I'm hugely amused to read an Australian report of various alternatives to vasectomy. It's great to find a reporter with a sense of humor.
While men taking on responsibility for contraception is admirable, vasectomies are not always easy to reverse, and young men's scrotums being punctured left, right and centre like party balloons is not an ideal state of affairs.
A solution may be around the corner in the form of an Australian-designed system that switches a man's sperm flow on and off by remote control, operating a tiny valve injected into the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm from the testes. In a bid to get men to embrace the new technology it is understood the remote can also be programmed to lock the car, shut the garage door, dim the bedroom lights, play a Barry White CD, record the football and put a pizza in the oven for afterwards.
Professor Derek Abbott from the University of Adelaide invented the system, which appeared on The New Inventors in June.
"I've been inundated with inquiries from men from all over the world," Abbott said in The Times this month.
Unfortunately the valve will need five years of animal trials before it can be used in human beings. The first four years will involve training rats how to use a remote.
The valve is just one of a number of high-tech reversible male contraceptive devices - known in leading scientific circles as "gizmos" - under development, The Times reports. In California a team is developing an implantable ring that circles the vas deferens and zaps sperm, making them unable to fertilise an egg.
Researchers recommend playing hardcore techno music rather than Barry White so that the sound of zapping blends in with the soundtrack. However, men over 30 have been warned not to try to keep pace with any tracks of more than 200 beats per minute.
A better method might be RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance), which partially blocks sperm tubes and alters sperm through the injection of a compound. It takes 10 minutes and lasts 10 years.
RISUG is being trialled in India and may be on the market there within two years. Elaine Lissner, director of the non-profit Male Contraception Information Project in San Francisco, told The Times she could see Western men flying to India to get the injections, though it's unlikely their partners would still be in the mood by the time they got back.
"Men want new contraceptive methods," Lissner said. "A decade ago demand wasn't there and it was assumed women wouldn't trust men to take charge of birth control anyway. That has changed."
However, getting something from the laboratory to the pharmacy shelf is proving a slow process. Pharmaceutical companies are put off by the liability involved in testing on healthy young men, Lissner said, which must induce a lot of sympathy in healthy young women gradually being made unhealthy by the pill.
Lissner called on governments and charities to get involved in funding the next stage of trials. There are potentially more options out there than there are wrigglers in a specimen jar.
Neem extracts and papaya seeds, says the International Male Contraception Coalition (see malecontraceptives.org). Apparently a dry orgasm pill made a big splash when it was mooted two years ago.
Heat methods include a battery-operated scrotum heater, which would also provide somewhere to keep your hands warm in winter.
Alternatively, special underpants known as suspensories kill sperm by holding the testes close to the body, with the only side-effects being chafing and speaking in a very high voice.
Perhaps the most promising method involves blasting the testes with ultrasound. Not only does this disrupt sperm production for six months, but you get to take home a picture of them too.
Science reporting with a sense of the ridiculous! I love it!