The words: ‘Be the first man on the pill’ emblazoned under a heroic shot of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon, was a call-to-arms for contraceptive pioneer James Mackenzie.
After seeing this poster in a family planning clinic, he volunteered to participate in a clinical trial for the male contraceptive pill.
James was interviewed on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour earlier this month, telling interviewer Jenni Murray that he experienced ‘no negative consequences whatsoever’ from participating in the trial back in 2000.
In fact, James found the experience so rewarding he participated in a second one.
Both involved taking the female hormone progesterone, supplemented by a testosterone injection once every month.
James used this method successfully as his only form of contraception (although participants weren’t encouraged to do this.)
He initially volunteered after his partner developed problems with taking the contraceptive pill.
‘If I could take it instead of you, I would,’ he promised…
(Which may have seemed rather a hollow boast given the lack of an available male Pill.)
But when the couple visited the family planning clinic together and saw the Man on the Pill poster, James made good on his word.
Despite the ongoing baby-free status enjoyed by James and his partner (he’s now had a vasectomy, FYI), the treatments he tested aren’t yet available on the open market.
The latest clinical trial is actually for an injectible gel that prevents sperm from being released.
Developer the Parsemus Foundation say their experimental product, Vasalgel, should go into mass production by 2017.
There’s been talk of a male contraceptive pill for years, so I’ll believe it when I actually see it.
What interests me most about the product is not the tired old argument that men will forget to take it, or will lie to women by saying: ‘It’s alright, love, I’m on the Pill.’
This idea seems as old fashioned as a Benny Hill sketch, complete with comedic music in the background.
Any woman in a casual relationship who wants to take good care of her sexual and reproductive health should be insisting on using condoms anyway.
No - the debate on Woman’s Hour headed in a completely different direction.
As James quite rightly pointed out: ‘It’s up to me whether I want to get a woman pregnant.’
But the other speaker, academic Angela Phillips, warned: ‘We should think really hard about this. There’s a lot of babies who would never have been born if this had been on the market.’
I know what Angela means. I know lots of women who appeared perfectly competent in the use of contraception throughout their teens and twenties, who after 15-20 years of being sexually active nonetheless managed to have ‘an accident’ in their thirties.
I even know one mum whose ‘accident’ involved a condom purloined from the bin. Another whose stomach bug provided a diversion for her to stop taking the Pill.
As far as I know, the children born as a result of these accidents are happy and well-loved, by both parents.
While their dads might have taken a while to get their heads around it at first, they appeared delighted with their little ones by the time they were born.
I’m not saying this behaviour is morally acceptable.
But maybe women should think about the consequences of male contraceptives carefully. If men have to be absolutely sure of their desire for fatherhood before a baby can be made, the days of the human race could be numbered.