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A birth control pill for men?

China did not wait for such a breakthrough.  Starting in 1972, China began clinical trials of Gossypol, a male contraceptive, on 14,000 men.  China was able to recruit these men because of the one-child law, which made contraception mandatory.  News of the study finally reached the West in 1979 when a group of American researchers visited China.  Gossypol seemed promising until toxic side effects began to appear, including diarrhea, circulatory problems, heart failure, and permanent sterility. [x]

Funding for the Gossypol study and other research on male contraceptives came from the World Health Organization (WHO).  A 1978 article in the WHO bulletin explained, “In the past, emphasis has been placed on the development and use of contraceptive methods for women but, with increasing publicity on the problems associated with the use of oral estrogen-gestagen contraceptives, the role of the male in contraceptive practice is re-examined….and research into new methods is being stimulated.”[xi] On this point, WHO officials and Western feminists agreed.[xii]

While Asian leaders called for a male pill to control population, feminists called for the development of a male contraceptive so that men could share the risks and responsibilities of birth control.  Barbara Seaman, the author of The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill, insisted that the problem was sexism: “If you doubt that there has been sex discrimination in the development of the pill, try to answer this question: Why isn’t there a pill for men? …It is because women have always had to bear most of the risks associated with sex and reproduction.” [xiii]