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“I’d gladly put my balls on the chopping block for the benefit of mankind.”
May 31, 2011 9:07 AM   Subscribe

The Revolutionary New Birth Control Method for Men. Link NSFW.

Wired covers RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance): a reversible, non-hormonal contraceptive that provides 10 or more years of protection after a 10-15 minute procedure, currently in Phase III trials in India.
posted by zarq (106 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
"But here’s the thing: RISUG is not the product of some global pharmaceutical company or state-of-the-art government-funded research lab"

Suck on that big-pharma.
posted by oddman at 9:15 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would definitely consider that over the regular vasectomy... but I could not finish the article. I was actually quietly screaming at parts and had to skip over most of it.
posted by Pertz at 9:17 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, this is pretty impressive. Not only the procedure but that he also did it on his own.
posted by shoesietart at 9:18 AM on May 31, 2011


I'm normally not too squeamish, but when I got to that video I clicked the back button pretty quickly.
posted by mikeo2 at 9:18 AM on May 31, 2011


“Our options suck,” fumes one frustrated correspondent, a Florida real estate manager who emailed Guha a few years ago. “I’d gladly put my balls on the chopping block for the benefit of mankind.”

I salute you.
posted by America at 9:18 AM on May 31, 2011 [12 favorites]


So this new plan is to inject plastic into the vas deferens creating a sterilizing coating therein. Huh. Is there any indication (besides pregnancy) that the procedure has "expired", I wonder?
posted by boo_radley at 9:21 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Gates Foundation is also pursuing the use of ultrasound as a reversible male contraceptive. The advantage of the ultrasound method (compared to RISUG) is that it's non-invasive, so it can be done outside the clinic. The disadvantage is that it only lasts 6 months at a time.

Is there any indication (besides pregnancy) that the procedure has "expired", I wonder?

One could have one's sperm tested every so often. Even if it tended to expire after some years, it should be fairly straightforward to wash out the old polymer with DMSO and replace it.
posted by jedicus at 9:23 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Related: Haim Breitbart's research, which seems to essentially be the same thing.
posted by byanyothername at 9:24 AM on May 31, 2011


I've had mine cut on twice, but I'm at work right now and don't want to risk watching the video. I'll watch it tonight.
posted by no relation at 9:27 AM on May 31, 2011


What a fascinating and frustrating story. Good read, thanks!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:27 AM on May 31, 2011


I've learned to be wary of gushing articles in Wired, but this sounds really interesting. Birth control for women is amazing but frustrating, too, unless you get lucky with the first method you try. It must be frustrating for men, too, that their only options for taking charge of *their* fertility is abstinence or condoms or putting the burden on their partner.
posted by MadamM at 9:36 AM on May 31, 2011


This is definitely interesting (though in a purely academic sense for me since I already had the old school version some years ago). The first really new idea I can recall being exposed to in birth control since the advent of hormonal contraception.

But I find it annoying, and this is fairly typical of Wired articles, that it seems like the author made no effort to enage anyone who had serious reservations about the procedure. Conventional surgical vasectomy as a routine procedure for permanent sterilization is over half a century old and is performed and has a data set of hundreds of millions to judge its effectiveness and safety, which while not perfect (find me a surgery that is) are very good. Yes I will take some extra scrutiny of whether the homebrew ball sack injection polymer is really safe, thank you. This eternal Wired narrative of the perfect sparkly new technology and how the fuddy duddy old mentality just won't embrace it soon enough is getting stale.
posted by nanojath at 9:39 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, I skimmed the article before I posted. On closer reading, it isn't similar at all. Breitbart's idea is to nix protein synthesis, rendering sperm unable to survive in the uterus without having any long term effects on men's virility.

This polymer coating stuff is something else entirely.
posted by byanyothername at 9:42 AM on May 31, 2011


My husband and I are doing our part to keep the risk of unwanted pregnancies down.
posted by The Whelk at 9:42 AM on May 31, 2011 [21 favorites]


My iPhone can get pregnant?!?
posted by srboisvert at 9:45 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


PVPS is no fun, let me tell you. So if dude has come up with something just as permanent and effective with much less risk of random OW HEY later, count my vote as for.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:49 AM on May 31, 2011


OOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
WWWWWWWWWWWW.
posted by LoudMusic at 9:51 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


PVPS is no fun, let me tell you.

Neither are most of the birth control methods available for women - I speak as someone who found IUD insertion more painful than breaking bones. I hope Science! comes up with something that doesn't involve invasive procedures or massive doses of hormones eventually. Barrier methods are great, but not ideal for long-term relationships (or maybe I'm just paranoid about them).
posted by mippy at 9:51 AM on May 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


I thought this was going to be a youtube vid of some guy getting kicked in the nuts.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:51 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thoughthoped this was going to be a youtube vid of some guy getting kicked in the nuts.

Me too.

As someone who's ridden the birth control train for five years with my long-term partner, I would get this if it were generally available.
posted by fatbird at 9:54 AM on May 31, 2011


Is there any indication (besides pregnancy) that the procedure has "expired", I wonder?

When you start shooting styrofoam peanuts...
posted by Kabanos at 9:55 AM on May 31, 2011 [10 favorites]


gottabefunky: "I thought this was going to be a youtube vid of some guy getting kicked in the nuts."

The delivery method is a football, thank you. At least try to make an effort to get the details correct.
posted by boo_radley at 9:56 AM on May 31, 2011


I've had mine cut on twice, but I'm at work right now and don't want to risk watching the video. I'll watch it tonight.
posted by no relation at 9:27 AM on May 31 [+] [!]


Twice? Did the first time not take, or did you just go back for funsies?

mine was for funsies
posted by FatherDagon at 9:57 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


“I’d gladly put my balls on the chopping block for the benefit of mankind.”

