’t give her that baby that’ll entitle her to a healthy chunk of his paycheck. It wouldn’t just put Maury Povich out of business. It would change the way women have to relate to men.

Suddenly, women can’t extort men in a way that is far too easy, as many professional athletes can attest. They can’t hook up with him with the sole purpose of extracting valuable children from him. If they want access to his money and resources, they actually have to put in the time, effort, and passion to make him want to be with her. What a concept, right?

Beyond baby mamas for pro athletes, Vasalgel could have an even greater impact on the sexual behavior of youth. Many of us, minus those in Texas, endured sex ed in high school. We learned all about contraception, diseases, and all the ways that getting knocked up when you’re young can ruin your life.

Well, to this point, only the teenage girls could do something about that. For the teenage boys, they could never be sure whether the girl they were trying to hook up with was on birth control. It’s not just stressful in a way that makes it hard to get a boner. It gives the girls a significant amount of leverage over the boys. Give any gender that kind of leverage and you’re just asking for trouble.

Throw Vasalgel into the mix and things change. Suddenly, a teenage boy knows that he won’t be getting any girls pregnant for the duration of high school or college. He can be as irresponsible as he wants, banging every drama student and cheerleader in his path, and never have to worry about knocking them up in a way that’ll make some girl’s father hunt him down with a shotgun.

Once again, this levels the playing field. This means girls are the ones who can’t be sure if a man has Vasalgel or not. That means they actually have to talk to each other about who does what to avoid getting pregnant. It’s sure to be an awkward conversation, but the mere fact that they talk this stuff out is important for two people who are thinking about having sex.

At a time when young people are less sexually active than ever before, this could very well change that. Take away the stress and anxiety of contraception, especially among the exceedingly horny men of this world, and there are far fewer reasons for young people not to bone.

Assuming that Vasalgel makes it through the necessary testing phases, it could very well be available for the coming generation entering their teen years. Granted, those teen years will surely be awkward for many different reasons, but not having to worry about unplanned pregnancy will definitely help.

This means that we’re on the cusp of a major dynamic shift between genders. What will happen to the way men and women relate to one another when they both have equal control over their sexuality? It’s not just a thought experiment anymore. We’re going to find out very soon. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I look forward to the possibilities.

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The Future Of Contraception (For Men)

There are some technological advancements that are exceedingly overdue. It’s easy to be caught off-guard by some advancements. Who the hell besides “Star Trek” and “The Simpsons” would’ve thought that advances like smart-phones and farm simulators would’ve caught on?

These kinds of advances are nice/shocking/annoying surprises. However, there are some enhancements that seriously need to happen for society to fix a major problem. I’m not talking about nuclear fusion, flying cars, jet packs, or sex robots though, although there has been some recent development in that field. I’m talking about male birth control.

Like nuclear fusion and a “Fantastic Four” movie that doesn’t suck, this is one of those advancements that science has been working on for decades now. Unfortunately, progress has been slow, regressive, or non-existent in some cases. At the same time, however, options for female birth control have only grown, so much so that the amount of choices is almost on part with the flavors of potato chips.

So what’s the hold-up? Why is science dragging its feet here and keeping the burden of contraception solely on the backs of women? Well, before all the radical feminists out there break out their pitchforks and bullhorns, take a deep breath and calm down. It has nothing to do with some vast, misogynistic conspiracy perpetrated by the patriarchy. It’s just a matter of human biology.

The basic science of contraception is simple. There are dozens of steps that go into making a pregnancy happen. All contraception has to do to be effective is stop just one. That’s easy for women because it only involves stopping a single cell, namely the ovum. You can stop it with hormones. You can stop it with implants. In biological terms, it’s relatively easy because it’s one cell. It’s the science equivalent of fighting zombies with a tank.

For men, it’s a bit trickier. It’s akin to trying to hit a barrage of baseballs the size of marbles with an undersized plastic bat. The average “load” of a man contains between 40 million and 200 million sperm cells. Even a hulked-out Barry Bonds on his best day can’t hope to hit every one of those cells.

This is why, with the exception of condoms, it’s so difficult to create a reliable form of contraception for men. It’s a matter of volume, biology, and sheer numbers. Again, the patriarchy isn’t behind this. It’s purely a matter of pragmatics.

That hasn’t stopped science from trying. Naturally, there’s significant demand for a product that’ll ensure men that they’ll never be on the wrong end of a paternity test. For the Evander Holyfields and DMX’s of the world, that’s an important bit of assurance because failing that test can cost a lot in terms of legal recourse.

