Category Archives: In The News

Yes, Condoms Deserve A Holiday Too!

Forget the Valentine’s Day candies and roses. What better way to gear up for Vday romance than celebrating International Condom Day! (#ICD2015 to you, Twitter.)

This year the AHF is changing the way we think about condoms.

This year the AHF is changing the way we think about condoms.

February 13th marks this holiday of awareness as a time to educate and celebrate safer sex. World, be prepared for thousands of free condom dispensaries and numerous safer sex events across 31 countries. In the US, the AHF (AIDS Health Organization) has organized 37 events in 12 states including some “hot zones” like the District of Colombia, which has the highest national rate of HIV in the country; and Mississippi and Texas, two states which have some of the strictest laws against public sex education and (by no coincidence) the highest national average of teen pregnancies.

Indeed, there is plenty to celebrate when it comes to condoms.

The first being that condoms are the most effective method available today that protects against both STIs and accidental pregnancy. Can’t beat that.

Each year, the AHF curates this holiday around a theme. This year’s theme is “Coolness”; that is, “Condoms Are Cool”. Now, before you roll your eyes and think, “Not another lame, out-of-touch attempt to get youth to use condoms,” I challenge you to check out the AHF corresponding video series. They launched a trio of videos related to young people buying condoms at a local corner shop or “bodega”.

Here is the first of the AHF’s “Bodega Nights” video series. Trust me, you have never seen a condom commercial like this one. Unlike traditional public service announcements (PSAs) that are overtly serious and fear-based, this one actually combines condoms with confidence, fun and sexiness.

The coolness doesn’t stop there. In addition to their “Bodega Nights” video series, the AHF also released a catchy party song. It is a condom-related parody of one of today’s global hits, Pharrell Williams’s “Happy”. The hope is to renew attention of the importance of safer sex in a way that will never go out of style.

Because I wrap it
Put it on and get in on, if that’s what you want to do.
Because I wrap it,
Cause you know that you are hot, and these condoms sure are cool.
Because I wrap it
Wrap it, put your hands up, and let yourself be free,
Because I wrap it
Just love your self enough to know that protection is the key.
– “Because I Wrap It” by Danny Fernandez

You can listen to the song and download the lyrics for your Karaoke pleasures here.

View more domestic and international Condom Day events here.

#TwitterWTF? Let’s change their condom stance

Social businesses who exists to normalize and improve public knowledge of safer sex are not allowed to extend their messages on Twitter.

Twitter’s ad policy is under pressure to change their convoluted and conservative stance against condom (and other contraception) promotion.

This week, Melissa White, founder and CEO of Lucky Bloke, sent a letter to Twitter owner Dick Costolo, urging him to take condoms off their blacklist. She also launched a petition for the public to get on board in ending this faulty policy.

This is the tweet that got Lucky Bloke kicked off the @TwitterAds program because it was deemed too sexually explicit. tweet-censored1

This hardly seems too sexual for daytime viewers! Twitter would not respond to White’s requests for more information. That was it. Her safer sex promotion went on complete lock down.

Unfortunately, we live in a time in which the clutches of puritanical fears continue to muffle public discourse around safer sex. Why haven’t we shaken this off by now?

#Tweet4Condoms because sexual care is health care and global health!

We know that access to condoms does not entice young people to start fucking in locker rooms. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics- a very official authority on health) released a position statement last October arguing that condoms should be made available in public schools and other community venues. With the backing of numerous studies, they firmly state that access to condoms does not cause sex. To be clear, it increasing the chances of young adults practicing safer sex. In fact, as Amanda Marcotte reports, nearly half of the studies cited by the AAP show that kids who have access to condoms and condom education have sex later than kids who do not have access.

So what does this have to do with Twitter? Their block on condom advertising and messaging stems from this cultural shame we’ve constructed around sex. Consequently, instead of being a platform to discuss and support safer sex messaging, Twitter reinforces stigma of condoms usage.

[UPDATE: More sexual health businesses and organization have spoken out about their struggle with Twitter’s policy, including The STD Project and Bedsider]

Lucky Bloke isn’t alone of course, as Twiter’s blockade is far-reaching and unconditional. The company Momdoms explained that their custom product for condom storage has also been deemed “too x-rated”, making it virtually impossible for Momdoms to share their videos and promotions to a wider audience. They showed Condom Monologues a copy of Twitter’s notification. It’s the same message Lucky Bloke received: “Your company is ineligible.”

Join Us!

Let’s show Twitter that condoms are perfectly normal, lovable item, and essential health items. Not something to exclude from public space! Visit this Action Page to share images, tweets, and links to your friends and networks.

Why Condoms Get a Bad Wrap: Renewing emphasis on pleasure

Is it correct to suggest that condom-bashing is more common than condom-loving?  From personal experience, when I speak with people about safer sex the following is often used to describe condoms: “It keeps my partner and me from getting close”, “It disrupts intimacy”; “…It’s unnatural”, “…a mood killer”, “I can’t feel anything with a condom on”, “it hurts”, or “I can’t get off with condoms”.  Sound familiar?  In fact, rarely do I hear positive things like, “I love using condoms!” and “Condoms make me horny!”

Some argue that male condoms simply suck. Period. Others point to social attitudes as the greater problem and that people are trained to hate condom, states Debbie Herbenick in The Daily Beast.

Can new condoms solve the Condom Problem?

Why do condoms get a bad rap?Of course, sexual pleasure and condom use warrant serious discussion. According to a 2013 survey, only 60% of teenagers claim to use condoms regularly. And condom use declines as people grow older.  Much media praise is pouring over the “Grand Challenge” pitched by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation to develop a “next-generation condom that significantly enhances or preserves pleasure.”  Thousands have applied for the $100,000 prize grant.  It’s got people talking (again) about widespread dissatisfaction with existing condoms.

There’s been ideological backlash from condom defenders.  Reported in an article by, the Gates’ competition is razzed by Gwaker and Salon, who have labeled condom complainers as “creeps” and “pervs” that are just “whining”. But these righteous attacks do not help.  In fact, their points only reinforce shame around sexual pleasure, thus hindering discussions about sexuality and sexual health.

Fingers are also pointing at condom researchers for overlooking the importance of pleasure and narrowly focusing on disease prevention and risk, as assistant professor Joshua G. Rosenberger told The Daily Beast. The narrative surrounding the Gates’ competition has reinvigorated the pleasure factor, but honest discussion about condoms should not end there.