That's one small snip for a man, one gonad chop for mankind!
posted by mattdidthat at 10:03 AM on May 31, 2011


It encouraging to see work done on contraception for males and I appreciate the burden typically put on women for contraception. But when I look at the numbers from a process design perspective, I feel more confident in a treatment that is directed toward a few ova per month rather than 200 million sperm per ejaculation.
posted by klarck at 10:03 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


The sperm are much easier to get to than the ova. My vasectomy was done sitting in a barber's chair in the front room of a guy's house and cost me $400. Compare and contrast to even laporoscopic (much lower risk) approaches to the female counterpart. Nope, as a person with my gonads conveniently flapping around between my legs, I'll gladly step up, sit down, and do what's needed because it's safe, fast, and effective.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:07 AM on May 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


There's a vas deferens between this and a male contraceptive that would be really popular.
posted by jewzilla at 10:08 AM on May 31, 2011 [13 favorites]


And my doctor offered to show me my vas deference as he'd removed it briefly from my scrotum for clipping. I said no, distantly, as I was off in some zen mantra land because OH MY GOD THIS GUY IS DIGGING AROUND IN MY CROTCH WITH A KNIFE. I really don't feel like I missed anything for not seeing it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:09 AM on May 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sorry, for all the welcome scientific progress, all I kept thinking was...

"Its a Contraceptive! No, It's a Floor Polish! Wait, It's Both!"
posted by djrock3k at 10:12 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I welcome this. I resent how women have to be the ones to bear the burden of birth control, and I specifically resent how we're supposed to endure the many side effects of hormonal birth control (spotting, weight gain, mood swings, acne, increased risk of stroke, blood clots, etc.) for years and years. I also resent how women are pressured into using hormonal birth control by healthcare professionals and by partners who think that it's no big deal to take it and don't have to consider the negative effects of the side effects on a woman's quality of life.

I'm jealous of all the women who like their birth control and become evangelists for it, but I resent them for not mentioning that bleeding nonstop for months until the bc and I get in sync because they think it is not a big deal.

(I'm still surprised by how bitter and angry I am about my experience with hormonal birth control.)
posted by anniecat at 10:17 AM on May 31, 2011 [10 favorites]


So in his precious life of still sometimes sleeping with women, my man got his plumbing snipped. No problem right? It's just general anesthesia. He's not squeamish in the least and was pretty interested in just how it would work.

Okay so everything is going fine until about halfway through the operation when the bulb above the table, the bulb above his surgically open ball sack, BURSTS, plunging the room into darkness.

With far greater calm then I could never hope to muster, he asks if any glass got near the site. Nope, the bulb was made to fail cleanly. Okay then, do you have enough light to work with? Well not really..

He tells the nurse there's a powerful LED flashlight in his pants. She dug it out and held it over the doctor, who continents and made pleasant small talk before sowing him back up.

And that is the story of Simon's impervious brass balls.
posted by The Whelk at 10:17 AM on May 31, 2011 [41 favorites]


My vasectomy was done sitting in a barber's chair in the front room of a guy's house and cost me $400.

Where do you live?
posted by odinsdream at 10:20 AM on May 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh man I meant to say previous life but precious just sounds so much better.
posted by The Whelk at 10:21 AM on May 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wait, are guys seriously so protective of their nuts that they wouldn't undergo a half-hour procedure done under local anesthetic for years of protection from accidental pregnancy? I would have thought that if this was approved in the US and publicized well, college-aged guys with no plans to have children in the near future would be lining up.

I mean, IUDs have become popular with younger women, and they're a lot more invasive and have more potential for side effects than this new procedure. Or are guys happy to let women continue to bear the burden of dealing with contraception?
posted by MadamM at 10:24 AM on May 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


I read about this a few years ago, but every writeup I could find was vague as to how it worked, and my descriptions to friends (the few that I actually talked about this with) ended up fairly hand-wavey. It's good to have a writeup that actually explains a bit more about what's going on.

The fact that it's reversible (allegedly, of course), means this could end up absolutely revolutionizing world health. Imagine if every 12-year-old (in the country? world?) were injected with this, and guys could have the DMSO flush at whatever point they were ready to have kids. Teen pregnancies ... overpopulation in famine zones ... all of it would be gone, almost overnight (plus nine months). "Every child a wanted child," as it were.

The piece mentioned the polymer affecting the sperm's negatively-charged membranes. Does that mean this is a physical action (essentially, magnets rupturing the sperm), or a chemical one?
posted by Alt F4 at 10:28 AM on May 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


As I lay on the procedure table, my doctor showed me the small section of vas deferens he had just removed. I looked at it in a pharmaceutical induced haze and said "Now it's a vas been."
posted by Daddy-O at 10:31 AM on May 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


After more than a few long-term relationships spent bouncing between condoms (not fun in many ways) and hormonal birth control (not fun for the lady, not fun for me for making me feel guilty for making lady take the brunt of the damage for making our sexy-times possible), I will gladly have some liquid plastic injected into my scrotum.
posted by tempythethird at 10:33 AM on May 31, 2011


Or are guys happy to let women continue to bear the burden of dealing with contraception?This is a pretty slanted way of putting it.

For a lot of guys, the only choice besides condoms that doesn't involve something invasive is the woman using the pill, and not a lot of men understand that it's much more complicated than just taking a pill every day. The only male-centered choice is a vasectomy, which has very dodgy odds of being reversible, and that's not a decision a lot of 20something men like to make.

Wait, are guys seriously so protective of their nuts that they wouldn't undergo a half-hour procedure done under local anesthetic for years of protection from accidental pregnancy?

