In what seems like a throwback to a time when a lone inventor could change the world, a German carpenter has come up with a switch that can turn off the flow of a man’s sperm. It’s effectively a vasectomy that can be switched in and out at will.
The Bimek SLV was invented by furniture builder Clemens Bimek. The idea came to him, says Der Spiegel, while watching a documentary about contraception. A vasectomy cuts the vas deferens, the tube that carries the sperm to the urethra where it is mixed with the rest of the semen. Bimek wondered why you couldn’t just block the tube with a valve, letting you switch it on and off like a kind of sperm faucet.
The result is a small device that can be inserted surgically in about the same time it takes to perform a regular vasectomy. You need two of them, and once your stitches have healed, and you’ve waited the recommended week before engaging in intercourse, you’re good to go. Switching the flow on and off is as simple as it could be:
The valve is a connector that is implanted in the spermatic ducts with a rocker switch that can be toggled on and off. The valve switch can be felt and easily controlled with your fingers through the scrotum skin.
There is also a safety catch that you have to press when releasing the mechanism to re-open the valve. The FAQ also carries this rather sensible piece of advice: "It would be sensible to keep both valve switches in the same position."
In fact, while we’re in the FAQ, let’s take a look at some of the other answers. When, for instance, is the best time to flip the switch? "The easiest time to do this is when the scrotum is soft and loose, for example, during or immediately after taking a warm bath."
What about your erection? Will there be any problems? On the contrary, the device might be a turn-on. "With the sense of security that you can fully ensure contraception, you’ll find the stress and fear of an unwanted pregnancy fly out the door. Which in turn may also increase your partner’s libido."
When Bimek discovered that no patent existed for a similar device, he set to work, but doctors and even pathologists (Bimek wanted access to the vas deferens’ of recently-dead corpses) discouraged him. But he patented the idea anyway, and built his first prototype in 2006. The projected price is around $3,300, but the device has yet to undergo clinical trials. Right now, Bimek is the only person fitted with it (also a turn-on?).
Trials aside, the device seems to be working out fine for Birmek (though it's probably hard to know if it's actually preventing any pregnancies). In a typically German example, Der Spiegel reports that Bimek can’t even feel the device when he’s in the bike saddle.
The consequences could be far-reaching, allowing men to take responsibility for non-protective contraception, instead of women having to take the pill. But it’s not just a matter of flipping the switch and jumping into the sack. The binary nature of the Bimek SLV might make it seem that you can switch off your potency at will, but the body will need time to flush existing sperm out of the system, as it were. The ever-helpful FAQ says that it may take up to three months, or "until about your 30th ejaculation." Whichever comes first is a question only you can answer.
Still, even a three-month wait is better than heading into surgery for your vasectomy and then having to go back to get it reversed. And the ability to switch the apparatus off again could lead way more men to get the snip.