Pleasure-focused condoms already exist!

What’s overlooked in this media coverage is that condom companies have focused on pleasure for decades! One need not look further than the crowded condom market to see where emphasis lay. Navigating through all the pleasure bumps, pouches, dual action lubricants, and “twisted” pleasure condoms can be a confusing (and fun!) task. This is not to deny that there are limits in male condom choice (not to mention severe limits of dams and female condoms!).  Indeed, most are latex based. Non-latex is more expensive and difficult to find off-line (see our post about buying condoms online). And all existing condoms roll on and off in the same way (although prototype Origami condom might change that).

There is more to condom use than bananas

Another aspect overlooked in discussions of condom hate is the way in which students are introduced to and informed about condoms in sex education.  Condoms talk is often devoid of any discussions regarding pleasure. But instead of limiting condoms to banana demonstrations, educators and prevention providers can play a valuable role by explaining some special condom features that already exist to suit individual needs, including allergies, lubrication, the health warnings of n-9 spermicide, flavors, and different condom shapes and sizes.

The point is that there are thousands of condom types already.  What we need is pleasure-inclusive sex education so that young people and adults access information about options, how to find the right condom, and different ways to use condoms well.  This can help increase consistent and correct use, hence reduce health risk while nurturing healthy and satisfying sexual lives.  Everyone wins!

Condom haters are in the minority

There is plenty of alternative evidence out there to suggest that the physical differences between unprotected sex and sex with a condom are minor to non-existent.  The Kinsey Institute’s annual National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (2011) found that adults who use condoms for penetrative sex tend to report the same degree of sexual pleasure as those who have sex without condoms. Another study that measured physical sensation (and only physicality- excluding other factors like perceived trust or sexual history, etc.) found that most men do feel a slight decrease of sensation with a condom.  However, if used and fitted correctly, a condom should never decrease a man’s sensitivity to the point of pain, numbness, or loss of erection. For women, it is rare to experience any dulling, which (as Scarleteen wisely points out) is not surprising, because the vagina has far less nerve sensory compared to the clitoris and frenulum, and therefore is less receptive to finer differences like skin compared to latex. Yes, there are women and men who experience physical irritation, drying, gross tastes and weird smells.  But there are ways to overcome these problems. It’s not like safe sex is a chore that one just has to deal with! 

Understanding sexual pleasure

i love youThere’s the argument that people are trained to hate condoms. Check out our post about the lack of positive representations of condoms in popular culture and entertainment. From our searches, we could not find any peer reviewed scientific studies that conclude that condoms severely detract from physical sensation.  We did find studies- including Randolph et. al. (2008), Mizuno et. al. (2007) and Boston University School of Health Our Bodies Ourselves Collective (2011)– in which more men than women reported that condoms did cause sex to feel “less good”. However, all three studies find that those who report negative feelings towards condoms are people who rarely use them. This seems like an obvious finding, but what’s more nuanced here is that those who believe this is so tend to be less-experienced with condoms (some of which have no actual experience). While many people do report that unprotected sex feels better than protected sex, in general, people who use condoms frequently and are confident about how to use them well tend to experience greater satisfaction with protected sex then those who do not use condoms.

This implies that sexual pleasure when using condoms cannot simply be reduced to basic physics of vaginal or penile sensation.  Of course, “sexual pleasure” is a fluid concept that means many different things to different people in different contexts.  There is more to consider when measuring degrees of satisfaction and pleasure than just what a condom touches, such as how we feel emotionally and intellectually about ourselves, our bodies, our relationships, and sex as an integral part of life. Many studies argue that attitudes and beliefs toward condoms greatly influence one’s experience of using them.  So, it may be fair to say that claims of “not feeling anything” have more to do with lack of experience using condoms (lack of experimenting), or not using them properly.

The catch is that when people know what type of condom they like, know how to use them correctly, consistently, and different ways to increase sensuality (i.e. experimenting with lubes, ribbed condoms, having a partner put on the condom for you), there is greater overall satisfaction.  As Heather Corinna writes, “…it’s the people who don’t use them at all that tend to complain about them the most.” Thus many people’s negative attitudes place them in a self-perpetuating cycle: If you approach condom use with pessimism, then you set yourself up for aversion.  This cycle will discourage from experimenting with different condoms and discovering what types and lubricants you like, and what methods are most comfortable and exciting; in general, it’s the mind set that is often the mood-killer.

How to make condoms sexy

The Next Generation condom is a positive competition that will hopefully lead to innovative and improved technology.  But this alone cannot solve public perceptions and negative sentiment towards condoms. In another post, we have suggested that media, from soap operas to popular how-to magazines to porn must include more positive representations of condoms for vaginal, anal, and oral sex to help normalize safe sex.  We also suggest basic condom usage techniques and ways of making condom usage a sexy part of sex, rather than a disruption. And of course, access to education and knowing which condoms suit one’s individual needs (and their sexual relationships) is vital to loving the glove.  Here is our fitting guide to help those who experience particular fitting problems.

Tell us what you think from your experience or teachings.

Bad Sex Ed in the News

We give the low down on public sex education debates hitting headlines the past 6 months. There’s been a lot of coverage. Some jaw-drop appalling. Some inspiring. It was difficult to limit ourselves to 10! This year has seen a lot of students standing up for their rights to access of medically accurate, relevant sexual health knowledge.

1) Two Alabama high school students launch a petition to repeal a state law which requires public sex education to teach students that homosexuality is criminal. The Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex sodomy laws are illegal, but that has not stopped the message from being enforced in sex education. “Telling students that being gay is a crime is not only wrong, it’s unconstitutional according to our nation’s highest court”, states the petition. To date, it’s received 93, 836 supporters, over half the required signatures.

2) Similarly, in Tennessee, 11 year old Marcel speaks out against the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill which seeks to prohibits teachers from discussing homosexuality in K- through Grade 8. He is also standing up against R-John Ragan who previously compared homosexuality to pedophilia and prostitution. Marcel calls on the lobby group, StudentsFirst, to take back its award to R-John Ragan, whom they recently named “Educational Reformer of the Year.” Check out Marcel’s petition and watch the short version of his story found on

3) With this spring’s Steubenville rape trail and the recurrent use of “rape culture”, what better time to push a petition to make “enthusiastic consent” a mandatory part of public sex education nationwide. Unfortunately the petition did not receive enough signatures in time and expired.  We learned about this campaign from a self-identified bisexual high schooler who criticizes her sex education on Our Bodies Our Blog.