Earlier this year, one attempt at male birth control ended in miserable failure when men couldn’t handle the side-effects. It made men everywhere the butt of a lot of jokes, especially among women who had been dealing with the side-effects of contraception for decades. As a man, I definitely felt an unseen kick to the balls. That said, it did highlight the inherent difficulty in achieving this critical advancement.

Well, the promise of male birth control might actually be closer than we think and not in the flying cars sort of way. According to ScienceAlert, a new product called Vasalgel is making its rounds through testing and so far, it may hold the most promise to giving men the same control over their fertility that women have enjoyed for decades.

How does it work? It’s basically a dissolvable gel that is injected into vas deferens, which are those tiny tubes that sperm flow through after they leave the testes. The gel blocks the sperm, but not the rest of the seminal fluid that gets released upon ejaculation. That means men still get the sweet, sexy release they crave, but that release contains no sperm. It’s the semen-equivalent of calorie-free soda.

This method is far more preferable in the sense that it doesn’t use hormones, which apparently men aren’t as equipped to handle as women. It’s also not a regiment that requires men to take a pill daily. Given the “meathead effect” caused by testosterone, that’s pretty damn important.

When used properly, which is always key in any medical application, Vasalgel works for approximately ten years. That’s basically then years of baby-free boning for men. Considering how many kids certain professional athletes tend to father, that’s a big deal.

Beyond reducing the need to make child support payments, this form of male contraception is vital with respect to leveling the playing field for genders. Let’s not lie to ourselves, guys. We’re playing an unfair game with unequal rules in the contraception game.

We put the burden on the women to manipulate their bodies accordingly so they don’t get pregnant when they don’t want to. They have to down pills, shoot themselves up with chemicals, or implant little devices up into their lady parts. All we men have to do is put on a latex sheath over our dicks. That’s just not fair.

Beyond putting all these expectations on the ladies we want to love and make love with, we’re also putting ourselves at a disadvantage. You want to know why Maury Povich is in business? It’s because men just don’t have any options beyond condoms or vasectomies to control their fertility. Absent those options, we’re still incredibly horny and, as we routinely demonstrate, we don’t think clearly when we’re horny.

With Vasalgel, assuming it works as advertised, the playing field isn’t just level. The whole contraception game is basically on easy mode. This isn’t something we have to apply in the heat of the moment when we’re so horny that we can barely do basic math. This is something we do at a doctor’s office once every decade and then basically forget about it. Like hot pockets and breakfast burritos, it helps when things are that easy.

Picture the following scenario. A 16-year-old boy is an aspiring athlete. Everyone tells him he has what it takes to play at the college level and maybe even the pros. He’s a big star at the school and, naturally, that attracts a lot of women. He knows that getting a teenage girl pregnant is a very good way to derail any promising future. Just ask Travis Henry.

To nip this issue early on, he goes to a doctor and gets a Vasalgel injection. That means for the rest of his high school and college career, at least, he doesn’t have to worry about getting a girl knocked up. He can enjoy all the naked cheerleaders he wants without worry.

Now this wouldn’t stop some girls from claiming he fathered their child. This does happen. Look up something called “Baller Alert” and prepare to become an angry Al Bundy. Some women do prey, and smartly so, on the horniness of men and use it to their advantage. Vasalgel could stop that.

I believe that if and when Vasalgel gets approved, it’ll also come with a certificate or some indisputable receipt that shows that a man does have this injection. Perhaps it even has a date and time stamp with it because that would help establish timelines for paternity suits, if and when they come up. It would give men an extremely powerful tool not just to control their fertility, but to fight back against predatory baby mamas.

Think back to those professional athletes who couldn’t keep it in their pants. How much money and frustration would they have saved if they had something like Vasalgel?

That’s why I believe that male contraception is a vital advancement. So long as there is an unequal dynamic between genders, there will always be conflict. Balance out that conflict and maybe we can focus less on paternity suits and more on finding better ways to relate to one another. If those ways involve a more honest way of making love, then that’s just a nice bonus.

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Thoughts On Male Birth Control And Why It’s Making Men Look Bad

Let’s face it. Men can be very targeted with their masculinity. Show us a deer that needs killing, a wall that needs smashing, or a bucket of fried food that needs eating and we’ll flex our nuts like we’re John Wayne. We all have egos, but men tend to jump at the chance to feed those egos more than most. Sure, it gets us in trouble and we make asses of ourselves in the process, but it makes us feel manly and that’s all we need.

