Sex Stuff

(Part of The Future: A Retrospective)


The Female Condom

The Female Condom
Odds 99%
Year 1991
Cost $5/1989 ($8/2007) for 6 condoms

You know what, just make your own misinterpretation joke. Meanwhile I'm wondering what could possibly be the tiny 1% possibility of failure. Maybe there was a miscommunication and that's the failure rate of the condom itself.

The Danish couple of Bente and Erik Gregerson headed "an international group of gynecologists and obstetricians" to come up with this "loose-fitting polyurethane sheath" that "gives the woman control over her own safety." It reminds me of the plastic isolation tunnels the feds set up at the end of E.T. It arrived a little later than predicted (1992 in Europe, 1993 in the US), and costs a little more ($2.50/2007 each), but this is one of the most accurate predictions in the book. This is also one of the few Future Stuff entries I've used. It works fine. 'Nuff said.


Electrified Birth Control

Electrified Birth Control
Odds 75%
Year 1992
Cost $60-$80/1989 ($98-$130/2007)

When I was a kid, around the time Future Stuff came out, there was a dumb toy... well, there were a lot of dumb toys, most of which didn't even have Internet connectivity. The dumb toy I'm thinking of was Pooch Patrol: here's a 1990 commercial, which is not the one I have in my head but really it's impressive that I can link to a particular ad campaign from 20 years ago. I'm distracted from the story and you're gonna hate me when I finally reveal that even the story has almost nothing to do with the Future Stuff entry, so let's press on.

One inevitable result as a cohort enters puberty is a rash of peurile jokes spreading through the local social networks. Since jokes often take pop culture as a raw material, one joke among my cohort involved recreating the Pooch Patrol commercial but substituting "Birth control!" for the refrain "Pooch Patrol!" It was around this time that I figured out what birth control actually was; previously I'd thought it was a way to choose the sex of your unborn child. So, he says, finally preparing to actually read the Future Stuff entry, electrified birth control sounds like a peurile joke on the name of a modern dumb toy that does have Internet connectivity.

Outside the realm of junior-high jokes, electrified birth control is the invention of "New York gynecologist Steven Kaali," the man who sounds like the shadowy Other from an attack ad. Here's the patent; the "electrified intrauterine device" is "placed and retained within the uterus of a female mammal." You could be that mammal!

The IUD's battery is "built into the rim... and sends its signal out across the dome. It kills sperm by zapping them when they cross the low-level electrical field," turning every ejaculation into a game of Missile Command. It also kills bacteria and yeast, possibly curing yeast infections.

My wife reacted with horror when she heard this idea, similar to a man hearing about someone getting kicked in the ol' family jewels. "I just wanna protect my uterus," she said. This might explain why it seems no company ever "purchase[d] the patent rights" and produced this device.

PS: "Birth control!" was not even my cohort's only parody of the "Pooch Patrol" commercials. I regret nothing!


Impotency Pills

Impotency Pills
Odds 50%
Year 1992
Cost N/A

At last, Future Stuff's greatest predictive triumph. The runaway hit product of the nineties, the nudge-nudge drug that sparked more late-night TV jokes than even olestra. It's... Ciba-Geigy's phentolamine!

[record scratch] Yes, Dr. Grant Gwinup realized that a discontinued hypertension drug was "the same ingredient commonly injected into the penis to treat impotency." He did a quick (by medical study standards) test to see whether it would work to administer phentolamine orally, eliminating the middleneedle. Swallowed, it "takes up to an hour" to take effect, but it did help "eight of sixteen impotent men".

Unfortunately, Ciba-Geigy didn't really see the point: they'd already discontinued the drug, it was manufactured on obsolete equipment anyway and they were generally not "convinced that there's a market for this." Dr. Gwinup suggests that Future Stuff readers write in asking Ciba-Geigy to start selling phentolamine again. Meanwhile he'll hoard all remaining supplies of phentolamine. You know, for research.

Who knows what might have happened in that phentalomine-drenched alternate universe where enough people had written in, but in 1998 Pfizer started selling their own impotency/hypertension pills: sildenafil citrate, or, as most vendors call it, \/1@gR4. The result was about 2.7 gazillion dollars for Pfizer. Man, it was 1998? Seems like the whole 90s were full of those dumb jokes.

Viagra looks to have an efficacy of better than 50%, but according to Wikipedia you still need to take it "between 30 minutes and 4 hours before sexual intercourse" to get it into your bloodstream. And of course "sexual intercourse" there is a Wikipedia link, in case your Viagra research proceeds from a state of unfamiliarity with the practice. It's virtually unique to the animal kingdom, after all. There are like five other kingdoms!

Grant Gwinup seems to still be doing research at the UC Irvine Medical Center. In 1996, Ciba-Geigy merged with Sandoz (inventors of LSD) to form Novartis.


Time-Release Birth Control

Time-Release Birth Control
Odds 95%
Year 1992
Cost N/A

"The trouble with birth control pills is that you have to remember to take them!" Tough to argue with that. The Population Council has sponsored research into a "time-release implant method using six thin match-size, [progestin] hormone-filled capsules." It lasts "up to five years".

This is Norplant, approved for use in the US in 1991. That makes this the first and only Future Stuff entry to arrive ahead of predicted schedule! Not much to say here except that FS refers to the registered trademark as NORPLANT.


Sexual Risk Game

Sexual Risk Game
Odds 85%
Year 1991
Cost $30/1989 ($49/2007)

Should you have fooled around with that Bangkok transsexual? Spin the Wheel Of Risk and face the consequences! Well, a game like that would certainly be interesting, and possibly educational, but the dwarven-sounding University of Guelph in Ontario has dialed down the Wheels of Risk and the sex tourism to focus on trivia questions.

The only sample given in Future Stuff is: "People over a certain age do not like to and should not have sex. True or false?" (The answer may surprise you!) The game is "used as an introduction to sex discussions with trained counsellors", further stripping any potential it might have had as an overpriced, discreetly sold "adult" party game.

This feels like the same sort of thing as the walking television; something that's interesting in the abstract and that might survive in an academic environment, but not in the outside world. There are many people who would benefit from playing this game but it's got nothing to make them want to play it. It combines the awkwardness of sex with the excitement of sex ed. But Future Stuff says the game "has been greeted enthusiastically on the Geulph campus", so maybe it secretly involved Jello shots or Facebook.


This document (source) is part of Crummy, the webspace of Leonard Richardson (contact information). It was last modified on Wednesday, December 19 2012, 19:09:05 Nowhere Standard Time and last built on Thursday, November 27 2014, 18:00:35 Nowhere Standard Time.

Crummy is © 1996-2014 Leonard Richardson. Unless otherwise noted, all text licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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