4) Politically and religiously motivated guest speakers were caught on tape giving false sexual and reproductive health info at a high school assembly. In the hour long lecture, two representatives from an anti-abortion organization preached scare tactics to students. For example, they said that “condoms have a failure rate of about 14%”, that there’s a new STD spreading that is “deadlier and faster than AIDS”, that as the rate of “STDs goes up the rate of fertility goes up” and that “all medical textbooks say that life begins at conception”. They also gave sexist information about male and female sexuality explaining that girls in particular need to be careful about sex because they are predisposed to be hormonally and emotionally “bonded” to whoever they are sexually active with. News about the misinformation taught at abstinence-only assemblies are coming to light only because high school students are speaking out. You can listen to the inflammatory rhetoric from a shorter version of lecture provided by

5) Katelyn Campbell made big waves in April when she refused to attend an abstinence-only assembly calling the presentation “slut-shaming”. Funded by a conservative religious organization called “Believe in West Virginia” and advertised with fliers that proclaimed “God’s plan for sexual purity”, lecturer Pam Stenzel allegedly told students that “if you take birth control, your mother probably hates you” reports In response to her protest, the school principal threaten Katelyn’s academic career. But this has only led to more support for Katelyn’s cause inspiring strangers from across North America to fight for comprehensive sex ed. There is now a facebook page Friends of Katelyn Campbell.

You can watch YouTube lectures by Pam Stenzel and her outlandish sex health bullshit.

6) In May, Elizabeth Smart, a kidnap and rape survivor, received serious backlash after criticizing abstinence-only sex education. Smart stated that abstinence-only sex ed did not equip her the self-worth that she needed; instead it contributed to her sense of worthless and filth after being repeatedly raped. Abstinence-only proponents disapproved of her criticism by saying that she was speaking irresponsibly and even questioned the extent of her abuse. Calah Alexander (@calahalexander) writes a poignant piece against the backlash on She writes,

No one showed even a hint of sympathy for how [Elizabeth Smart] had suffered, not only at the hands of her captors, but at the hands of a degrading philosophy of human sexuality. Such a callous indifference to human suffering is appalling. It shows that too many Christians, too many proponents of abstinence-only education, have put their concern for the welfare of a quasi-political movement above their concern for the welfare of a human being, of human dignity itself.”

7) In other backlash news, the anti-abortion bills that swept over the US during the beginning of 2013 have also impacted sex education. In April, Kansas law determined that life begins “at fertilization”. This bill prohibits any agents connected to abortion providers – including Planned Parenthood – from providing any information on human sexuality to students in public schools.

Image from

Image from

8) Sex Week is becoming an actual thing to kick off Spring semester across North America. The lineup varies across campuses including lectures on how to masturbate, how to use condoms, the concept of virginity, contraceptive choices, what it means to be transgender, and how to stop sexual violence—topics that many college students, despite being age 18 and over—never learned about in high school. But 2013 proved a tough year as administrators stalled sex talk events, cut funding, and banned the distribution of free condoms on campus. Cosmopolitan explains more.

9) What exactly does “comprehensive” mean in sex education? Jess Kiley @Jessthefeminist nails it on the head. Providing examples of some outlandish laws passed this year, she makes a strong argument on for why sex education has failed and sustained homophobia, transphobia and sexism.

10) Ending on a happy note, Illinois has made great strides this year. In January, they enacted a law that requires sex ed to focus on sexual abuse and consent. The state also banned abstinence-only sex ed and put in place new requirements that education must be medically accurate.

For more information on trends sweeping sex education policy across US states check out the Guttmacher Institute, an independent nonprofit research institute that works to provide sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States and worldwide.

What do you think should be added to this year’s list of public sex education in the news?  Share a cause or petition with us.

‘V-Gals’: The other WWII enemy

The Daily Mail and MSN Now published an exhibit of 1940s sexual health posters raising awareness about the spread of gonorrhea and syphilis.  What’s striking is the way these images packaged moral stigma.  Women, particularly sex workers, “loose” women and “victory gals” were portrayed as the sinful source of venereal disease.  Copying war-style propaganda, some posters depicted sexualized women as the enemy for comrades to brave against.  Like this one displaying an assembly line of blonde temptresses- all the same; all out to fuck you and your country.

WWII Public Service Announcement.  After condoms are finally made legal in the USA Army. Image from the

WWII Public Service Announcement. After condoms are finally made legal in the USA Army. Image from the

Loose equals Loaded with disease!  Read STI stigma.  Image sourced from the

Loose equals Loaded with disease! Read STI stigma. Image sourced from the

Many campaigns, like this one, used fear tactics and warned soldiers not to be fooled by the attraction of “loose” women- for they are not what they seem.

And, of course, we won’t mention the risks of unprotected sex for men who have sex with men, because that doesn’t exist in the armed forces (sarcasm).

Another aspect to put into perspective is the history of condom stigma, especially in the United States during the first World War.  These PSAs were made just after condoms became legalized and issued to the Armed Forces.

But during the First World War, the reality of STIs dealt with differently.  It was widely believed that venereal disease was the price one paid for sinful choices.

Condom Censorship

Thus, the American Social Hygiene Association objected to issuing condoms to soldiers- so during the First World War, they weren’t. In fact, since 1873, the U.S. government illegalized any advertisement of contraceptives. That same set of laws also banned the sale of condoms and allowed for condoms to be confiscation from personal mail in up to thirty states (Collier, 2007).

quote boxIt wasn’t until World War II that the use of condom became prominent among both European and American soldiers.  Keep in mind that condom technology at the time was not regulated and the pleasure factor was close to nil.  Lubricant wasn’t invented until 1957.  Defective latex and breakage rates were high.  It wasn’t until the 1960s that North America and most of Europe established a quality standard controls for manufacturers to follow (Perera 2004).

Read here for more on the foible history of condoms and other contraceptives.

Visit the Daily Mail and MSN to view more WWII sexual disease propaganda.

