Men, Would You Be Up for Using a Contraceptive Gel?
Researchers are getting volunteers to trial a sperm-slowing gel, to rival vasectomies (bit extreme) and condoms (widely hated).
Photos by the author
Male contraception has long been limited to: rubbers, vasectomies and an often misplaced belief in your ability to pull out at the exact right time.
No longer. Earlier this year, a team of scientists at the University of Edinburgh and Saint Mary's Hospital in Manchester announced that, with the help of some open-minded volunteers, they'd be trialling a new kind of gel that, ahem, "sends the testes to sleep", effectively reducing the sperm count to zero over a period of months.
A while back we asked some men we met on the street whether they would be willing to take a contraceptive pill or have their testicles injected with a sperm-killing gel. This time around, we took to the streets to find out whether anyone's willing to get sticky with it.
VICE: Would you use a male contraceptive gel?
Benjamin: I guess so. If it worked, I think it's fair to. It's a difficult one, because I’ve not really heard of it before.
Would you have any concerns?
I think there’s always going to be health concerns with new products and things like that. But I think if it’s tested, men should use it as well. Some people don’t like to use other means, so yeah, definitely. I’m in a long-term relationship and obviously she goes through a lot, with all the hormones and changes and that. It seems unfair it should just be her. If there was another way, like if a male could do it too, then yeah, I think a lot of people would be open to it.
What kind of price range would you be open to?
Preferably it’d be about the same price as condoms, or the same as what women pay for the pill. I’d definitely pay the same as I would for a pack of johnnies. I suppose it just depends on how long a sample would last.
Hi there, would you use a male contraceptive gel?
Ollie: I would, yes. I’ve actually just been having this discussion with my girlfriend: the fact that the burden of contraception has been placed on women in relationships for so long. As men, we either get a vasectomy, which is more permanent in theory, or everything gets put on [women], and there’s all those side-effects and stuff.
What if you weren’t in a long-term relationship?
You’d still want something to protect yourself. Condoms are a must, really. But there’s scope for using both alongside one another, you know? Or maybe that’s too safe.
Too safe: a concept. And you'd be happy to pay for the gel?
Yeah, that’s fair to say. Having to pay wouldn’t change my opinion on it. Not especially, no.
Would you use a male contraceptive gel?
Josh: Personally, no. I don’t think I would.
Just… I know there’s a long list of things that happen with female contraception – that it can mess up your cycles and stuff like that. It sounds like a good idea now, but long-term, something could come out in a couple of years. You can find out that that’s the reason you’re not able to have kids, or something like that. I’ve got a sexual partner at the moment and we only use condoms; I’m happy with that. I prefer that.
At what point would you be willing to use the gel?
To be fair? Never. It’s just the possibility that one day I might not be able to have any kids. I’d be worried about the long-term effects, you know, family-wise. If she wants to use the pill, that’s up to her – I’m happy using condoms. They’re a lot easier, you know. If you need them, you just pop out on the day and get them. Also, I’d remember to use a condom. But with the gel, I don’t know if I’m going to remember to rub this thing on myself.
VICE: What are your thoughts on using a contraceptive gel designed only for men?
Matt: I wouldn’t have anything against using it. I don’t really like condoms. I’d have a look at it if it worked.
Are you in a long-term relationship?
Yes, I’m married, in fact. We’ve got one kid, who’s three. Maybe we’ll have more at some point.
And you’d rather use the gel than condoms?
At the moment, my missus is on the pill. That’s just the way it’s always been, but I really wouldn’t be adverse to it. You just rub it on your skin, right? There might be drawbacks, but side effects sort of depend on the person. On balance, I’d be up for trying it. Any reason not to use a condom, definitely. Fucking hate them, man. That’d be a big plus, for sure.
VICE: Quick one – would you use a male contraceptive gel?
George: Probably not. I get worried taking paracetamol, you know; it’s not really my cup of tea. I’d be really anxious to take something that's going to have that kind of effect on your body.
How much of that stems from the gel's development being in its early stages?
Yeah, that's it, 100 percent. It’s when things are still being tried out that you don’t know about ten years, 20 years down the line. You’re not sat there with the security of something that’s been properly tested, for a long period of time. My girlfriend takes the pill, and she’s one of the lucky ones who just doesn’t get any side effects at all. She’s absolutely fine, or at least that’s what she says. She doesn’t really mind at all.
And if you weren’t in a relationship?
Just wrap it up, man. Take the sensible route.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.