Illustration by Lia Kantrowitz
This article originally appeared on VICE UK
Balls are important—not just physically, but metaphorically. They're also the factory for sperm, obviously, and thus a hotbed for creating the future babies you may not want to keep. With news this week of a possible male contraceptive pill—like the one ladies take once a day—we wanted to find out whether straight guys would be up for taking on the burden of controlling baby-making as a result of sex.
There'd be this pill as one option, once they've sorted how make it soluble in our bodies and less of a libido-killer. Another option would be letting someone inject your balls a bit, to get sperm-killing gel directly into your vas deferens. Researchers in India gave that method the thumbs up years ago, but it hasn't been cleared for use in the UK yet.
We asked some guys how they'd feel about either method.
"Back in the day I heard they had to use orange peels"
VICE: Have there been any times you've worried that contraception hasn't worked for you?
Oliver, 28: Absolutely. Then you've got to trust that women are gonna go and get the morning-after pill. To be honest, I think the whole thing is still a bit primitive. Back in the day I heard that they had to use orange peels.
They'd cut an orange, peel it and use the skin almost as a cup, and the fruit's acidity was meant to kill the sperm. I don't know if that's scientifically accurate, but I heard it on a podcast. Anyway, I think the body is way too complicated to start throwing pills at it, because fundamentally that could make you infertile. That's really what we're talking about.
But women mess with their hormones on the pill for years. Would you be up for trying male contraception?
I think so, but I'd feel more comfortable with the oral use of pills as opposed to an injection. I've never been good with needles, so I don't know, the whole prospect is a bit terrifying.
"'Hit and hope' has worked so far"
VICE: Hey guys, let's get right into it. Between an injection or a regular pill, which male contraceptive method would you choose?
Mikey, 29: Definitely the pill.
Will, 30: I've been speaking to my girlfriend about the pill, and she's gone off it. It messes you up.
So what's worked for you best so far, pills? Condoms? Coil?
Danny, 27: Fuckin' hit and hope!
Will: Anything where you're not covering yourself is preferable, right? I feel quite empathetic towards the other person involved; I've gone off the idea of women dosing themselves up for years on end just for me to feel a bit better.
Do you think that will change how much responsibility women take?
Mikey: I kinda hope so.
Gavin, 23: If they have to take the pill, they can take it, if I have to I'll take it—it doesn't bother me either way.
Will: My girlfriend was saying the other day that she told her mom: 'You should probably not be on the pill.' I mean, her mom's in her 50s. She goes to the specialist and they're like: 'Yeah you shouldn't be on that pill anyway.' Basically all these hormones just lead to cancer, and at the end of the day a whole lifetime of taking them will just fuck you up.
Danny: Taking something wouldn't bother me, since sometimes I do think, after getting up to mischief: shit, am I gonna get a phone call?
Will: A friend of mine has just become single for the first time in about 14 years and he is now so STD-scared.
That's another thing. If this took off, what do you think will happen with STDs?
Danny: Yeah that could let STD transmission go back through the fucking roof.
Have there ever been any times where you have majorly freaked out about the contraception not working?
Danny: I've driven a girl to Boots to get the morning-after pill; she was cool about it. But I woke up in the morning and she was like: 'I'm not on anything,' and I was like 'WHAT?!' Then she was like, 'Oh, I'm fucking skint too'. So I just took her to Boots and paid for it. It was OK though, and we made a joke out of it. So this male pill could be worth it just to stop things like that happening. Would've saved me 30 quid as well.
Will: Sometimes you get a text like: 'by the way I've had to go and get the morning-after pill.' But you just get caught in the moment, especially when alcohol is involved.
"I'd probably try the pill first but I forget to take things..."
VICE: If things changed and it became practical for men to be more responsible for contraception, would you be up for it?
Jack, 21: Yeah. I'd probably leave it a year and see if there were any side effects.
So if a doctor could inject you in the balls with something that made you infertile for up to 15 years, no side effects, a 15-minute procedure, and reversible at any time, how would you feel about that?
Well, as long as it is completely reversible and there's no side effects, why not?
If you had the choice between that and a daily or even weekly pill, also without side effects, which would you choose?
I'd probably try the pill first but I usually forget to take things.
What type of contraception has worked best for you so far?
The girl taking the pill, condoms, that stuff.
Have there been any times that you've worried about contraception not working?
Not really, no. At the end of the day, if the injection thing was proven to work I'd be up for it.
"Anything more advanced than condoms is better"
VICE: How do you feel about guys taking on more of a role in contraception?
Larry, 24: I'm kinda open to it; a lot of guys aren't ready for kids. Anything more advanced than condoms is even better.
Would you prefer the injection to a pill?
Yeah definitely: you forget pills, and people still get pregnant on pills.
Some people think it's a girl's responsibility to take control of the contraception, do you agree with that?
It's up to both parties innit—each person has to take responsibility. You're both taking part in the act.
"There's probably a little me out there somewhere"
VICE: What are your initial thoughts on male contraception delivered as an injection to the balls?
Tim, 28: Although it sounds great, it's potentially restrictive. If there's a chance that you might not be able to have children or it might make you impotent, or cause erectile dysfunction... I just think if you asked me now and said, 'it's a new thing we're trying,' I'd say 'absolutely no chance.'
If it were between that and a pill for men, which would you go for?
If both were on a level par, completely proven and reversible so you could have children and start a family whenever you wanted, potentially I'd go for the injection. But there's quite a high percentage of people that don't like needles. I mean, I don't mind them—I've had tattoos—but when you said about a needle in my balls ... I winced. And I'm not even fussed about that kind of thing.
What method of contraception has worked best for you so far?
Just asking the question first—whether the woman's on the pill. If I'm being completely honest with you, in the past it's been a question I ask in the morning, and if not we'd take it from there. Not anymore. I'm in a steady relationship now, but I used to work abroad for a long time when I was younger, and a younger guy doesn't really think with his head.
Have there been any times you've worried that the contraception you've used hasn't worked, or that you've got someone pregnant?
There's probably a little me out there somewhere [laughs]. But seriously, nah, I've never really worried—theres' so much you can do nowadays, with morning-after pills and things. It recently happened to a mate, he got his recently-new girlfriend pregnant, and it was all dealt with and sorted out very quickly.
Is it the sort of thing you find it difficult to talk to your doctor about?
Not at all. I go to the clinic a fair amount, so I don't mind popping him out!