Non-Rolling Condoms Look Like This…

A California-based company is hoping to revolutionize protective barriers by introducing the Origami Condom (company website). Their three condom types are currently under clinical testing and are expected to hit the market by 2015, but already the prototype has received much attention. Speculations range from eager “Fuck yeahs!” to fearful “Hell nos” like Linda Sharps’ worry of “weird noises” this accordion-shape might make. Well, such are the trials of new technology.

To their credit, Origami Condoms has been applauded by the popular daytime show The Doctors (watch TV segment). Bigger still, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has titled Origami the leading condom innovator in the private sector. Gates blogs about it here.

Leading Condom Innovation

Head honchos aside, here are at least 4 reasons why this new johnny should turn your head.

It is the first of many things.

Origami Male Condom (OMC) via

Origami Male Condom (OMC) via


1) It’s the first non-roll condom. This is the most striking feature. The bare physics of it are even more intriguing. Its folding “pleats” allow the condom to move and flex consistently with the body, unlike a roll-on condom which is engineered to clutch in place against movement. Another plus is that Origami is made of non-allergenic, soft silicon (here’s our post for more on non-latex options).  This video demonstration comparing a male latex condom to an Origami clearly shows the difference (YouTube).

warning: videos here may not be suitable for children or work environment

2) It’s the first to dress in under 3 seconds. The video shows why Origami boasts that it’s male condom can be put on faster and easier than a classic rolling latex. Departure from the rolling-down procedure is made possible by a folding, extendable sleeve. So there is less chance of snagging skin, choking and bunching up in the way of intimacy. The female and anal condoms will come with an optional insertion applicator if help is needed.

Origami Anal Condom via

Origami Anal Condom via

3) It’s the first to focus on anal sex. Today, the only other option for protective anal sex, besides the standard roll on condoms, is the female condom. Yet, the FC2 (which is the only female condom available- more on that below) has not been approved by the FDA for anal sex. In fact, before Origami, there are no condoms which are tested and approved specifically for safe anal sex.

Origami Female Condom via

Origami Female Condom via

4) It’s a new female condom. This is good news given the very limited options of female condoms on the market. The FC2 is the only female condom available in North America and is made of nitrile rubber which carries few allergens. The silicon material of Origami has absolutely no allergies. Also, the flexibility of Origami may be more form fitting compared to the one-size-fits-all design of FC2 which does not favor everyone.

The Origami Condom designs are not only innovative; they’re inclusive of other sexualities and sex practices that are often overlooked in the safer sex industry.

This is my own speculation (and there has been no human testing done, so take with a grain of salt!), but perhaps due to the collar at the opening of the female and anal Origami, this design might open doors to a more effective condom at preventing STIs like HPV, of which standard male condoms are ust 70% effective (according to a study via New Scientist).

“Origami Wont’ Go Viral, But The Promo Should!”-  Danny Resnic, Origami inventor and owner

This is what the Origami inventor proclaims in his reach-out Indiegogo Campaign video.  Resnic explains that because this is a totally new barrier protection, it is crucial to communicate to the world how to use Origami correctly and consistently. However, Origami is facing serious marketing challenges due to FCC media restrictions.

Danny Resnic, inventor of Origami Condoms, seeks funding to produce a FCC compatible media promo via Indiegogo

Danny Resnic, inventor of Origami Condoms, seeks funding to produce a FCC compatible media promo via Indiegogo

The FCC will not allow a condom to be shown on TV and radio ads have language restrictions. This makes it really difficult to market a product that is so alternative and yet they cannot verbally or visually explain how to use it, nor can they mention anything relevant like buttholes and vagina or penis.

Thus Origami has launched a campaign to help raise funds to produce a 30 second TV and social media promo that is compatible with the FCC and delivers a clear message on correct and consistent use. Their goal is to reach $50,000 by the beginning of June. Check out their campaign on Indiegogo..

Visit the company website for news and sign up at the bottom of their page to be notified when Origami hits the market.  All images are provided by

The “Condom Girl”: Condom Policing is Gender Policing

“What do you do when you’re detained by powerful officials, everything you say is presumed deceptive, arbitrary “evidence” is held against you, and you’re treated like a moral deviant? And what if its 2013, you’re a woman, and the “evidence” is that you possess condoms?”- Clay Nikiforuk 


Say no to condoms as legal evidence. Image from Photobucket.

In March 2013, Clay Nikiforuk was detained at the Quebec/Vermont boarder under suspicion of being a sex worker.  The evidence: about 8 condoms and some sexy underwear.  Hours of questioning passed over the possible relationship between her lingerie and condoms. Clay was eventually allowed into the US, but found out two weeks later that she had been flagged as a suspected sex worker.  A series of consequences followed including limited visa permits, about $1000 in extra travel fees, and more police interrogations.

It’s easy to point at the sexist double standard here.  If a young, stereotypically “masculine” man traveled with a pack of condoms and nice underwear his moral integrity would not be questioned.  But there is something else at play than slut-shaming alone. Condom policing reinforces standards of what is appropriate female and male sexuality (a.k.a. heteronormativity).  And wrapped up in those messy assumptions are racial and class stereotypes.

We have posted other monologues about condom policing before.  The NYPD’s tactic of condoms-as-evidence systematically results in gender-based violence.  The victims are overwhelmingly non-white transsexual women. This discrimination occurs daily.  The news media picks it up from time to time- maybe once a year by questioning whether condoms-as-evidence of sex work is constitutional.  In fact, a bill to stop this legal practice has been struggling to pass congress for nearly a decade.

But when condom policing happens to a white, educated young woman (read privilege) the media takes up the issue in a new way- through innocence.  Clay writes a response to the media’s representation of her story on

“I wasn’t featured nationally in Metro as “Uneducated girl is accused of sex work” but rather as “UBC student.” I didn’t join CBC’s Daybreak show as “Sex worker/adulteress treated as second class citizen” but rather, “Woman files complaint after border crossing nightmare.” So long as I was positioned as privileged, and, sometimes by proxy, innocent, my story had shock value. Because when bad things start happening to innocent, educated white people, they could happen to anyone — or rather, other privileged people. And that is very, very scary.”

“….I’ve stopped answering the point-blank question of whether or not I am, was, or ever will be a sex worker. I like to entertain the half-mad fantasy that no matter whom one has consensual sex with or why, one is irrevocably a human deserving respect and rights. The point is: when sex and sexuality are criminalized, people are made illegal and their rights made moot.”

