Providing a Catholic framework on the truth and meaning of sexuality, love, and family

Male Contraceptive Pills – Coming to a Pharmacy Near You?

What price will men be willing to pay for sex without consequences?by Gerard M. Nadal, Ph.D.In the treacherous cross-currents of gender politics, scientific investigation, and pharmaceutics, far too many human beings have succumbed to the roiling and unforgiving forces that are driven by ideology and greed. Countless millions have paid with their health, and many with their lives. A new tributary has opened recently into this swirling vortex, as news comes from the Wall Street Journal that it is man’s turn to consume chemical contraceptives, now in development. (See the story here).Of the several methods being reported, of most concern is one under development at Columbia University involving a chemical compound that blocks Vitamin A, which is essential in the production of sperm. Presumably, this is done by the chemical compound binding to the sites in a cell that are responsible for binding Vitamin A.Think of Vitamin A as a key that fits into a certain lock within the cell, and then turns on a certain biochemical pathway, much the same as the car key fits the lock on the ignition system. Now imagine someone getting a key that roughly fits into the ignition lock, but can’t turn on the engine, and crazy-gluing it in place. That’s the basic idea here.To the layperson, it seems simple and elegant. Why not, if it’s so simple? Of course, the answer is that nothing dealing with the human body is ever so simple.In truth, there are receptors for Vitamin A all over the body, and we are still discovering them. These receptors turn on different functions in different cells. Jamming the lock in one jams the lock in all, and therein lies the danger.As word comes out about this male contraceptive, a paper in the prestigious Journal of Biological Chemistry (which should be viewed as a cautionary work) was named “Paper of the Week,” which goes to little more than 50 papers of the 6,600 papers published by the journal annually. In this paper a team from the Van Andel Research Institute discuss the importance of a newly identified Vitamin A receptor, TR4:“Our study found that Vitamin A itself is active for activating nuclear receptor TR4,” said VARI Research Scientist Edward Zhou, Ph.D. “Because TR4 plays roles in sperm cell production, lipid and lipoprotein regulation, the development of the central nervous system, and the regulation of hemoglobin production in the embryo, we can imagine that Vitamin A may play more important roles in human physiology than was previously believed.”An excellent Science Daily review of the paper may be found here.The understated aspect in that comment was the observation that Vitamin A may play a more important role in human physiology than previously believed. This is something that the layperson may not fully grasp when viewing the subject through the prism of gender politics and whose turn it is to bear the burden of contraception. The truth is that for all that we know in science and medicine, we know comparatively little, that’s why a single journal can publish over 6,600 pieces of scientific research per year.It is recklessly naïve to suppose that we can block Vitamin A receptors in the pursuit of halting sperm production, and think that we can do so without catastrophic events elsewhere. We know that Vitamin A is essential for vision, especially night vision. It is also essential for proper immune system function. Now comes word that Vitamin A plays a role in nervous system development.This is no small matter. Contrary to a century of neurological dogma; that we are born with all of the neurons we will ever have, research in the last decade has shown that we actually produce new neuron in the frontal lobes of the brain where personality and memory centers reside. What role Vitamin A plays in all of this is largely unresearched and unknown. The same goes for the ability of damaged nerves to regenerate in the peripheral nervous system.So, now it’s the men’s turn. The catastrophic side-effects of the birth control pill, including stroke and cancer has taught us nothing in fifty-one years. Gender politics looks at men and women solely through the prism of dominance and control, and not through the eyes of love and self-sacrifice. Rather than looking at the catastrophe that has engulfed women this past half-century, realizing that nature cannot be so easily manipulated, and backing away from that approach, we now expect men to subject their bodies to peril.It is an anthropology utterly devoid of love or reason.As more and more pharmaceutical companies back away from this approach to blocking vitamin A, we may be assured that the radical feminist voices will play the victim card, demanding that men take their turn. And the cries will become ever more strident.Not only should men run in terror from male chemical contraception, but we as men should be equally abhorrent of female chemical contraception. No real man, understanding the dangers of chemical contraception, would ever find it acceptable that his wife/partner consume poison in the name of sex without consequences. The trail of women cancer victims, of women stroke victims stands as a howling rebuke to such a fiction.Simply stated, there is no safe way to chemically, or mechanically contracept. There will always be the unknown, long-term sequellae that do not manifest during clinical trials. All we have is a series of trade-offs. Part of what’s sacrificed in that trade-off package is self-love, self-respect, love and respect of the other, and nothing less than our intrinsic human dignity. No orgasm is worth the trade.Dr. Nadal holds a Ph.D. in molecular microbiology. In addition to teaching for 16 years, he’s spent seven years working with homeless teens at Covenant House in Times Square, New York. He is currently pursuing an M.A. in theology through Franciscan University of Steubenville and blogs at views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Headline Bistro or the Knights of Columbus.

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