Women are right to be sceptical theyre left holding the baby when things go wrong
Once again, there are reports of the male contraceptive pill being tantalisingly imminent. And, once again, a mental image occurs of a man and woman looking at each other, arms folded, as if to say: Sorry, I dont trust you a bit.
A University of Washington study, involving 40 men, showed that sperm production could be disrupted with minimal side-effects and everything returning to normal once men stop taking the pill. Which all sounds intriguing, though it wouldnt resolve the other major issue the intrinsic lack of contraceptive trust between the sexes, which seems impossible to resolve, leastways to the point where the chemical baton could pass from women to men.
When previously considering the idea of the male pill, Ive been sceptical, albeit with regret. Women have long borne the hormonal burden, sometimes with devastating consequences; still, how could a woman trust a man to take a pill? He might forget (as women forget, but they cant get men pregnant). Moreover, a certain kind of man would say absolutely anything to make sex happen. To this inglorious list (The worlds about to end; Ive had the snip; Tell me more about feminism; I love you), theyd be able to add: Im on the pill.
Before men complain, some distrust women just as much, if not more. Look at the scaremongering about allegedly industrial levels of sperm theft, as though there were nightly platoons of female desperadoes barging into wine bars, intent on harvesting a poor chaps swimmers against his will.
Whatever the scientific revolutions, some things always remain true. The barrier method of the humble condom is paramount preventing pregnancy and STDs in a way no pill (male or female) could ever do. And however much men are affected by unwanted pregnancies, its still women who have them. We might be living in the age of empathy man, but biology is biology and its never going to be men squatting in work lavatory cubicles frantically peeing on white sticks. The phrase left holding the baby got popular for a reason. If all this makes women jumpy about the male pill, thats their biological right.
Which seems to suggest that the male pill may end up causing as many problems as it solves. Men pretending or forgetting to take it, women accusing them of doing so, people not using condoms and spreading STDs and so on.
Far from trumpeting the male pill as an alternative to female contraception, maybe it should be looked upon more realistically as a mere addition a useful part of a couples contraceptive belt and braces programme and one that finally gives the chemically besieged female body a break.
Away from established, respectful, honest relationships, the existence of a male pill could also wake everybody up to the harshest contraceptive reality of all on this issue, between the sexes, the trust really has gone.