“….If I were a sex worker, I might have “deserved” the treatment I received, or my detainment might have “made sense.” If I were from a minority group or were not as educated in the English language, my story might not have provoked the shock and outrage that it did. And rather than receiving the reaction “That should never happen to anyone,” often the reaction I still get is “That should never have happened to you.”

Read the entire article at  For more information on the campaign to stop condoms as evidence by police and in court, check out The Red Umbrella Project and End the Use of Condoms as Evidence.

Contraceptive Contraptions: A history of the condom

The earliest known image of STD protection dates back to 1000BC Egypt. (Images sourced from Perera (2004) "Taking Precautions". pg 94.

The earliest known image of STD protection dates back to 1000BC Egypt. (Images sourced from Perera (2004) Taking Precautions: An intimate history of birth control. pg 94.

A site about condoms and condom stories is never complete, and neither is the lavish, outlandish history of the device.  It’s history is full of insights into human character with all its flaws and foibles.

The invention of the latex condom is relatively new in modern history.  However, the principle to protect against sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STIs) dates back to at least 1,000BC (Perera, 2004: 95).  Ancient Egyptians were protecting themselves with linen sheaths from a parasitic disease known as Schistosomiasis.  Anthropologists have also found evidence of female condoms to prevent pregnancy.  The Petri Papyrus of 1850BC lists several female condoms, one of which was crocodile’s dung cut up on auyt-paste and inserted into the vagina.  In fact, animal dung was used as a female contraceptive across many societies.  The Aztec Badianus manuscript of 1552 explains, “and you shall put into the vulva the crushed herb of the calabash or cucurbita root and eagle’s excrement.”  Dung stuffed linen aside, the one devise that could protect against both STDs and pregnancy wasn’t produced until 1855 during the industrial revolution and the advent of vulcanized rubber.

Of course, when safer sex first became a known practice in ancient societies, the scientific frameworks for understanding biology, medicine, sexuality, and public health were vastly different.  Hippocrates, the father of western medicine once stated, “After coitus if the woman ought not to conceive, she makes it a custom for the semen to fall outside when she wishes this” (R.I.Chalmers, 1987)… pause … blink … isn’t this reminiscent of the 2012 Teaparty Candidate Todd Akin’s infamous statement that women’s bodies can prevent pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape”?

Anyway, I’m not stating that the risks of unwanted pregnancies and transmitting or contracting STIs is significantly less in contemporary life because we may have greater public awareness and better medical technology.  Rather it’s to recognize that health science and perceptions of “risks” and “healthy” sexuality are products of social contexts- its history and location, politics and economics- and therefore have a transformable quality.  That’s what makes the story of the condom throughout human civilization so interesting; because, like a flirtatious cuttlefish, it morphs into so many different types, shapes, and sizes, not to mention the amount of knowledge, myth and stigma that have carried throughout its making.

Contraceptive Censorship

Just to mention a few effects of stigma: In 1873, the U.S. government illegalized the advertisement of any contraception. That same set of laws also allowed for the confiscation of condoms sent through the mail and banned the sale of any condoms in up to thirty states (Collier, 2007).  Due to the belief that venereal disease was the price one paid for sinful choices, health experts from The American Social Hygiene Association objected to American soldiers being issued condoms- so during WWI they weren’t (Perera, 2004).

Skip over 113 years and we face statistics like 35% of all U.S. sex education programs require abstinence be taught as the ONLY option for unmarried people and either prohibit any discussions of contraception or limit discussions to its ineffectiveness.  Stigma still runs amuck sexuality and safer sex practices today.

So what preceded the latex condom?  As the most basic device for safe sex, different versions of the barrier method were utilized in most societies for millennium, and thus it is near impossible to account for all sexual practices, customs, beliefs, and attitudes.  Here we take a glimpse into some western society habits in which the devise was made at the expense of sexual pleasure; almost all made with only hetero-male health and interests in mind; and certainly most practices kept in secrecy from public mind and records.

Medieval to Victorian, Dung to Intestine   

The first western medical record of the condom is found in Gabriello Falloppio’s book on syphilis published in 1564 when the STD was a European epidemic.  He details condoms that he made from linen sheaths dipped in salt and herbs and tied under the foreskin.  Nothing in his records test comfort or sexual satisfaction, but we do know that animal intestines eventually became the superior condom material.

Users tended to hail from higher-income strata as condom were expensive and available only in boutique shops in the cities where seamstresses handmade each baudruches. Louis XVI could afford to have his animal-bowel condoms lined with velvet and silk.  There were some available for those with less income if one was willing to buy second-hand.  As Shyama Perera’s explains in her book Taking Precautions: An intimate history of birth control (2004), there was a “Miss Jenny” in 1820s London who hand-washed used condoms and resold them at a more affordable price.

The Rise of Rubber

By the 1850s, vulcanized rubber was invented and condoms started to roll out of factories.  The process was labor intensive as each rubber condom was dipped in cement and then hand-shaped and smoothed by rubbing and trimming.  It was also a major fire hazard because gasoline and benzene were used to suspend the rubber.  Rubber condoms were reusable and had a shelf life of about 3 months making them more economical, but the “skin” condoms remained the preferred product for better comfort and sensitivity (keep in mind, lubricant wasn’t invented until 1957.  Ouch!).  Also, at this time, there were no standard quality control methods.  According to condom historian, Aine Collier, some American factories sold their defective condoms at a cheaper price rather than discard them.

Another outcome of the Industrial Revolution was the beginning shifts of condoms away from a sign of wealth towards health.  By WWI, the use of condoms was more prominent among European soldiers as the rate of STDs increased.  Armed forces would distribute them for free to its members even in countries where condoms were illegal for the general population (the U.S. military did not catch on to condom sense until WWII).

Introducing Trojan Latex

In 1920, Young Rubber Company, the makers of Trojan, was the first to manufacture a latex condom, which was a great improvement from the rubber condom because they were easier and far less of a fire hazard to produce.  Latex is also thinner, smoother, and stronger with longer lasting shelf life then rubber.  By 1932, Europe’s first latex condom, Durex, was manufactured on conveyor system assembly lines, making them far less labor intensive nor subject to human error.

Marie Stopes’s first health clinic in London did make condoms readily available and was the only outlet from which women could buy them.  However, the clinic encouraged women to use female contraceptive techniques, such as the cervical cap, rather than rely on protection made for men.

