Doctors are trialling a contraceptive gel for men to rub on their arms

Sounds much easier than literally everything else on the market

“I have a fucking wishbone in my pussy and they get a gel?” one angry Twitter user asked in reaction to the news that there was a new contraception method in the works for men. It’s understandable as the new topical gel sounds a lot less invasive than the current options for women.

The NES/T gel is a product that men with rub on their arms and shoulders which lowers their sperm count. It contains a combination of a drug brand named Nestorone which includes the progestin and testosterone hormones. The former is found in most female birth controls and should block the testes from making sperm, whereas the extra dose of testosterone should help patients maintain their sex drive.

A trial will start this week of volunteers in several US cities, including Seattle, California, and Kansas, before moving on to Chile, England, Sweden. For 20 weeks they will use the gel in combination with other contraception, but once tests confirm they’re infertile they will exclusively use the gel for a year. After that year they’ll stop for six months so doctors can track whether their sperm count rises again, or whether the gel’s impact is irreversible.

Contraceptive gels have been in the works since 2009, and researcher Christina Wang who works at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute told Gizmodo that there have never been any “serious adverse events”. As well as tracking men’s health, doctors will assess whether their partners are satisfied with the method also. “If this works, and couples want to use it, it will not be restricted only to people who can afford it. That’s my understanding,” she added.

This could be a landmark moment in contraception should the product prove to be effective, especially since the product is so easy and non-invasive to use. Despite both of these points, some women feel like this proves a gendered disparity in how doctors approach the sexual health concerns. Most mainstream options for women being painful, invasive, or damaging to their mental health.

The story seems to fit a trend that doctors favour less invasive, more convenient and enjoyable options for men, meanwhile, women are expected to put up with a range of adverse side effects. This tension arose when it was announced that doctors stopped testing a male pill when the participants exhibited signs of depression and mood swings, acne, libido changes. Something a lot of female patients had reported to doctors for years. However, one man died by suicide during the study and even though researches claim this was unrelated to the drug another man attempted suicide during the trial also.

However, if our end goal is that couples who don’t want children can prevent unplanned pregnancies then this method will likely be welcomed with open and well-gelled arms.