As part of our research into creating the first innovation in condoms for 70 years, we reached out to several sex experts to hear their thoughts on how exactly condoms need to improve. After all, with LELO HEX™ we are seeking to improve the overall experience of using a condom―something our own safe sex surveys have revealed to be wanting, despite overall accepted use of condoms and the strong interest in including condoms as a sexy part of lovemaking.
Below, we share our conversations with sex researcher and Volonté contributor Dr. Zhana Vrangalova, Psychosexual Therapist and Relationship Expert Dr. Sara Nasserzadeh and founder of Make Love Not Porn, Cindy Gallop, about why exactly the condom has been failing people, and what we need to do to make it better.
Volonté: While preparing for this project, we carried out extensive research, and we found that the main issue with decrease usage of condoms is not the availability―it’s the appeal. Do you agree?
Dr. Zhana: For people in many parts of the world and parts of the U.S. – especially poor people and youth going to schools and colleges where condoms are not provided freely, access to condoms is one barrier to condom use. For others, there is still a stigma of going to the pharmacy and buying condoms, and for young people living with parents, even online orders might not be an option.
That said, however, for many people who do have easy access to condoms, a major reason for not using condoms, or not using them consistently, is the fact they don’t like them. Research finds many people feel that condoms take away from the physical sensations of sex which, in the heat of the moment, are prioritized over the potential for pregnancy or STIs. Putting them on can interrupt the mood, and for guys already struggling to get or maintain erection, condoms can exacerbate their erectile difficulties.
Some people wrongly assume that their or their partner’s lack of STI symptoms means they don’t have any transmittable diseases. And there’s such significant stigma against STIs in our culture that some people are too afraid to insist on condom usage for fear of offending a partner.
V: In 70 years, our lives changed dramatically, including how we see and have sex. How come there were no major condom development on mainstream market?
Sara Nasserzadeh: Well, if you look at why condoms have been created (disease control mainly) you would see that not much has been developed or pursued towards having a product that could both keep/produce pleasure as well as offer safer sexual interactions (against diseases as well as unintended pregnancies). I know that there have been some efforts to creative innovative tools but clearly not as successful. I am not sure if they had smart enough design for the generation that is used to the slick design of smart phones and so on however knowing LELO and its innovative designers, I am hopeful and excited to see what you could create.
V: How do you think the condom could be improved?
Cindy Gallop: As someone whose background is thirty years working in brand building, marketing and advertising – ie an expert in consumer insight and human psychology – I observe with an analytical eye in my own personal life as much as from a professional [Make Love Not Porn] perspective.
The single biggest issue with condoms, out of the many, is knowing/the feeling that you have to interrupt sex and whatever pleasurable activity is going on, in order to a) have the condom conversation (‘Do you have..?’ ‘Let me just..’ ‘I’ve got…) and b) put the condom on.
ZV: When having sex, people sometimes need to interrupt their play for a minute, find a condom and put it on, and then continue. Anything that can keep people in the moment while they’re playing and enhance the experience rather than detract from it, would be quite an improvement!
V: What were your first thoughts when you heard LELO was making a condom?
ZV: Lelo is such an innovator in the sex space creating elegant, premium, beautiful toys that enhance intimacy. I know a condom from LELO will be innovative, sleek, and sexy. LELO creates premium sex toys unlike any other brand and I am so excited to see what LELO HEX™ condoms can do!
V: Why do you feel it is important that LELO has finally re-engineered the condom?
SN: I am hopeful that we could reach out to a wider user spectrum to provide more options to the couples who might not be happy with the current products out there.
ZV: Condoms have barely changed over the past 70 years! Our attitudes about sex and our habits and desires about sex have all shifted in a positive way since the condom was invented. There are countless innovations in the world of sexual pleasure, sex education, and sexual health, but the condom has remained basically the same. If anyone is up for the challenge of changing the condom for the better, it’s LELO!
V: Most are aware of the practical/health related reasons we should use condoms, but what are some sexy ways to incorporate them into play that can add to the eroticism of an encounter?
CG: Make sure condoms are always to hand so you can be spontaneous. What that means is that I carry condoms with me all the time, in my purse/handbag/travel bag― because you just never know when you might get lucky/passion might strike – and I also hide them all over my apartment (in ornamental boxes/bookshelves/kitchen drawers etc), so that if I find myself segueing into having sex on the couch or the kitchen floor, there is always a condom within reach so I don’t have to interrupt the action to make a dash to the bedroom and the nightstand.[Additionally: Communicating] around introducing the condom and putting it on. Most people treat this as an exercise to be done as quickly as possible, as ‘the boring aggravating practical stuff’. I like to talk about it (and I encourage others to do so as well) – eg I openly rifle through a selection of condoms to find my or his favorite
ZV: Putting a condom on your partner or helping with that process can add intimacy of an encounter. That makes the condom application process more like a part of the sex and not a pause in the action. Stimulating a penis with a condom on it using a hand or mouth can also make a partner feel sexy and like the condom is enhancing the experience.
V: What are some ways that condoms play a role in kinkier sex that the average person might not know about?
VZ: Kinky folks put condoms on all sex toys to keep them clean so they can be used on multiple people or in different orifices during the same sex session. This also makes it much easier to clean them between sex sessions! This prevents not only STI transmission but also helps keep infection-causing bacteria from the anus out of the vagina. (If you’ve ever had a UTI you know how important this is!)
Latex or vinyl gloves can be great for kinkier play, too, as fingernails can cause abrasions on delicate skin these small cuts can make STI transmission riskier. Gloves are like condoms for your hands! A condom can also be cut down the side to create an oral sex barrier to put over a vulva so you can easily switch from analingus to cunnilingus without spreading germs.
Kinky folks know the importance of lubricant as a way to make condoms feel much better! A drop inside the condom, as well as outside, will enhance the experience for the wearer as well. I know condoms come lubed, but people should be using way more!
It’s clear that there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the modern condom―improvements that will address common complaints and condom use errors, as well help change the attitude toward them as part of your pleasure. Subscribe for updates on LELO HEX™ and let us show you how we will make it all possible.