Quality Control

Stigma around the use of contraceptives continued and disinformation meant that not everyone trusted condoms.  Of course, the lack of quality control specifications didn’t help.  Perera (2004) documents rumors stating that Catholic factory staff would deliberately poke holes in condoms.  The introduction of electronic testing machines helped eradicate rumors.  By 1957, the manufacturing process advanced to dramatically reduce the amount of defective rubber and latex, and also allow the first lubricated condom on the market.  It wasn’t until the 1960s that most countries in Europe and North America established a certification of national standard specifications for condoms manufacturers to follow.

What were once common problems of slippage and breakage are virtually obsolete with contemporary production.  Today, different studies on latex condom breakage tend to reflect a breakage rate of around .4%, or only 4 breaks in every 1,000 uses.  Which means that if a condom breaks than it is highly likely caused by user-error rather than manufacturer issues.

The Discovery of AIDS and Height of Condom Use

With industrialization, condoms increasingly became relied upon.  Yet it wasn’t until the 1980s and 90s when HIV/AIDS was first declared a pandemic, that condoms became fervently promoted by governments and health organizations.  Within the first year of the UK campaign, condom sales increase by 20%. 1988 was the first time in condom history in which condoms were the most popular birth control choice for British married couples.  In the U.S., condoms ranked third in popularity among married couples, and a strong second among single women following the Pill.

The Femidom

It was during the time of the first HIV/AIDS crisis that the female condom was manufactured on a large scale despite many experts’ false and damaging advice that women were at “low risk” of contracting HIV.  The Femidom, or FC2, is far more advanced than lemon halves used by ancients and cervical caps promoted in the 1920, which do not protect against STDs/STIs.   The FC2 is a device made of polyurethane that is inserted into the vagina with a wide base that sits on the outer parts of the vulva.  Besides allowing females to be in control of condom use, another advantage of the FC2, is that it can be inserted for up to 8 hours before sex- so no intermission needed for application.

Contemporary Condom Conundrum

The twenty-first century condom is produced by a greater range of manufacturers, non-profit organizations, and government programs around the world.  Thanks to modern technological innovation, condoms are far more comfortable, safer, stronger, and smoother then Greek goat’s bladders or oiled silk paper.  Who knows what the next advancement will be.  There are reports of spray-on condoms in the midst.

The promotion and availability of condoms has also dramatically improved.  Nowadays, condoms are typically displayed in public restrooms, supermarkets and pharmacies, or bought in bulk online without age restriction or parental consent required.  And they are affordable enough to not need rinsing and re-using!

Condoms have reached a status of “common sense” for many.  An American-based 2010 study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that the condom is the most common protection used at first intercourse (females 68% and males 80%).

However, the same study found that as individuals continue to have sex, their use of condoms decreases as they get older.  The rate of STDs/STIs is extremely high among American youth:  One in two sexually active individuals will get a STD usually before the age of 25.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, two-thirds of all individuals who become infected with STIs in the United States are younger than 25 years old!  The reason for this is because young people simply are not using condoms and other barriers consistently or correctly to protect themselves and their partners.

Want to see a visual account of condom history?  Here is a mini-documentary (7:47min.) by Trojan to commemorate Condom Month (February, of course), and posted by Queerty Online Mag.

…So the condom campaign continues.  History never ends.  For a more on problems with condom use, read here about the case to include more condoms in everyday popular culture.



Condoms Make Me Horny! Tips for making condoms more erotic

CondomMakeMeHornyI’m sure you know, or at least have heard of someone who claims that condoms make sex feel less good.  Condoms (and other safe sex tools) don’t have the best reputation.  It doesn’t help that we rarely see safer sex happening in media representations of sex that is hot, fun, or romantic.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  As we’ve discussed elsewhere, there is no solid empirical evidence to back up negative claims about condoms. Studies find that people who use condoms correctly and are used to using them tend to report greater pleasure with protected sex than those who go without protection.

This does not mean that people on an individual level do not experience problems when enjoying protected sex.  There is a difference between knowing how to put on a condom and knowing how to use them well.  That is why it tends to be people who use them often and consistently that report greater sexual satisfaction.  It takes practice and know-how to feel confident and learn what feels good for you and partner(s).  Condoms can add a playful and sexy dimension to sex but, as with anything sexy, you need a positive attitude and a dash of creativity. In this post, we offer some ways to help spice up condom use.

In sum, the main tricks to loving the glove are:

1) Communicate
2) Take turns putting it on
3) Practice
4) Be prepared
5) Be playful and have fun
6) Lubricant!
7) Be aware of condom sizes and experiment with different ones

For more on these points, continue reading.  Warning: explicit, NSFW illustrations below.

Before we begin, the basics of condoms should be known.  Check out our user manual.  Once you understand these essential steps to condom care you can explore ways that may enhance sexual pleasure and make condoms a part of sex- rather than a disruption to it.

This post focuses on condom use for penis and sharing sex toys, but some tips here can also apply to safer anal and vaginal oral sex using barriers including condoms, dental dams, cling film saran wrap, or latex/nitrile gloves. For more info on protective lesbian sex check out this sex column.  For specifically gay protective sex info, the Gay Men’s Health Charity is an excellent resource. (Some links are affiliate links that earn us a small commission).

Introducing condoms to partners 

This isn’t something that should feel awkward no matter how casual or serious your relationship.  It can be as simple as just stopping what you are doing and handing over a condom.  Sometimes you won’t need to say anything at all.  Or, as suggested by Robin Mandell at Scarleteen, when you feel the heat turning up and sex might happen, take a quick break and retrieve condoms from wherever you keep them (ideally with easy access- discussed below).  You can say something as casual as, “No pressure.  I just wanted to get these out just in case we need them.”

Condoms do not keep people from getting close- Silence does.

Asking someone to use a condom is to show care for the well-being of you both. Communication really is key and talking about sex might mean explaining what you like, what’s your favorite position, or how to use condoms and use them in ways that work for you both.  Talking together about these things will cultivate intimacy and deepen your bond (not hinder it!), because you are sharing the responsibilities of sex and caring for each other.

