The internet is abuzz with surprising new developments in male contraceptives. First, @Venus_Skywalker went viral on Tiktok for showing off a ‘just the tip’ condom made by Charles Powell. The condom appears to be vaguely reminiscent of a menstrual pad with two adhesive flaps that attach the cap to either side of the shaft. Powell describes the Galactic Cap as “the condom men want to wear” and the condom design certainly prioritizes enhancing penile sensation. It does not cover the entire shaft and purposefully exposes an area immediately underneath the tip of the penis, the frenulum, which has many nerve endings and is highly sensitive in many men.
Although it is exciting to see a new condom design that might entice men to use condoms more regularly, more data is needed on the Galactic Cap before it becomes available commercially or gets the NWHN’s male contraceptives seal of approval. The device has not been approved by the FDA and the official Galactic Cap website cautions that the condom may not reduce the risk of transmitting STIs and pregnancy prevention has not been satisfactorily tested. So far, the Galactic Cap has only been studied in a small number of volunteers. Online commenters have raised concerns about the condom’s ability to protect against STIs, since the condom does not cover the shaft of the penis. Although many STIs are transmitted through semen, some STIs such as genital herpes, can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Pregnancy and STI prevention should be the priority of any condom, and male pleasure should not compromise safety. Although men are more likely to buy and wear condoms, women as well as men experience the physical and financial repercussions of using a faulty condom. All receptive partners can experience infection as a result of unprotected intercourse. Women and other people who can get pregnant have an additional worry about poorly designed condoms.
The second viral sensation in male contraceptives is a chemical extracted from a Chinese herb that seems to be a reversible oral contraceptive for males. Sounds great, right? But when we read the internet coverage carefully, we found that the compound, called triptonide, has only been tested in animals. The animal test results were good. According to an article published in the journal Nature Communications, a once-daily oral dose of triptonide creates deformed sperm after about four weeks in mice and six weeks in monkeys. A few of the animals were allowed to mate several weeks after their last dose of triptonide and healthy infants resulted. Other animals were examined, and no visible ill effects of the drug were observed. The researchers are enthusiastic and hope that the promise of this non-hormonal male contraceptive will be followed up with further studies. We do, too! But we know that other promising male contraceptives haven’t turned out to be fully effective when tested in humans. Researchers have been looking for a safe and effective oral contraceptive for men for decades. The NWHN believes research on male contraceptives deserves more funding and attention from the scientific community as the responsibility of pregnancy prevention should not fall solely on the person who is able to become pregnant.