Alix Fox | Contributing Writer | Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Curious Things You Never Knew About Condoms

5 Things You (Probably) Never Knew About Condoms

The Debrief: To mark World AIDS Day, here’s a handful of fascinating facts about Jonnies – and we don’t mean Depp, Wilkinson and Rotten

Condoms – or ‘svangerskabsforebyggendemiddel’ if you’re speaking Danish and/or choking on a crispbread topped with hummus – are still the only form of contraceptive that can protect you from STIs. 

The pill, the implant, the NuvaRing, the injection, the coil… they’re all fabulous at preventing pregnancy, but while they can help stop miniature humans from renting out womb space in a lady’s HeirBnB for nine months, they can’t shield you from infections like chlamydia, gonorrhoea or HIV. Only barrier contraceptives, aka Jonnies, have that awesome power – and that’s why it’s essential that you carry, use and keep yourself clued up about condoms, even if you’re also using other types of contraceptive. 

Unless you and your partner have both had a full sexual health screening (find your local testing service here), received clear results, and are in a committed relationship where you’re not having unprotected sex with other people, you should be using rubbers whenever you make like a free range egg and get laid. 

Today is World Aids Day, so in theory it should be a time when condoms will be at the front of a lot of people’s minds – so here are a few things you may not have known about the little latex heroes…

1. There’s a campaign for a #CondomEmoji

Research by Durex has shown that 80% of 16-25 year olds say they find it easier to express themselves by using emojis, and a whopping 84% say it’s easier to chat about sex using icons like the ‘aubergine peen’ or ‘wanking hand’, partly because it takes away the embarrassment of having to try and find the right words to broach what can sometimes be awkward topics.

Durex reckons it should be as simple as possible for young people to discuss safer sex, so it’s campaigning for the introduction of an official condom emoji. Durex reasons that making a wee piccy of a Jonny an easily accessible, everyday part of people’s visual vocabulary will help normalise and encourage discussions about protection. We’ve already got a cookie, a coffin, and numerous cat faces, so why not a condom too?

If there are concerns about children having access to a condom icon, then 1) It could be age-limited; 2) Education about safer sex at an early age ain’t a bad thing; and 3) There are already adult icons included on the emoji keyboard, such as guns, syringes and pills. A condom emoji could do a lot more to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of STIs than a cartoon burrito.

To show your support, use the hashtag #CondomEmoji on social media. Durex is aiming to collect 1 million tags; it then plans to approach Unicode, the company behind the emoji range, to make the condom icon a reality. Durexcellent.

2. ‘Lambskin’ condoms are a thing, but they’re bad at preventing STIs

So-called ‘lambskin’ prophylactics – actually made from a thin layer of cecum, part of a sheep’s intestine – have become more popular lately in America with people who care about the environment, since unlike latex condoms, they’re biodegradable. They’re also safe to use with natural, oily lubricants, like coconut or almond oil, which can cause latex jonnies to break.

Users claim they feel convincingly close to bareback sex, too, because they transmit body heat exceptionally well. 

Want to try them next time? Trojan Naturalamb are available on Amazon (£28.99 for 10), but prepare for a very different experience: they’re held in place using a drawstring at the base of the penis, and have a peculiar ‘animal’ smell…

Most importantly though, lambskin sheaths are the black sheep of the condom world in that they do not give total protection from infections. The membranes they’re made from contain pores that are small enough to block sperm, but tiny viruses like HIV and herpes can still get through.    

3. ‘Relaxed fit’ baggy condoms are a thing 

A condom that’s baggier than Suggs’ trousers – you’d think that was a bad thing, right? Well, yes, if it doesn’t fit properly, and is at risk of slipping off. But not if it’s one of the new ‘relaxed fit’ types, like Trojan Ecstasy or Naked.  

You really have to get one of these babies (can we call them ‘babies’? Baby-stoppers) out of the packet and give it a whirl to understand how different the design is. As is often a problem with sexual products, the language used on the box is so concerned with sounding sensually seductive/acceptably polite, it doesn’t make it clear and frank exactly what the products are like.

‘Relaxed fit’ could mean anything really, and if you weren’t prepared for it, you could even think there was something wrong with these rubbers, because they look drastically different to standard condoms when draped over a chap’s knobledegook.

They’re deliberately shaped to be baggy at the head and down the shaft, then they get tighter and snugger at the base to keep them in place. Lots of blokes find the looser design more comfortable and less restrictive. Since it allows the condom to ruche and move fluidly during intercourse, it feels more natural and provides more stimulation for both partners.

And because the bagginess means there’s already room in the condom to hold ejaculate, some companies are experimenting with designs that don’t have a cum-catching teat at the end; air trapped in teats is one of the things that can cause condoms to burst and break, so there’s a potential safety bonus here. 

A hot sex session is in the bag.

4. GELDOM could be the jonny of the future…

Bridgette Engeler Newbury is a lecturer at the Faculty of Health, Arts and Design at Swinburne University of Technology, and is part of the team there who are developing GELDOM – a radically new type of condom made from a class of soft-yet-strong, squishy, wet materials called hydrogels.

‘Hydrogels are mostly made of water, held together by molecular chains called polymers,’ she explains. ‘They have properties very close to human tissue, and can be tailored to feel a lot like skin.’ 

That might sound like Buffalo Bill’s dream, but in reality it means the GELDOM will feel much better for whoever gets to put it on their hose, as well as for their partner. 

5. Condoms are used very differently around the world 

However, the way their futuristic condom feels isn’t the only quality the scientists are considering while designing their new-fangled Jonnie. ‘Condoms end up in also sorts of waste streams if they’re not disposed of properly and their impact on the environment is huge, so we’re being careful regarding the effect of chemical additives such as spermicides and colourings/flavourings as that could affect biodegradability, toxicity in water and soil, and so on,’ Bridgette states.

‘Cultural differences make it difficult to come up with just one condom that’s suitable and appealing for global use – and I’m not just talking about differences in size requirements. Different parts of the world have different flavour preferences, for example – in Brazil they like chilli, in Thailand, mint. Then there are issues of education, stigma, price. There’s a great deal to think about.’

In the meantime, small start-up companies are aiming to solve some issues via crowd-funded solutions. Lovability, for instance, is a two-person firm founded less than a year ago in response to the need for a more robust, discreet and stylish way for women to carry condoms rather than bunging them in a handbag where packets can get damaged.

‘We sell a “purse-perfect” gold tin containing three easy-open, all-natural, lube-infused condoms to take on-the-go,’ says CMO Claire Courtney. ‘The future of the industry, if you ask me, is to embrace female sexuality and desires and the large purchasing power of women. It's crazy that this industry has ignored us for so long.’

Preach. It should be the responsibility of both partners to take care of protection – not just the one with an erection – so let’s hope more manufacturers decide to consider who condoms are going into as well as onto.

Like this? Then you may also be interested in:

Where Can You Get Free Condoms?

What Do Men Really Think Of Condoms?

Here Are (Pretty Much All) The Condoms From History

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Tags: Sex O\'Clock, Condom Chat