Men may be overly simple creatures in that respect, but by excessively targeting our masculinity, we leave ourselves vulnerable. It doesn’t matter how thick our manly armor is. If there’s a target on our ass, we’ll get hit and we’ll still whine about it more than we dare admit.

This is why the recent news surrounding the first male birth control shot caught my attention. For those of you too distracted by the World Series, the economy, or sexy romance/erotica novels (hopefully written by me), here’s a quick and dirty recap.

In a study co-sponsored by the UN, a group of 320 healthy men in monogamous relationships were recruited to test a new male birth control method. This method involved two injections given every eight weeks, one consisting of a synthetic form of testosterone and the other consisting of a derivative of the female hormones progesterone and estrogen.

I’m not a doctor. I’m barely qualified to make a cheese sandwich so please don’t take my assessment as definitive. Based on what I’ve read about this procedure, it’s basically a one-two punch of hormones basically tricks a man’s body into thinking it doesn’t need to produce sperm anymore. That’s good if you don’t want to be on the wrong end of a paternity test.

There’s just one problem though and it’s a problem that is making women everywhere roll their eyes and resist the urge to punch something. The study ended because, according to CNN, the men became concerned when side-effects like mood disorders and depression emerged.

On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable concern. If something is affecting your mood that badly, then you should be concerned. If this were just a new blood pressure drug, it wouldn’t be news. The problem is this drug affects our sex lives and in a culture where a wardrobe malfunction becomes a national scandal, it’s going to be news.

If those effects involved men growing a third limb or having the sudden urge to sing show tunes in public, it may be news for all the right reasons. Unfortunately, those reasons are nowhere to be found this time. Instead, this news basically gives women everywhere an excuse to bust more balls and honestly, I can’t say I blame them.

Why can’t I blame them? Well, check out WebMD and look up the side effects of hormonal birth control for women, which has been legal and available for 50 years now. Here’s a quick rundown of the side-effects.

  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Sore or swollen breasts
  • Small amounts of blood, or spotting, between periods
  • Lighter periods
  • Mood changes

These side-effects may not be on par with migraines, dry heaves, and explosive diarrhea, but they’re nothing to scoff at. Women have been enduring them for years and they endure them because they want to have some measure of control over their reproductive destiny. That’s objectively a good thing. We all want to control our lives. That should include the stuff that goes on in our bodies.

However, when it comes to contraception, there’s an undeniable imbalance in terms of who has to take the shot and who has to endure the side-effects. For men, there are no side-effects to condoms other than having to worry about whether your lovers have a latex allergy. They’re also cheap, easy to use, and don’t involve pumping chemicals into our bodies. By all accounts, it’s pretty damn easy.

Compare that with female birth control, which requires either a dose of chemicals or inserting something right up through the vagina and into the uterus. They endure this whereas men will go to any length to avoid inserting anything into their penis. That just doesn’t seem fair, does it?

We humans already have an innate sense of fairness built into our brain wiring. When we see something that we know is unfair, it tends to cause us distress. This discrepancy in contraception definitely triggers that response, if only indirectly.

The fact that women have to bear such a greater burden when utilizing contraception is definitely an issue. I believe it’s part of what fuels some of the gender issues that are driving women apart. Again, this may be indirect, but it’s an effect we can’t ignore.

In nature, when there’s an imbalance, any living system, be it a blob of pond scum or the whole of human civilization, will work to rectify it. Creating contraception that shares the burden between men and women equally is part of an effort that has been going on for centuries, often with unequal results.

A story like this just exposes that inequality even more. It reminds us that men are not bearing their share of the burden. It’s still on the women to make sure that they’re on contraception and that it works. All men can bring to the table is condoms and condoms don’t involve injections into genitals.

This study is definitely a setback and one that’s sure to frustrate women for quite some time. To those women out there, I would only urge patience. I believe that medical science is advancing at a rate our horny ancient ancestors can only dream of.

I’ve talked about the future of the human body and how technology will change it. I believe that one day, we will have the perfect form of contraception that works equally with both genders. It’ll most likely involve a single injection of programmable flesh, each designed to regulate our reproductive systems. It means men and women will be equally capable of controlling their fertility.

When that day comes, it’ll finally balance out what centuries of evolution cannot. It will change the way men and women relate to one another. Hopefully, it means we’ll have fewer stories like this where women want to punch the first man they see for being such a whiner. I say any future where women have fewer reasons to punch men is a future worth fighting for.

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