I think a procedure like this that's clearly very successful and easily reversible would see a lot of uptake among young men. The downside of relying on your partner taking the pill is that you're helpless if the pill just doesn't work, or your partner is careless, or decides to get pregnant without your knowledge. The invasive of vasectomies is one reason a lot of young men prefer not to get them, but the apparent permanence is also a big factor.
posted by fatbird at 10:36 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not only was that a fascinating article, but one of the comments gave me my dose of crazy for the day:

"Being an atheist, I can freely comment this article in this way; Point #1: I really can’t understand why some MEN are so obsessed with becoming infertile (vasectomy and these new methods)..? I read some readers’ comments that they would do such-and-such procedures tomorrow… I wonder what brought you to this point? By *nature*, women are much more careful regarding inception of a child, and men are much more pushy towards the same goal (because of well known reasons). Therefore, a psychology of men who don’t want to have children (at any age) seems unnatural."

WHUT. There's more, about how much it would suck when the 18-year-olds decided surgery on their balls was "cool" and so flocked to get it done (???), but you can just stop there and finish with, "In conclusion, if you are not running around impregnating random women all the time, evolution has failed. Thank you and good night!"

(As the crazy man suggests, I am thinking about what would happen if pop culture endorsed such a thing and 18-year-olds started racing off to get it done, and while I suspect a slight rise in the incidence of STDs, KICK-ASS on the fewer unwanted pregnancies!)

And isn't set-it-and-forget-it, but fully reversible the gold standard for birth control? I hope this comes to fruition.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:37 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait, are guys seriously so protective of their nuts that they wouldn't undergo a half-hour procedure done under local anesthetic for years of protection from accidental pregnancy? I would have thought that if this was approved in the US and publicized well, college-aged guys with no plans to have children in the near future would be lining up.

There's a few things going on. This isn't a complete list, obviously, but the following factors all come in.

Almost every guy has a nuts-impact story. I can think of three personally.
Serious nuts-impacts hurt badly. I personally have felt more pain from a crunching than from getting hit by a car while biking and hitting a tree.
For some guys, it's considered to be a loss of manhood, a feminization/emasculation, whatever.
Cultural mechanisms [pop culture, random conversations, whatever] reinforce the above.
And as you said, guys are happy (I think willing is more accurate) to let women bear the burden.

Personally, I am going to get a vasectomy within a year or two, most likely. I wish I could get this, but c'est la vie. Pain isn't that bad. Man up and get snipped.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:37 AM on May 31, 2011


there has not been a single failure or serious adverse reaction.

This is worrying in a too good to be true sort of way. Gives the procedure the scent of snake oil.

In February 2010, Parsemus bought the international rights to the RISUG technology from Guha and IIT Kharagpur for $100,000

This however will be the deal of the century if the procedure pans out.

MadamM writes "Wait, are guys seriously so protective of their nuts that they wouldn't undergo a half-hour procedure done under local anesthetic for years of protection from accidental pregnancy? I would have thought that if this was approved in the US and publicized well, college-aged guys with no plans to have children in the near future would be lining up. "

Vasectomies aren't considered to be reversible. Hooking things back up is theoretically possible but it it quite expensive and the procedure has a high rate of failure. I'd have had one 20 years ago if reversal was as easy as the initial procedure.
posted by Mitheral at 10:40 AM on May 31, 2011


ly revolutionizing world health. Imagine if every 12-year-old (in the country? world?) were injected with this, and guys could have the DMSO flush at whatever point they were ready to have kids.

All we would need is a world government organization powerful enough to force every child to have this procedure over any objections of the parents, at gunpoint if necessary. (Cue maniacal laughter)
posted by happyroach at 10:42 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, are guys seriously so protective of their nuts that they wouldn't undergo a half-hour procedure done under local anesthetic for years of protection from accidental pregnancy? I would have thought that if this was approved in the US and publicized well, college-aged guys with no plans to have children in the near future would be lining up.

I'm not sure where you are getting the idea that this wouldn't be wildly popular if it was approved. In the article it talks about men outside of India being frustrated that they don't have the option of undergoing the surgery while it is still experimental. And the article also explains the reasons why it is more difficult to get birth control methods approved in general (has to be 99+% effective, has to have zero risk of birth defects, etc.) and the reasons why this method in particular has been difficult to move forward (bureaucratic issues in India, lack of recognition of the studies in other countries, lack of money to spend on new studies, etc.)
posted by burnmp3s at 10:43 AM on May 31, 2011


need is a world government organization powerful enough to force every child to have this procedure over any objections

Yeah. Alt F4 is talking like that would be a Utopia. But it sounds a lot more like a dystopia to me. Brave New World and so on.
posted by Justinian at 10:44 AM on May 31, 2011


What? Some whack job injects floor polish into his pet monkey's gooners (probably because the monkey was humping everything in site including the couch), and all of a sudden that's science?

I think I want a little more research before I sign up. For example could this be done with Lemon Pledge.
posted by Gungho at 10:46 AM on May 31, 2011


I'm not sure where you are getting the idea that this wouldn't be wildly popular if it was approved.

I'm not either. Perhaps from a couple of the more jokey comments here? Or perhaps the resentment that anniecat spoke of?
posted by Dano St at 10:51 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


This operation is a great leap in making me feel squeamish.
posted by Philipschall at 10:55 AM on May 31, 2011


Personally, I am going to get a vasectomy within a year or two, most likely. I wish I could get this, but c'est la vie. Pain isn't that bad. Man up and get snipped

Yeah... you get to tell people to "man up" when you've actually done it.
posted by nanojath at 11:00 AM on May 31, 2011


odinsdream -- I had it done in Seattle when I was staying there for a month. I really don't recall where exactly but it was just as I describe. The dude was a doctor and he worked out of his house just doing vasectomies, cash on the barrelhead.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:09 AM on May 31, 2011


OK: "Man up." This procedure is more terrifying in theory than in reality.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:09 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


My vasectomy was done sitting in a barber's chair in the front room of a guy's house [...]

