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They said it couldn’t be done: Male contraception

Biological analyst Alan Dowden of the Seattle Sperm Bank rides the Sperm Bike, a custom-designed, high-tech bicycle used to deliver donated sperm to fertility clinics, in Seattle November 8, 2011. According to Seattle Sperm Bank's managing director Gary Olsem, donor sperm is transported by medical technicians aboard the bike, which is the second of its kind, in liquid nitrogen cooled vacuum containers. The first Sperm Bike was adopted by Seattle Sperm Bank's sibling company, the European Sperm Bank, in Cophenhagen.
Reuters/Anthony Bolante
RIding a sperm-shaped bike is not a reliable contraceptive.
  • Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Women have a range of contraceptive methods, from pills to patches to IUDs. But there hasn’t been a new form of contraception developed for men since the vasectomy became the preferred method of sterilizing criminals at the end of the 19th century. There hasn’t been a reversible method invented since the condom came into widespread use during the Renaissance.

Do we need one?

The answer just could be ”yes,” as couples seek to balance the responsibilities of reproduction and men, facing the power of the paternity test, have more incentive than ever to keep their sperm in line. But pharmaceutical companies aren’t developing new male contraceptives—and we find out why in this week’s episode of Actuality.

You can listen to Actuality and subscribe on iTunes, or use this RSS feed to subscribe with your favorite podcast app.

In this episode, we talk to journalist and fellow podcast-host Ann Friedman about the history of contraception and why women are thinking more about contraceptive equality. Then we talk to two members of the Male Contraception Initiative, Dr. David Sokal, a physician, and Emily Dorman, a pharmaceutical consultant, about what it would take to get a male pill today and why Big Pharma shouldn’t give up.

This is our last episode of Season 2, but you haven’t heard the last of us. Give us some clues for what you want to see in future seasons and what you liked about this one. Tell us on Twitter, or e-mail us.

Actuality is a joint production of Quartz and Marketplace. Every two weeks, we’ll explore the inner workings of the new global economy.

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