Hot Magnets in Your Testicles?
A potential new male birth control uses needles, nanoparticles, and magnets.
Stella got her groove back on vacation but for most of us it’s not necessarily the sexiest week of our year. A recent survey of over 500 adults by The Vacationer found that only 29% of respondents have more sex on vacation. In contrast, 34.8% say they have about the same amount of sex and 36.2% said they don’t have more sex. (The difference between those two response categories is unclear as neither of them explicitly includes those people who said they had less sex on vacation). Most of us also aren’t having better sex when we go away—again, it was pretty much a tie between those who said sex was better (37%) and those who said it was about the same (36.6%) with another 26.4% saying vacation sex was actually worse. The optimistic people at The Vacationer—who also asked about one-night stands (more common) and vacation sex standards (lower for some)—interpreted this as “more than one in three American adults believe that sex is better on vacation.” But all I can think of as I pack for my two week vacation is that Onion headline that circulates this time each year “Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties in Closer Proximity to the Ocean.” In fairness to the other adults who go on this vacation, I do not do all household chores—my husband cooks (when we’re not eating lobsters from PJ’s), my mom is always on top of the wet towel and bathing suit laundry situation, and my brother-in-law seems to have the dishwasher loaded before the slowest lobster eaters have finished dinner. Still, looking at the 32 loads of laundry that must be done before we leave and knowing that all of that laundry will come back from vacation dirty, I can’t say I’m surprised by the results of this survey. Vacations with family are fun, yes, but this one, at least, will be far more rustic than romantic.
See you in two weeks!
Hot Magnets in Your Testicles? A New Male Birth Control is Tested
The quest to find a new reversible male contraception has produced a number of concepts that might make those with testicles put hands to balls in a bid to protect the family jewels. The newest idea, which was recently successfully tested on mice, is no different. It involves needles, nanotechnology, and heat.
Researchers in China experimented with two types of biodegradable, iron oxide nanoparticles. The goal was to get these particles into the testes and heat them up as a way to temporarily halt sperm production.
Apparently, other researchers have suggested direct injections of hot particles into the testes because we know that heat is detrimental to sperm production (that’s actually why the testes are housed outside of the body), but that method was deemed to burn sensitive skin and hurt too much. So, for this experiment researchers hoped to inject the nanoparticles elsewhere in the body, guide them to the testes using magnets, and then heat them up once they arrived.
The first type of nanoparticle was covered in polyethylene glycol (PEG) which was promising because it can be heated to higher temperatures. Unfortunately, the researchers found that these particles could not be easily moved to the testes with magnets. Instead, they focused on nanoparticles covered in citric acid which they injected into the blood stream of mice in repeat doses over a two-day period. They then guided the particles to the testicles using magnets and applied an alternating magnetic field to the area for 15 minutes which heated the testes to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
This shrunk the testes and stopped sperm production. After 7 days, the mice were unable to impregnate females and they stayed infertile for between 30 to 60 days. But after that time, they were back to their pre-magnetized fertile selves—fathering about 12 pups per pregnant female with their normal-size testicles. The nanoparticles were found to be non-toxic to cells and were gradually eliminated from the body.
The researchers say that this preliminary study offers new possibilities for male contraception, but I must admit I’m skeptical that all that many testicle owners are going to sign up to have their balls heated (not to mention shrunken) from within by nanomagnets every month or two.
Another Reason to Love New Zealand: A Proposed Country-Wide Ban on Conversion Therapy
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt a little jealous of New Zealanders in the last few years. In 2017, shortly after the U.S. elected a know-nothing misogynist to our highest office, the people of New Zealand elected a young, progressive woman. In the four years that Jacinda Ardern has been Prime Minister, she has banned military-style assault rifles, pledged free period products to girls and women across the country, become the first PM in the country to attend pride events, had a baby, and kept Covid-19 in check (only 26 people in that country have died). Now, a lawmaker from Ardern’s Labor Party has introduced a law that would ban conversion therapy in that country and the Prime Minister has pledged wholehearted support.
Conversion therapy, also called reparative therapy, is a catchall term for anything that has as its goal changing a person’s sexual orientation from gay/lesbian (or anything else other than heterosexual) to straight. The techniques of conversion therapy vary widely, from bible study to forced dates with the opposite sex to electric shock sessions in which participants are shown homosexual erotica and shocked every time they show signs of arousal.
In the United States, this kind of therapy was promoted by the ex-gay movement that gained attention in the 1970s after mainstream psychological organizations stopped seeing homosexuality as a mental illness. Ex-gay groups argued that they provided an important service for those people who were saddled with same-sex attraction but did not “want to be gay.” But over the years, many proponents of conversion therapy acknowledged that their methods did more harm than good and apologized to the gay community for the damage they caused. (For more about the fascinating rise and fall of the ex-gay movement see Myth # 10 in 50 Great Myths of Human Sexuality, the book I co-authored with Pepper Schwartz.) There are now 20 states in the U.S. that ban conversion therapy for minors.
Still, I can’t imagine a member of Congress from either party introducing the bill that is now in front of the New Zealand Parliament nor do I want to imagine the debate that would follow. The NZ law would outlaw conversion therapy for anyone under 18 or anyone with impaired decision-making capacity, and would also make it an offense to perform conversion therapy on anyone of any age if the therapy is found to cause serious harm. The author of the bill, Justice Minister Kris Faafoi, said in a statement about the bill: “Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand. They are based on the false belief that any person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is broken and in need of fixing.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Olympic Medalist Fixed Her Kayak with a Condom
At least one of the 160,000 condoms the Olympic Committee gave out but asked athletes not to use in the time of Covid, seems to have come in handy. Australian kayaker Jessica Fox posted a video on TikTok of a technician stretching a condom over the tip of her boat to keep carbon filler in place. Fox captioned her video: “How kayakers use condoms.” She went on to win the gold medal in the canoe slalom event and the bronze in the kayak slalom. Further proof that it’s always important to carry protection.