I think we must have the same insurance.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:18 AM on May 31, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm not arguing with the sentiment, BTW, wenestvedt... I am in the club too and very much a proponent of conventional surgical vasectomy for permanent sterilization. I think it's only sensible to view it as non-reversible and find the "oh god no not my balls" reactions silly.

I just couldn't help joshing Lemurrhea for being such a strong advocate of his still-theoretical vasectomy. I was just being a bit of a dick, Lemurrhea! I've no doubt you will follow through when the time is right.
posted by nanojath at 11:18 AM on May 31, 2011


Oh, dudes. You know what once happened to me that was totally more painful than getting hit by a car?

Childbirth.

Oh, and childbirth takes way longer than getting a vasectomy or a polymer injection. It takes, like, 12-36 hours longer. And often, things sort of get torn up during childbirth. Precious things. That must be stitched afterward. Sometimes without any painkillers.

Of course, that only happens after your abdomen swells to the size of a prize-winning watermelon and someone spends months kicking you directly in the bladder or lungs whenever you try to sleep.

To prevent that whole situation from happening more often than I want it to, I have, in the past taken pills that made me nauseous for five hours a day and gave me migraines, injected myself with hormones that made my bones thin and my hair fall out, and seriously considered semi-permanently installing pointy metal prongs in my babymaker.

So please forgive some of us of the womb-having, hetero persuasion for wishing more men would WOMAN UP about this birth control thing (and also for giggling a little when we see you squirm at the very thought of a doctor poking your 'nads with a needle).
posted by BlueJae at 11:20 AM on May 31, 2011 [63 favorites]


BlueJae, you got your truthiness in our squeamishness!
posted by Mister_A at 11:22 AM on May 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sorry, I was mostly responding to the knee-jerk comments here; the first (now deleted) comment on this thread was just "no" with no follow-up, and a few others. I also understand that vasectomies aren't a good option for guys who might ever want to have children, but this procedure (so far, since of course, more research is needed) seems to have the benefits of a vasectomy with few to none of the downsides.

And yeah, I definitely am resentful. My experiences with hormonal BC have been pretty unimpressive, and I know I'm not even close to alone in that. Being female comes with a heck of a lot of downsides just physiologically (periods! Breast and cervical cancer/biopsies/yearly screenings! All the crazy and sometimes dangerous shit that goes down if you get pregnant and have a baby! Adventures with hormones if you want to avoid all of that!), and it's hard not to feel bitter when guys are all "Ahh! My precious testicles!" and my probably not very admirable reaction is basically man up and get over it.
posted by MadamM at 11:23 AM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Childbirth is pretty rough for us men, too. That umbilical cord is like cuttin' a frickin' chicken bone!
posted by Mister_A at 11:25 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I decided to be a hard-ass and stay in the room when my spouse was getting his vasectomy. Except it wasn't a single snip. It was more like: rumage-rumage-rumage "No, that's not it. Is that...?" *snippy sound* "No, wait, almost got it..." *snippy sound* "Nope. Third time's a charm. . ." *snippy sound* "nope..."

The techs assured us that this was not uncommon. I fucking hope it's uncommon, because each impotent *snip* went straight to the heart of my bowels and writhed there.

The techs told me I was turning green, really really green. And indeed, I felt green, but no. I could not and would not leave my man alone with the scissor fail and the fluorescent light shining into his poor exposed plumbing. So I stayed. And as I stayed, I began to focus on the piped-in music, and the piped-in music began to fuck with me. "Macho Man," played, followed by "You Think You're a Man," followed by "It's a Man's World," followed by more of the same. I wrote the playlist in my Moleskine, so I must still have it somewhere. I asked a tech if it was some kind of special vasectomy-themed internet radio. He swore it wasn't, but the list was positively uncanny, and eventually the techs both started cracking up over it.

I cleaved, heart and soul, to the stream of manly, manly words until finally there was a louder, wetter, more decisive snip-- a sound like garden shears going through a thick chunk of watermelon rind. "That's it!" said the doc. The tech looked over at me. "It's alright. You can go now. It's done. We just need to stitch up." I looked over at my poor rummaged-in spouse, who nodded at me, and then I bolted from the room.

I didn't stop until I got to the Safeway down the block. An there, I shopped for what I was told was the best cold-pack for vasectomy recovery in the world: frozen peas.. And even though peas were the only thing I bought-- the only thing I could imagine wanting at thitat moment in my life-- took me about twenty minutes to buy them, because every time I got near the checkout line, I decided I either didn't have enough, or I had too many and was therefore insane. So I went back and forth, back and forth, trying to find the sweet spot between caring preparedness and utter derangement. In the end, I did end up with far, far, far too many peas-- but everything turned out fine anyway.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:26 AM on May 31, 2011 [53 favorites]


It's about time.

I believe that in a world without sexism, a reliable form of birth control for men would have been developed decades ago. I hope this proves to be readily available and is received well.

On preview: thanks, BlueJae: So please forgive some of us of the womb-having, hetero persuasion for wishing more men would WOMAN UP about this birth control thing (and also for giggling a little when we see you squirm at the very thought of a doctor poking your 'nads with a needle).
posted by Specklet at 11:30 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


So I went back and forth, back and forth, trying to find the sweet spot between caring preparedness and utter derangement. In the end, I did end up with far, far, far too many peas-- but everything turned out fine anyway.

Priceless.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:39 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I, for one, can forgive the giggling (the fuckers really are quite sensitive though) and even some resentment ... if you'll forgive me this:

Why does every thread about ballsacks have to turn into "what about teh womenz?" :)
posted by Dano St at 11:42 AM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


palmcorder_yajna, that was a beautiful blast of XX->XY empathy, that just goes to reinforce my conviction that us heteros can too feel for our significant others, even across anatomical lines. So thank you.
posted by tempythethird at 11:43 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing about testicles: you hardly notice them unless they are itching or hurting. And they can be weirdly easy to hurt. Then they hurt in a strange way, radiating pain far beyond the area of incident up to your kidneys, and incidentally providing a queasy feeling that reminiscent of the Ludovico Technique in both unproductive retching and operant conditioning. "You are not that big, nuts, why do you hurt so far off?" They do not answer. It does not take much for them to hurt, which is just silly. They can do stupid things all on their own, like twist and go gangrenous, for no good reason. And they're out there all because spermatogenesis is so temperature-dependent. It's ridiculous that sometimes a light tap might briefly make you wish for a cyanide capsule in a hollow tooth.

