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Let's be candid about the male contraceptive

Saturday November 30 2019


Male contraceptives. It's a beautiful thing to be able to know that you can control whether to or not have children. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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In what appears to be good (or bad) news — depending on who you ask — it was recently announced that a viable male contraceptive has been developed.

Yes, you heard that right. Men can finally stop complaining about being "trapped" or complaining about the women they had sex with getting pregnant (because they did it on their own).

But is this the death knell self-declared national "withdrawal" caucus? Probably not but it's a good start.

A recent report by Form Ni Gani (a movement working on getting Kenyans thinking, talking, and making informed decisions about the crucial role of family planning) discusses how men take contraception as a women's affair.

That's one of the biggest reasons that men don't know or care about the family planning method their significant others are on but also a reason they don't feel they have to do anything in the process.

It also showed damning statistics, including the fact that 49 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned.



While men always talk about always using condoms, male condom use according to the report is a mere 7.9 per cent. The time is ripe, therefore, for us to talk about male contraceptives.

The search for the male contraceptive isn't a new thing though. Thirty-five years ago, Prof S.K. Gupta from the Indian Institute of Technology first developed styrene-maleic anhydride, the polymer now used in the current contraceptives.

The next couple of years were spent trying to experiment with ways of making it work with different contraceptive options aimed at men.

A few years back, scientists found a viable option which was quickly discarded after men developed side effects.

Men had mood swings and acne. The things women complain about in their contraceptives, which we all didn't think are serious.

Men are the kings of comfort. There was no way they were going to go through discomfort willingly.

The contraceptive was injected into men's buttocks every night for eight weeks and it was 98.4 per cent effective.


The most recent success story has "no reported" side effects. There must be a few I think, there's no drug that has zero side effects, but it's smart to market it as safe while avoiding legal liability.

So how does this birth control work? The contraceptive, which is a polymer, is injected into the vas deferens.

In case your biology is a bit rusty, the vas deferens is the tube that contains sperm, near the testicles. It shreds sperm in the vas deferens which blocks sperm from leaving the testicles.

It's carried out under local anaesthesia so you don't feel any pain at all, and it has a 97 per cent success rate. Which is pretty impressive.

Then comes the catch though. It would be effective for 13 years, which seems to be the major point of concern when I asked people about it.

Vasectomies were the only option before this and no one was going for it. Everyone felt like it was castration, which should be reserved for animals.

The uptake rate was 0.3 per cent. The other 99.7 per cent, who I imagine were polled by a magazine with a random name like the Penis Daily, said that they would rather die than have their "manhood" taken away.

Well, the first thing I did when I read up was cringe, and I felt some imaginary pain between my legs.


My fear it seems was illogical. I have read the articles and seen the studies and know that it works, but there's a part of me that still doesn't feel comfortable with taking birth control.

No amount of logic will overcome my bias. It will take active effort.

Men don't really think that family planning is in their purview and that's a huge conversation and reason why we don't care much about it.

We're way more scared of pregnancies than STIs, but we're still chancing it swimming in the sea of oops babies and subsequent oops marriages. "Hata sijui ilifanyika aje lakini nilipata nimeoana (I don't know how it happened, I just found myself in a marriage)."

I thought about it and when someone asked me if I would take it, I responded that I would after I was done having at least three children with the option for a fourth one as part of the procreation contract. The pull to have my biological children is strong.

Men are all scared of not being able to sire children but also feel like the injection will take away the superpowers that make them male. I get it because I am, "men."


I'm also a bit cautious about being a guinea pig because the tests were done on 300 men.

I want to see it run for the next few years and then I want to physically see the male tests children after the injection is reversed.

I want to ensure that their children have 10 fingers and toes and that they hate Njahi just like normal people do.

But on a more serious note, it's a beautiful thing to be able to know that you can control whether to or not have children.

It's a relief not to have to play the waiting game each month and the only thing she will be late for is the shower and her salon appointments.

Aren't you tired of walking around town and being told that every other child looks like you and you hasten your steps because you can't definitively say no?

Take control of your lives, dear gentlemen.