Friday, February 22, 2013

A Feminine Critique: Oral birth control pills may soon be an option for men

by Ruthie Kovanen, Guest Writer

Imagine a world where men, rather than women, take a monthly birth control pill. This world is closer than you’d think.

            Recent research on BRDT — a protein required in sperm production — reveals the possibility of an oral birth control pill for men. Yes, you read correctly.

            BRDT is a protein that is required in spermatogenesis, the biological process that creates sperm. A team of scientists, however, discovered that a substance named JQ1 could inhibit BRDT, which would in turn obstruct the production of sperm.

            Research on mice has shown that this hormone-free method of contraception is effective, totally reversible and has no visible long-term effects.

            To date, no research has been done on humans. For this reason, many scientists await further research in order to examine the effectiveness and safety of JQ1 in humans. The findings were published in the scientific journal “Cell” in August 2012.

            If you can believe it, this is not the first method of contraception for men. Well-known methods include condoms and vasectomies, but hormonal gels and injections exist as well.

            The idea of birth control for men is perceived by many as controversial. Some believe that “the pill” for men — a possibility thanks to the research mentioned above — would be unnecessary since many different forms of contraception already exist. With condoms, birth control pills for women and injections to name a few, many believe that an additional method is redundant.

            Others assert that a contraceptive that actually inhibits sperm production is logical. It seems sensible to stop the production of sperm at the source rather than obstruct its entry.

            One of the principal questions is, “would people really use this?” Many researchers believe that men who already use methods of birth control, such as condoms, would be ready and willing to accept their own birth control pills.

            Others are not so sure. When interviewed by ABC News, web editor Amy McCarthy said she would continue to use additional means of birth control when “dating around,” because “there’s no way I would trust someone that I’d been on just a few dates with [to take the pill].”

            This statement reiterates the importance of discussing contraception with your partner. In any relationship, including when you’re just “dating around,” birth control should be discussed and not just assumed.

            Clearly, opinions are varied, and more research needs to be done before this type of contraception becomes widely available.
           Ruthie Kovanen hails from the great state of Michigan, is a sophomore at Pacific Lutheran University and is studying anthropology, Hispanic studies and women’s and gender studies. Aside from reading and writing about feminism, Ruthie enjoys chatting over a cup of coffee, baking bread and spending time outdoors.