You get protective of the stupid things after a few years because absolutely dumb levels of pain will remind you if you fail to do so.

I think part of the slowness in development of reversible birth control for men comes from two factors: 1) The vas deferens can be a bitch to repair, as per the $4,000 to $20,0000 vasectomy reversal fees, 2) the comparative simplicity of the male reproductive system keeps sperm production and sex drive rather tightly linked; we have various ways of lowering sperm production but they also give you guys who no longer really have the urge to find themselves in situations where they are worried about reproduction.
posted by adipocere at 11:47 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or are guys happy to let women continue to bear the burden of dealing with contraception?

Well... yeah, mostly. I mean, that bothers me,* but it certainly seems to be the attitude of most guys.

But short-term selfishness aside, it makes a certain amount of sense. Every month, a woman produces one, maybe two gametes. Every day, a man produces several million. Any kind of male contraception that doesn't involve surgery is inherently a massively more difficult venture. Which is largely why no one's figured this thing out yet.

And most female contraceptives are very reliably reversible. So reversible, in fact, that mistakes in their implementation are a pretty common way of getting pregnant. Right now, there isn't any real way other than condoms (or abstinence) for men to decide that this month I don't want to be able to procreate, but next month I do, but not the month after that. Etc. Female contraceptive options are, by contrast, cheap and reliable.

*I'll go on record as being deeply ambivalent about contraception in general, regardless of who does it, so my thinking here is far from straightforward.
posted by valkyryn at 11:58 AM on May 31, 2011


Can I have this? Please? Had this been an alternative to the runaround involved in getting an IUD for my girlfriend last fall, I'd've gotten a needle through my sack in a heartbeat.

Seriously, if anyone hears anything about a North American clinical trial, I am all over it. MeMail me.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 12:05 PM on May 31, 2011


Twice? Did the first time not take, or did you just go back for funsies?

Oh, sorry. The first time was to correct a testicular torsion. The second was le snip snip.
posted by no relation at 12:16 PM on May 31, 2011


Or are guys happy to let women continue to bear the burden of dealing with contraception?

I'm happy to entirely bear the burden of birth control. But that hasn't stopped 50%+ of the women I've had relationships with bitch about how they hate how condoms feel and start using the pill instead.

If you don't want to bear the burden there are other options, including abstaining, and not dating assholes.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:18 PM on May 31, 2011


One could have one's sperm tested every so often.

Gah, I thought that said "One could have one's sperm tasted every so often."
posted by superquail at 12:33 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would definitely consider any alternative to a vasectomy, because mine sucked. It hurt like fuck at the time, and for weeks afterwards. That said, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Any man who doesn't want kids or has had all the kids he intends to, should.
posted by Decani at 12:33 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe that in a world without sexism, a reliable form of birth control for men would have been developed decades ago.

Guess what? A reliable form of birth control for men WAS developed decades ago. It's called a condom. They are rather effective in preventing pregnancy and offer unparalleled protection against disease transmission.
posted by three blind mice at 12:34 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Right now, there isn't any real way other than condoms (or abstinence) for men to decide that this month I don't want to be able to procreate, but next month I do, but not the month after that.

For most women, it gets a lot more complicated than that. Jesus.

Guess what? A reliable form of birth control for men WAS developed decades ago. It's called a condom.

Not only are the good ones expensive, but a lot of women are allergic to latex or to the lubricant or to the spermicide.
posted by anniecat at 12:40 PM on May 31, 2011


Female contraceptive options are, by contrast, cheap and reliable.

That's if you find the one that doesn't lead you a bloody, moody, bloated mess for months on end. Docs end up having you try a number of them until you find the one that's right for you (the one that doesn't eventually result in a gush of blood that ends up soaking your SuperPlus tampon in the hour it's been in, overflowing your emergency maxi pad, staining your underwear, pants, and office chair and making you look like a murder scene).
posted by anniecat at 12:50 PM on May 31, 2011


So, now women are against safe sex? That's a reversal!
Seconding condoms. There's worse things out there than babies, people.
posted by TheKM at 12:55 PM on May 31, 2011


Guess what? A reliable form of birth control for men WAS developed decades ago. It's called a condom. They are rather effective in preventing pregnancy and offer unparalleled protection against disease transmission.

Sorry, I should have clarified: I mean a non-barrier method.

Female contraceptive options are, by contrast, cheap and reliable.

And rife with dangerous side effects.
posted by Specklet at 1:07 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hereby predict the curious phenomenon of garlic cock. You heard it here first, folks.
posted by ryanrs at 1:53 PM on May 31, 2011


People, people! Contraception sucks for everyone in some way or another, ok?

Ursula LeGuin actually puts a nod to this in one of her novels; she posits a race that had developed a way of mentally turning fertility on and off, thus "solving the First Heterosexual Problem." Someday we'll have little nanobots do it, or grow babies in vats, or develop immortality and stop reproducing altogether, or whatever. In the meantime, there's plenty of frozen peas to go around.
posted by emjaybee at 1:58 PM on May 31, 2011


"So, now women are against safe sex? That's a reversal!
Seconding condoms. There's worse things out there than babies, people."

