An on/off switch for sperm? Thanks, Germany!

You've probably never heard the name Clemens Bimek before, unless you're an enormous fan of Germany carpentry. About 20 years ago, Mr. Bimek was watching a TV documentary about contraception, and began to wonder whether or not the flow of sperm could be started and stopped via the use of implantable valves. Later, he researched whether anyone had a patent for such an implement. No one did. Fast forward a few decades, and the Bimek SLV was born.

As you'd imagine, the Bimek SLV mechanism is tiny, less than an inch long. It's surgically implanted in the vas deferens (the tubes that carry sperm from the testes) with a procedure that takes under 30 minutes to perform. So far, only Bimek himself has undergone the surgery, which was performed outpatient with only local anesthesia. He actually stayed awake to advise the surgeon. Later this year, 25 more men will form the trial group testing the functionality and effectiveness of the Bimek SLV. I have to wonder how difficult it was to convince 25 men to let someone perform experimental surgery on their guy-parts. But that's another story.

Why the World Needs a Dick Switch

It's no secret that male-focused options for birth control have been few and far between. Aside from condoms, which can reduce sensation and lessen friction, men's only other options for birth control are vasectomy (expensive, largely irreversible), or so-called pulling out (unreliable). It makes sense that men want more effective options that are less likely to negatively impact their sexual enjoyment. After all, we've been promised that a male birth control pill is "coming soon" for at least a decade. And, while condoms have come along way in increasing sensation, most people will tell you that they're never going to feel as good as going bareback.

Earlier this year, a survey published in US News and World Report asserted that men care more than you might think about effective birth control. Over half of men surveyed said they'd be willing to try a birth control pill - although there's no word on whether or not they'd commit to taking it at the same time of day, every day without fail. About a third of men surveyed said they'd be open to taking shots regularly to stop sperm production, and around 20% of men said they'd consider an implant. While a Bimek SLV implant requires surgery similar to a vasectomy, it promises to be easier to reverse. This can make it a more desirable option for younger men, unmarried men, or those who are undecided about having children in general.

How the Bimek SLV Works

So, how does it work? First, the appliance is surgically implanted. No word on what might disqualify someone from using the Bimek SLV. So far, it seems like anybody with an intact vas deferens is a viable candidate for the German gadget. Next, and this is the squicky part, the switch must be located by feeling around the scrotum. Once the man (or his partner) locates the switch, one flip (delivered through the skin) will "turn off" sperm by stopping its flow out of the testes. In order to open pathways up for regular sperm travel, a safety valve on the opposite side of the device must be held while the switch is flipped the other way. Sounds complicated, but then, putting on a condom can be tricky too, if you're not used to it.

Contraceptive Valve Implants? German Engineering at Its Finest!
Source: Bimek SLV

So, What's the Downside?

There are a few drawbacks inherent to the Bimek SLV. For one thing, cutting off the sperm at the vas deferens doesn't make a man immediately infertile. In fact, it can take up to a month to clear all the existing sperm in the chamber, if you'll pardon the expression. Plus, the device is a considerable investment, at a proposed price point of over $3,000. But, although that may sound like a lot of money, I'd say it's a bargain compared to raising a child.

I have to say that this contraption sounds like a fine idea in theory. I love the concept of having reliable birth control that doesn't interfere with pleasure during sex - presuming that it really doesn't. We all probably know at least one woman whose use of sponges, IUDs, or other birth control has been far from "trouble free." It would be great to have reliable birth control that we don't have to think about, and for men to take on a larger share of birth control-related responsibilities. The idea of a long-term birth control solution that doesn't impact fertility later in life is a huge leap forward. (Read more in Guys, You're Not Off the Hook When It Comes to Birth Control.)

We've got some time before the Bimek SLV is available for purchase. Even after the upcoming human trials, much more study and approval will be needed before this item can be implanted in a man near you. Here's hoping that Clemens Bimek gets the funding he needs to make this project a worldwide success.