The Happy Trail

Male contraceptive options expanding

Contraceptives come in all shapes and sizes, but they have one thing in common; women’s bodies are their targets. Women have been bombarded with birth control options ever since the Food and Drug Administration approved the first oral contraceptive in 1960.

According to Planned Parenthood’s website, the only male-oriented birth control options available are “abstinence, condoms, outercourse, vasectomy [and] withdrawal.” However, this could all be subject to change as a new method of birth control will hopefully be added to the list of available possibilities.

Vasalgel, a product developed by Parsemus Foundation, is currently being tested with hopes that it will be approved by the FDA and released by 2017. How it works is by injection into the vas deferens, which acts as a barrier inhibiting sperm from passing through. In a press release from the Parsemus Foundation on Sept. 4, 2014, the product is being tested on baboons and if all goes well, they will begin clinical trials on humans. The procedure is intended to be reversible through a simple injection of saline solution into the vas deferens. Although it was shown to be reversible in their study on rabbits, they have yet to test the reversibility in their baboon study.

Even though the product has a fairly long time before it is available for use, I can’t help but think how this birth control method would affect our campus culture in the future. Without going to any extremes, the only method of birth control accessible for sexually active men on campus are the free condoms available in the Center for Health and Wellness. Any other form of contraceptive must be prescribed to women for a fee.

There is a clear imbalance in regards to the burden put on men and women to own their reproductive health. Vasalgel is an exciting new development within the realm of science and would give men another contraceptive option, but how many college men will want to get the injection?

When asked whether he would get the Vasalgel injection, senior Harry Beaver* said, “Realistically probably not.” The reasoning behind his decision: it’s “a little invasive.”

Although women have been taking “invasive” measures to avoid pregnancy for decades, it is understandable that when men are faced with a similar situation, they would not want to go through with the procedure.

Of course, this is not telling of the entire campus’ view on the matter; all men are not necessarily against getting Vasalgel. Additionally, their decision is influenced by their relational situation.

“I mean yeah,” senior Buck Nekkid* said when discussing whether he would get the Vasalgel procedure. “If I was in a relationship.”

Men can take measures to alleviate the physical and financial burdens placed on their partners due to contraceptive use, some options more invasive than others. What is discussed less is how men can support their partners and be an equal player in their reproductive health.

“I would pay for my girlfriend’s birth control,” Beaver said. “Considering I buy condoms.”

So what is stopping men from helping their partners? Beaver said that at the heart of the issue is the conversation that they have to have with their partner that “would be the hardest part.”

The question we are left with is: how can partners work on their sexual communication so that these conversations happen? An added benefit of Vasalgel might be that it promotes more of these long overdue conversations.

*Names have been changed to protect student identities.