But imagine you got married, as I did, at 24. And you knew, as I did, that you didn't want to have kids until you were 30ish. There are a lot of years of birth control in many monogamous marriages, where STDs are not a concern. And I do okay on the pill, so it's no big deal for me personally, but wouldn't it be nice to have a choice for similar male contraception that isn't a barrier method? Especially if the woman doesn't do particularly well on the pill.

Plus, when I was breastfeeding, contraceptive options were quite limited. It would have been a great option then, since we knew there was quite some time before we'd want to try again.

And after being the boss of contraception for probably 20-odd years and bearing multiple children with my husband, I've done far more than my "fair share" of the contraceptive and reproductive work (and that's biology, it's fine, it's how it is) -- it's really time for him to deal with the permanent contraception once we're done, since menopause can have its whole own set of issues that may or may not play nicely with hormonal contraception, and I've had enough abdominal surgery already. Wouldn't it be great for him to have both vasectomy and non-vasectomy options?

People have lots of different kinds of sex lives with many different kinds of contraceptive and STD-preventative needs, with many different biologies and anatomies that make some forms viable options and some forms not (such as problems with the pill, latex allergies, etc.). The more options there are, the better!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:03 PM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ursula LeGuin actually puts a nod to this in one of her novels; she posits a race that had developed a way of mentally turning fertility on and off, thus "solving the First Heterosexual Problem."

Iain Banks has a similar mechanism in his Culture series: body modifications done mentally, available to Culture citizens including the ability to control one's fertility. He focuses on it a bit in Excession, where a character "pauses" her pregnancy for a few years. Conception is similarly controllable, as is gender changing.
posted by zarq at 2:05 PM on May 31, 2011


Guess what? A reliable form of birth control for men WAS developed decades ago. It's called a condom. They are rather effective in preventing pregnancy and offer unparalleled protection against disease transmission.

Yes yes but - it's actually not as reliable as any of the other methods which, for women, leave us full of hormones or metal. I know this as I've had to get the morning after pill more than once (thankfully when I was still young enough for it to be free). They are great for disease prevention and also if you sleep with someone occasionally but I wouldn't be comfortable using them with a regular partner.

Sure, there are worse things than babies, but I'm on medication that means I cannot get pregnant, not unless I want to deal with birth defects, anencephaly, and a higher risk of puerperal psychosis, none of which are very positive things for a mother/father or a baby to deal with.
posted by mippy at 2:27 PM on May 31, 2011


where a character "pauses" her pregnancy for a few years

There was something like this in Farscape where female Peacekeepers could but there pregnancy on hold for like seven years or something.
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:40 PM on May 31, 2011


Plus, when I was breastfeeding, contraceptive options were quite limited.

I thought breast feeding was supposed to suppress fertility.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:04 PM on May 31, 2011


Crabby Appleton: " I thought breast feeding was supposed to suppress fertility."

It can. If a woman's menstrual cycle is interrupted due to breastfeeding, that's referred to as lactation amenorrhea. Using it as a contraceptive method is called the lactation amenorrhea method. It's not a perfect form of contraception.
posted by zarq at 3:26 PM on May 31, 2011


"I thought breast feeding was supposed to suppress fertility."

It can (and for me, seemed to, for about 8 of the 12 months I was breastfeeding). However, since my first delivery was a C-section, my ob/gyn wanted me to wait 15 months before conceiving again (24 months between deliveries) to lower the risk of problems in the second pregnancy and give the uterus a good long time to heal.

Even if we'd been okay with having kids closer than 24 months apart, given the medical concerns it was not a good area for "this will PROBABLY suppress ovulation ... for a while ... until it doesn't ... which you won't know it's quit working until 14 days after you ovulate ..."

As I said, there are lots of different personal circumstances that call for many options in birth control.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:33 PM on May 31, 2011


The first type of hormonal birth control I tried had me spotting for about 9 months after I discontinued it. The second type of hormonal birth control I tried exacerbated my depression so much that even on an SSRI and an NDRI I was crying non-stop for days on end. Doctors are reluctant to prescribe the non-hormonal IUD to a nulliparious woman. So, yeah, count me as another vote for North American clinical trials for this, stat.
posted by Be cool, sodapop at 3:52 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well it seems a little early to be too excited about this. "Primate studies have shown that RISUG is readily reversible, but reversal has not yet been tested officially in humans", for example. But more options is always good, and hopefully something will come of it.

As a man who does want to have children, a reliably reversible option would be nice. Condoms aren't nearly as effective as other methods, and can be uncomfortable/less pleasant for both partners.

Some women are fine with hormonal or other current methods, of course. But for those who aren't other options are good, and frankly it seems to me the ideal would be for both partners to be using something (since that should make any failures in one far less consequential).
posted by wildcrdj at 3:58 PM on May 31, 2011


Wait, are [most] guys seriously so protective of their nuts that they wouldn't undergo a half-hour procedure done under local anesthetic for years of protection from accidental pregnancy?

Yes.


I'm loving (and LMAO) at the funny and thoughtful comments from the mature (snipped and unsnipped) men, and their women, here at MeFi. But at 50+, and having worked in a high school, I'll tell you true that the males that really need birth control--those that are too immature or too egotistical and selfish to control their reproductive function, or who may be brainwashed by religion--they are the ones that will not use birth control of any form, let alone have anyone rummaging around with their Precious Gems. Never discount the tie-ins between age, education, religion, financial status and refusal to use birth control. And let us not forget the power-trippers--those people, both male and female, who demand a say in everybody's reproduction. GTFO of my uterus.


My Mormon father-in-law is dying, and I still can't forgive him for his lectures on my/our duty to bring forth more Mormon souls.' Or for his resentment that I chose to have a tubal ligation at age 30, after four kids. Other than that, over the years he's not been the worst of in-laws. In many ways, he's a good man, as well as a patriarchal asshole. Life is funny that way.