Great sex is about sharing control  

As Heather Corinna explains, this is something that safer sex can help support.  Learning how to discuss condom usage and exploring sexy ways to put on a condom and what feels good together will make talking about other facets of sex a lot easier, such as how you’d like to try something new.  This also means that both people are making decisions and choices which are fundamental to both amazing sex and healthy sexuality.

Take turns putting on barriers

Related to the above- condoms can be a lot more erotic when one partner puts it on the other.  There are many ways to turn up to heat with a condom.  When done in a deliberately slow manner with some stroking, teasing, eye contact, putting on a condom can be exciting.

You can put the condom on together.  For example, one person takes the condom out of its package and places it over the head of the penis (make sure that you unravel it right-way down, not inside out).  The other person pitches and holds onto the reservoir tip of the condom as the other unrolls it down the shaft of the penis with one (or two hands).  This not only turns up the heat, but also ensures confidence in both actors that the condoms is put on correctly.

Practice Makes Perfect

Learn how to put it on.  You can use the ol’ fashion banana, or the aid of a dildo or willing partner to practice how to unravel the condom.  It should unroll downward to the base without too much pulling or stretching.  If any exertion is needed to get the condom to the base then it is probably the wrong size.  Practicing by yourself will relieve any worry about losing an erection or the uncomfortable pressure of being judged on your condom skills.  Ladies and guys, you can always practice when you masturbate.  This will also help you learn your pleasure spots and what feels best with protection.  Or practice with your partner.  When the time is right, either you or the other can put on the condom, so it’s good for everyone to knows how.  For many couples, this also helps to naturalize the process. It’s not about “making” a guy do something; it’s about something people do together for each other.

Be Prepared

One of the great advantages to condoms is that they are readily available for anyone to buy without a prescription and they are relatively cheap- even free at some health clinics like Planned Parenthood.  So equipping yourself with this contraceptive takes far less time, research, and planning.

Also, it will help things run a whole lot smoother and greatly reduce the buzz-kill if you can reduce condom-hunting time.  So keep condoms (and lubricant) in a dedicated, handy place next to your bed where you are sure to find it.

Be playful

Keeping condoms in an easily accessible place is helpful, but that does not mean that it is always best to rush through the process of putting one on. Great sex is to have fun with it.  When you introduce condoms have a sense of play.  And if things get awkward as you’re learning how to do safe sex, let yourself laugh about it.  This helps take the pressure off.

Buy some glow-in-the-dark condoms and leave your partner in suspense until the lights go out!  Or incorporate condoms into erotic foreplay.  Try slipping it on his penis with your mouth. If you are using gloves, get some props and play Doctor. Spice it up by carrying a condom with you in your handbag or pocket and discreetly show it to your partner to hint what’s on your mind.


This is really important. Especially, if you or your partners complain about reduced sensitivity, lubricant will improve sensation immensely.  Put two drops of water-based lubricant inside the tip of the latex condom before putting it on.  Even if dryness is not a problem for a person, lubricant that is made for condoms will lasts longer than the natural stuff.

Experiment with different lube samplers and flavors.

Warning: Explicit Images Below

Know Your Condom Size and Experiment

Two points here.  First, make sure your condom fits well.  Condoms aren’t one-size-fits-all, and a condom that’s too small or too big is likely be difficult to put on, very uncomfortable, and much more likely to break.  If you are not sure what will fit, check out our Condom Size Calculator.  If you experience certain discomforts, such as condoms being too tight, or too long, we have suggestions at our condom guide.  If you’re providing the condoms, it might be useful to have a variety of types and styles so you and your partner can choose what seems right. Variety sample packs can be found online, and at some drugstores.

Second point, if you are in a longer-term relationship, you have the advantage to experiment with different types of condoms and lubricants together to discover what suits you both best and have fun while doing it!  There are many different styles of condoms out there from thin, to thick, to wider in certain spots, snugger in other spots, etc.  There’s variety in texture: ribbed, studded, contoured, pouched; variety in non-latex condoms; and there is plenty of variety in lubricants that can enhance sensation dramatically.  You could buy a variety pack of condoms to find the best ones.  Or make a date out of it and visit a sex shop and choose together.

There are hundreds of sexy ways to put on a condom that do not interrupt the flow.  Here are just two examples:  Excellent hand-drawn illustrations that will no doubt spark ideas by custom condom size company

Condoms inclusion technique demo from

Condoms inclusion technique demo from

Condom inclusion technique demo from

Condom inclusion technique demo from


If I haven’t convinced you yet about the sensual side of condoms, take this with you:  Everyone needs to accept this reality.  If you’re sexually active and not practicing safe sex then you are likely to transmit or contract a disease or infection.  To prevent this from happening, to experience healthy fulfilling sexuality, you have to learn how to use protection.

More Condoms In Pop: The need to popularize safer sex

condoms need to be popularizedA recent study by researchers at Stanford Medical School reveals that a large portion of young women are irresponsible in bed, meaning they ain’t protecting themselves.  The year-long study collected data from 1,194 sexually active females aged 15 to 24 who visited Planned Parenthood clinics and were beginning contraceptive pills, patches, injections, or vaginal rings for the first time.  At the beginning of the study, only 36 percent of participants consistently used the “dual method” (relying on both hormonal contraceptives and the condom), which meant that STI and STD protection was compromised.  Getting pregnant seems to be the only risk to care about.

Surprised?  To be honest, I wasn’t either as I know many friends whose first time using birth control was when they entered a relationship with someone they trust, and that trust included believing (hopefully, with medical proof) that neither person carried STIs.

However, it gets worse: The study found that over 50 percent of young women did not resume condom use after they discontinued hormonal contraceptives.  That’s right, NO protection!

Less Youth are Using Condoms

Why is this happening?  And how can prevention improve?  According to Rachel Goldstein M.D., lead author of the study, the most influential factor of condom usage is the partner’s attitude toward condoms.  When a woman did not know how her partner felt about condoms or knew that he felt they were “very important”, she was more likely to be a dual method user than when her partner thought condoms were “not at all important”.  The researchers speculate that power imbalances within the relationship impact the woman’s ability to negotiate condom use. “It appears that her partner’s feelings may be more important than her perceived risk of a sexually transmitted infection or her own beliefs about dual method use,” said Goldstein.  This is an important point of concern.  There are many factors, including levels of mutual respect, emotional maturity, and self-esteem that need to be considered when counseling youth about healthy sex (Scarleteen offers great advice on negotiating condom use).  Of course, the study concludes that more counseling is needed to accompany hormonal contraceptive treatment that emphasizes the risks of STIs and STDs.

