Of course we women don't want a male pill - it would end those happy little 'accidents'
Right now, 60 men in Manchester and 20 in Edinburgh are temporarily sterile.
They have all agreed to be part of a trial for a ‘promising’ new male contraceptive jab.
Each man has had two hormone injections which will prevent him making sperm for about two months.
We haven’t heard from the chaps involved, but the scientists are certainly jolly excited about it all.
And even though the jab is nominally aimed at men, according to its inventors, it’s really women who will benefit.
Apparently, we have been crying out for years for hormonal contraceptives for men.
Or as Professor Richard Anderson of the University of Edinburgh says: ‘When we carried out surveys of women, they were enormously enthusiastic.
‘The single most common reason was that they wanted to share the responsibility for contraception.’
Which, on the face of it, seems entirely reasonable.
After all, why wouldn’t all women want their men to share the side-effects of taking hormones and the responsibility for preventing unwanted pregnancy?
And while men might be a bit wussy about being pumped full of hormones (welcome to our world), being sterile and enduring side-effects that might include being spotty and grumpy, surely there will be a huge demand for the jab from women who are fed up with being in sole charge of contraception and who will rush to sign up their reluctant partners?
Well, personally, I’m not so sure.
Yes, in theory it’s all great. Egalitarian, sensible and oh so very modern.
But are we women really crazy about handing over control of our fertility to men, even men we love and live with?
Of course, there is the ‘would you trust him to take it?’ issue.
It goes like this: women are the ones who suffer the torments of pregnancy and the burden of child-rearing, so have the most to lose if their partner is a bit slapdash with taking his pill or going back to the doctor for his top-up hormone injection.
And, so the theory goes, men are so hopeless at remembering things and famously reluctant to visit their GP that we won’t trust him to use contraception properly, and this makes it a non-starter.
Which is all very well and, up to a point, true.
Some women are both desperate not to have any more babies, and married to useless men — and those two facts may well be connected.
But there’s another problem with male contraception that is rather less talked about. And that’s whether most women really are happy giving away our power over a part of our lives that tends to mean more to us than to men.
Most women I know would be utterly horrified if their men chose new curtains without consulting them, and would be shocked to their very core if their husband came home with a new sofa, or even a radical new haircut.
So how would we feel if our man wandered off to the GP and booked himself in for a jab without consulting us?
To be honest, I’m not sure that most women would like that at all.
In my experience, the stuff of domestic life is jealously guarded by most women.
A friend of mine grumbles about her husband’s unwillingness to deal with the tiny details of their children’s lives, yet if pushed she will admit she rather relishes her role as family lynchpin.
And there can be nothing more intimate regarding that than a woman’s fertility, and I am sceptical whether lots of us will want to let go of our responsibility for it.
Or, to put it bluntly, if highly effective, side-effect and rubber-free male contraception becomes universal, it could mark the end of the very common phenomenon of the not-entirely-accidental-surprise-baby and the one-bottle- of-wine-too-many-baby which happens to the most sensible of couples.
Because, let’s face it, if all women had to wait for men to feel broody (and for this to coincide with his jab wearing off), the birth rate would drop like a stone.
I am told that there are men out there who want nothing more than to persuade or even trick their unwilling wives into having more babies, and thus will be sent packing to the doctor to get jabbed (will they get a certificate to prove it, I wonder?), but, frankly, these blokes are surely in the minority.
A rather more common scenario — and one that is a constant on the parenting site Mumsnet — is a woman desperate for a first, second or third child with an unwilling and very determined man.
This situation, especially if the woman senses time is running out, tends to cause not just sorrow and anguish, but also a sort of furious frustration. A sense that her human rights have been unfairly and unreasonably denied her.
And while it is taboo to say it, plenty of women do feel, in a primal way, that they should have the last word on how many babies they have, hence the large number of ‘surprise’ third babies around.
It is rare for women to actually lie about using contraception, but not so rare for women to cry, beg, sulk, withhold sexual favours or just stop using contraception and so leave it up to the man to take the only precautions open to him which, luckily, plenty of men don’t like doing.
As I say, this is pretty taboo stuff. But one woman who is happy to voice her belief that men really shouldn’t have too much say in the matter is mother-of-four Jerry Hall.
In her role as agony aunt, she unrepentantly told a woman who longed for a third child in the face of her husband’s opposition: ‘Honey, remember, the more you make love, the more chance there is of a happy accident… Chances are he will get used to it.
‘If not, having a baby later in life is an especially good idea: you will get alimony pretty much until your pension kicks in.’
Shocking? Maybe. But then again, Jerry is pretty chuffed with her four kids, and Mick Jagger?
Well it was fun while it lasted, but you get the feeling that Jerry believes men may come and go, but children are for ever.
Which brings us to another problem with the male jab.
While it might be a great thing in a committed relationship, where a woman really doesn’t want more babies and has suffered unpleasant side-effects from using contraception (and should probably be compulsory for certain Premiership footballers), for most women, the idea of a single man who is so opposed to babies that he has the jab is incredibly unattractive.
The same goes for a vasectomy. Most single women would run a mile from a man who’s had one, even if they don’t particularly long for children, because we don’t really like our men making unilateral decisions, whether that’s about curtains or babies.
However, I’ve known women who have been keen for their husbands to get snipped, not just because it means they can stop using contraception, but because, as one confessed to me: ‘What I like about his vasectomy is that now he can’t leave us and go off and have babies with someone else.'
And let’s face it, if he’s sterile, he isn’t likely to find a woman half my age to run off with, as she’d be put off by it.
If the jab is reversible, well, I wouldn’t have that security.’