True story: A very immature and conflicted (being raised Catholic and all) young mother went into her local GP to ask for sterilization. The good doctor dissuaded her, saying, "What if you divorced your present husband, married again, and your new husband would want to have children that were his own?" Being utterly dazed, as well as never being able to think of something good until after the fact, I simply left the office in bemusement. "Fuck you, shithead" would have best summed up my reaction, but I was brought up too politely to say it. In three seconds he limited the function of half the human population to broodmare.

My husband started making noises about vasectomy when we were expecting our last. I told him that was fine, he could if he liked, but there was no way--whether accident, rape, or Immaculate Conception, that this female was again going to be pregnant. Immediately after delivery, before leaving the hospital, I had a tubal. An eventual hysterectomy resulted after endometriosis and tubal scaring, but I don't regret my original decision.

After being raised Catholic and living among Mormons, it's a damn good thing there isn't a feminist terrorist group fighting overpopulation. I'd be out there throwing sterilization bombs. (non-lethal, except to the spermies)
posted by BlueHorse at 4:23 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Specklet writes "I believe that in a world without sexism, a reliable form of birth control for men would have been developed decades ago. I hope this proves to be readily available and is received well."

I don't think it's been a lack of effort caused by sexism; plenty of money has been spent on male birth control. Rather the male system is so simple it's hard to interrupt. The female system is complicated and has evolved to be interrupted (suppression of fertility due to pregnancy and breastfeeding). The latter is a lot easier to interrupt than the former.
posted by Mitheral at 4:34 PM on May 31, 2011


In college I wrote a paper on male birth control methods, including RISUG. Not a damn bit of progress has been made on any of them in the US since I wrote that thing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:57 PM on May 31, 2011


That's if you find the one that doesn't lead you a bloody, moody, bloated mess for months on end. Docs end up having you try a number of them until you find the one that's right for you (the one that doesn't eventually result in a gush of blood that ends up soaking your SuperPlus tampon in the hour it's been in, overflowing your emergency maxi pad, staining your underwear, pants, and office chair and making you look like a murder scene).

Are you complaining, or bragging?
posted by gjc at 5:58 PM on May 31, 2011


Actually, once you've passed kidney stones (as I have), very little in the way of pecker/nutsack pain can scare you much.
posted by jonmc at 6:11 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's been a lack of effort caused by sexism; plenty of money has been spent on male birth control.

I think it's fairly complicated, and hard to prove either way. This is a pretty decent article in Time from a few years ago that gets into how many seemingly promising projects to bring male non-barrier contraception to market have stalled. A lot of people suggesting that the main issue is not enough market pressure, but again, that's easy to assert but hard to prove. It's hard to ignore the real failings of, for example, male hormonal contraception as developed so far: the necessity of a two-phase delivery system, and especially the 10-15% rate of non-effectiveness. So: you have to start taking a pill, then get a shot, probably a wait for it to take effect and then you'll have to get your semen checked out at a clinic lab (more money), and there's a one in ten chance it will have all be for naught (and it's a fair bet they're not going to comp. you on the price of all this if you turn out to be one of the non-responding). That is a tough sell to get a pharmaceutical company to shell out the millions and millions to take it through full testing.

Something like this chemical injection vasectomy may fill a niche but still, it's an operation, it is a whole new paradigm of birth control that involves introducing a chemical polymer that will be in the body long term, this is not going to make it into the western world without many years of testing and it certainly is not going to rise to the popularity of a pill. A male contraceptive method of comparable desirability of female hormonal contraception has yet to be discovered, or at least proven, I think.
posted by nanojath at 6:45 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


My sister sent me this article a couple weeks ago and I read it then and thought, wow, that sounds great. But since then, I've been told I might have to go off my preferred method of BC and try something new, because it's interacting with another, more essential hormonal supplement I need to take. And man, after 7 years on hormonal birth control, I am scared. I'm so used to knowing that I am the one true source of control over my fertility that the idea of sharing the responsibility with my husband gives me a weird feeling. Don't get me wrong, I trust him with my life, but I'm so used to this being my domain that sharing it is going to take some getting used to.

So to me, just in the past few weeks, it's come to feel completely insane that men don't mind having women take care of this. These are my ova, darn it, and I don't like the idea that something other than my own body chemistry, plus modern medicine and my personal responsibility, can determine whether they get fertilized. It's weird to me that men don't feel the same need for control over whether their sperm are out there fertilizing eggs or not. Maybe it's just because I'd be the one getting pregnant, but I feel like for me the issue is more one of feeling in control of the fate of my reproductive materials.

I wonder, if men had the means to have that control too, without the annoyance of condoms or the permanence of vasectomy, whether they wouldn't get a little bit attached to it. I think they probably would; it's a good feeling, knowing that if you're on the hook for a surprise baby, it's on you, not your partner or your 10% rate of failure barrier method.
posted by troublesome at 9:31 PM on May 31, 2011


Not to discount your point about male feelings towards contraception (which I think is interesting) or your own reservations about potentially losing the option of hormonal birth control, troublesome - but the method failure rate for condoms properly and consistently used is more like 2 or 3%, which is to say 2 or 3 out of a hundred couples using condoms properly in a given year would conceive. My wife and I used them exclusively for ten years before I had the vasectomy without mishap, not even much of a feat when you look at the statistics.
posted by nanojath at 10:19 PM on May 31, 2011


A reliable form of birth control for men WAS developed decades ago. It's called a condom. They are rather effective in preventing pregnancy and offer unparalleled protection against disease transmission.

But trigger yeast infections for a not-insignificant number of women.