However, I think this is only one piece in the very complicated puzzle of sexual relations.  Plus, the research does not address why young women are not resuming condom use after discontinuing hormonal medication.

In fact, condoms are not very popular among young adults in general.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the rate of STIs in people 15-24 years old is exceptionally high.  Two-thirds of all individuals who become infected with STIs in the United States are younger than 25 years old!  The reason for this is because young people simply are not using condoms and other barriers consistently or correctly to protect themselves and their partners.

Condoms Miss the Limelight

Now, most teens in North America have been exposed to sex ed and know why condoms exist, but this is obviously not the only means to ensuring healthy sex lives.  Indeed, sex pedagogy in North America is riddled with censorship (that’s a whole other post), and health counseling should accompany hormonal contraceptive use. Both these solutions, however, overlook a larger social problem.  The social stigma which has developed around STIs and diseases has produced negative attitudes and ignorance towards safer sex.  It’s fair to say that this negativity permeates in our popular culture.

Condoms and other safer sex practices have acquired an unsexy reputation from their very absence in romantic and steamy and sex positive representations.  Pornography, films, romance novels, or how-to articles in popular magazines rarely represent the condom and how it can actually increase sensuality, not dull it.  And this is something that needs to change because it limits our knowledge, attitude and imagination about what healthy sex can be.

This is not to say that viewers of media are passive recipients who are easily influenced by what is on TV.  But media can be interpreted as a cultural artifact that reflects beliefs, attitudes, prejudices of the times.  It is a matter of what sells, and unfortunately, the mainstream only works to reinforce the notion that safer sex is a chore.

One Solution: Safer Sex Porn!

There are some who have sought to exert control over the representation of safer sex through alternative media.  One honorable example is the 1990 video short, Current Flow, by Jean Carlomusto starring Annie Sprinkle and Joy Brown.  This explicit video was made in response to Cosmopolitan magazine publishing a piece which erroneously claimed that virtually no females could contract HIV.  The short is basically about a woman (Annie Sprinkle) masturbating on the couch with her vibrator. Suddenly her vibrator stops and we see a woman enter the room with a towel in one hand and a power cord in the other (not many battery-operated vibrators back then).  The woman seductively crawls over Annie and rolls out from her towel dental dams, latex gloves, condoms and lube for the dildo.  And the climax begins.

But this is not just any girl-on-girl porn, it also emphasizes “showing how”.  For example, a close-up of Annie Sprinkle getting eaten-out shows how to use a dental dam. Another shot shows Joy Brown washing the dildo before it is her turn to use it on Annie.  As Carlomusto writes,

“…in order to educate lesbians about safer sex we have to establish what it is.  Saying, ‘use a dental dam’ is not the same as saying ‘use a condom’, since many women don’t know what a dental dam is” (1992: 82).

Current Flow is the first of it’s kind. Sexy and safe lesbian porn made by and for lesbians. It was made at a particular time during the HIV/AIDS crisis when the Centers for Disease Control refused to investigate data on woman-to-woman transmission of HIV.  It was also a time when mass media and public health bureaucracies refused to produce explicit sex education or represent gay and lesbian sexuality.  While the information today is made more available and inclusive of a wider public, we still do not see safe sex represented as often as we see sex in the media.

Safer sex should be not be limited to public health messages or HIV/AIDS activism.  What would be powerful is normalization of safer sex in everyday media.  Imagine music videos- the soft porn of daytime television- including condoms in a sexy, bootylicious way…

Dull Feeling in Bed Begins with Dull Attitude

You might think that the reason there are few representations of positive condoms in popular culture is simply because condoms are genuinely unfun and decrease pleasure.  You might think that it is for this reason that younger people are using condoms less.  I would argue that this belief is grounded more in attitude than it is in actual reality.  Let me explain.

Some studies, such as “Sexual Pleasure and Condom Use” by Randolph et. al. (2007), have found that those who report sex with a condom as less pleasurable tend to be people who have not used condoms in a while or who don’t use them at all.  They found that more men than women tend to believe condom use is less pleasurable even without actual experience.  It is beliefs that influence experience with condoms and whether one wants to use them. It is true that many people reported that unprotected sex feels better than protected sex. Overall, people who are familiar with using condoms tend to report greater pleasure with protected sex than those who are likely to go without protection.   As Heather Corinna at Scarleteen writes, “The more you use them, the more they feel good, and it’s people who don’t use them at all that tend to complain about them most.”

In other words, it is the attitude that one has towards condoms that greatly affects satisfaction.  People who use condoms often do not express a decrease in overall pleasure because they learn what condoms suit them best and what ways they are most comfortable using them.

Know Your Condom

Which brings me to my next point.  Part of the process of popularizing condoms is to increase understanding of the different types and ways of using them.  Another study by Michael Reece and Debra Herbenick (2012) found that many people do not know how to use condoms properly and what can increase pleasure.  For example, putting a drop of lube inside the condom before rolling it on can improve application and increase sensitivity.  Also, the condom can be put on in sexy and tantalizing ways by you or your partner that make it a part of sex- not an interruption to it. Check out our post for some sexy tips on condom use.

Pediatrics and sex educators should know condoms too.  Reece and Herbenick suggests that prevention providers can play a valuable role in alleviating negative perceptions of condoms by recommending different condoms made for specific needs.  For example, for those men who feel condoms are too tight, a practitioner may recommend condoms which are designed with a more bulbous head or looser fit.  The point is that there are hundreds of thousands of condom types out there and there needs to be more access and understating of choice and care.

If it’s true that sexual pleasure with a condom is all in the attitude than it is all the more important that there be representations of safe sex in pop media.  How powerful would it be if Jake Gyllenhaal whipped out a condom during the famous sex scene in Broke Back Mountain!

What do you think?  Would safer sex in the media help increase positive attitudes towards safe practices?  What do you think should be done to get more youth practicing safer sex?

Source cited:  Jean Carlomusto & Gregg Bordowitz (1992).“Do It!  Safe Sex Porn for Girls and Boys Comes of Age.” A Leap in the Dark: AIDS, Arts and Contemporary Cultures.  Allan Klusacek & Ken Morrison, eds. Montreal: Vehicule Press.