(And that's not even getting into the reliance upon a sense of stone cold logic not entirely compatible with sexual desire.)
posted by desuetude at 10:28 PM on May 31, 2011


Not to turn this into the eternal condom derail but to the issues of latex allergy and yeast infections (which conventional wisdom seems to suggest may be part of a latex allergy or may be a nonoxynol-9 issue) - polyurethane condoms without spermicide may help. Believe me, I know condoms are not without problems (seriously, like I said, ten years). But in terms of effectiveness versus potential problems they are at least in the same ballpark as hormonal BC.
posted by nanojath at 11:24 PM on May 31, 2011


troublesome, you might already know the book, but please please please check out Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It sounds like you have a lot of anxiety regarding sacrificing control of your ovulation with the shift in BC, and this book is all about reclaiming it. Reading it, you'll have two responses, simultaneously: amazement (that's how my body works?) and anger (WTF are they doing in "family life" class, and why aren't they teaching this stuff?).

Other links: My wife and I aren't using this approach (really happy with our IUD), but it's a really eye-opening book. Again, you might be familiar with it already, but if not, it'll hopefully ease some of that concern you're expressing. It takes the FUD out of the female reproductive cycle.
posted by Alt F4 at 3:22 AM on June 1, 2011


Are you complaining, or bragging?

Fuck me.
posted by mippy at 3:26 AM on June 1, 2011


"Reading it, you'll have two responses, simultaneously: amazement (that's how my body works?) and anger (WTF are they doing in "family life" class, and why aren't they teaching this stuff?)."

Know where they teach "that stuff"? Natural Family Planning class (i.e., Rhythm Method) at your local Catholic diocese. It's not particularly revolutionary; it's just been let go in favor of more reliable and scientific methods. And they'll teach it to you free in four hours, and you'll only feel the burning urge to strangle the presenters about once an hour (YMMV). Anyway, it just fascinates me that as part of granola women's health stuff, that knowledge is liberating, but as part of Catholicism that knowledge is oppressive.

Also that book makes me crazy because half the success stories are "we tried for two months and didn't get pregnant so we knew we had terrible, terrible fertility problems, read this book and bam! pregnant!" Um, no. Two months is not long enough for there to be a "problem." By that logic, reading the Gormenghast trilogy knocked me up!

Also the people who think it's a reliable method of birth control, especially when breastfeeding, are HIGH. It's a reasonably reliable method of birth spacing, particularly when other methods are not available, but you know what they call people who use the Rhythm Method as birth control? PARENTS. (If you do it exactly perfectly AND your cycle is perfectly regular AND is not disrupted by illness or hormonal changes or anything else, you can expect one pregnancy every four to five years. Any of those conditions fails, it'll happen sooner.)

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:50 AM on June 1, 2011


I had a vasectomy about 10 years ago.. and that is the LAST time I will ever let another guy near my testicles with a scalpel ever again. Never again, I tell you! :)

Ugh. I kept hearing "Oh it's not that bad, you'll be fine.. it's SO EASY.." .. and I ended up being the guy that had bruising, pain, swelling, and could barely walk for about a week. My sister had a tubal done and was back to work the next day. Your mileage may vary. Ugh.

This video? *shudder*
posted by drstein at 7:32 AM on June 1, 2011


Know where they teach "that stuff"? Natural Family Planning class (i.e., Rhythm Method) at your local Catholic diocese. ...

I can't speak to what they teach at my local Catholic diocese, and I'm not sure how you're defining "Natural Family Planning" and "Rhythm Method", but the fact that you're conflating the two concepts is a shame.

Typically, the rhythm method makes a number of assumptions — you're on a 28-day cycle, your cycle is regular, you ovulate on day 14 of the cycle, and so on. The Fertility Awareness Method, as outlined in TCOYF, assumes that every one of those prior assumptions is incorrect. The assumptions made by FAM are that your cycle is unique enough — both when compared with every other woman's cycle this month and when compared with your own previous (and future) cycles — that other means of measurement — basal body temperature, cervical mucous viscosity, os placement and firmness — are necessary to understand precisely what your body's doing.

I don't believe that FAM is an ideal form of birth control, and I don't actually believe that it should be used as a sole means of contraception (even though Wikipedia notes that the failure rate for FAM is roughly the same as the failure rates for condoms, when used properly). But any woman who's concerned about understanding what the hell her body's doing — as it sounds like troublesome might be — would do well to investigate TCOYF or a similar resource that teaches FAM. Wrapping it in a shroud of grarCatholicism and hurfdurfrhythmmethodism does a disservice both to the principles FAM outlines and to the women who would benefit from learning how their bodies work.

If you want a non-Catholic resource for learning about the Fertility Awareness Method, check your local Planned Parenthood office.
posted by Alt F4 at 9:26 AM on June 1, 2011


The modern version of the "Rhythm Method," known as "Natural Family Planning," is basically exactly the same as the "Fertility Awareness Method."

And you've sort-of illustrated my point, that when it's Catholic, it's considered oppressive, backwards, and behind the times, but when it's from TCOYF, it's empowering and forward-thinking.

Even though it's the same thing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:28 AM on June 1, 2011


The main course may be the same, but I bet it comes with some very different sides.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:38 PM on June 1, 2011


I'd be wary of it, though. If only because of how super-fecund my family seem to be - I'm only here because of the gap my mother was told to take between coming off the Pill and getting sterilized. And my parents were Catholic...
posted by mippy at 2:57 PM on June 1, 2011


>A reliable form of birth control for men WAS developed decades ago. It's called a condom.

Not. Reliable. Enough.

One of the many unfortunate things about AIDS is that it made us forget this.
posted by Decani at 11:32 AM on June 2, 2011


The only 100% reliable form of birth control is non reproductive sex.

Please heteros, for the sake of our hopefully nonexistent future children, considering going bi today.
posted by The Whelk at 11:43 AM on June 2, 2011


Or rather:

The safe way
The moral way
The reasonable way
The responsible way.

The oral way.
posted by The Whelk at 12:04 PM on June 2, 2011


I dont think this will effective for China & India. Here revolution in Education required more than any other things.
posted by LauraWinson at 10:30 PM on June 19, 2011


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