Women face disproportionately more consequences than men from unprotected sex. So why are women still slut-shamed for buying their own condoms? And can this innovative new condom help?
This article was created in partnership with LELO.
Condoms kinda suck, but STIs and abortions suck way more, so condoms it is! Of course, we all know the reasons we should use protection: because diseases are annoying, expensive, and could negatively affect our lives forever, and because getting an abortion is a really inconvenient way to spend a Saturday afternoon. However, statistics show that most of us are idiots who have unprotected sex on the regular, even with STIs on the rise in this country. We need help.
Back in the 90s and early 2000s, in high schools where the sex ed program was even marginally better than abstinence-only, condoms were everywhere. You might remember being taught how to put on a condom using a banana (or an eggplant if your health class was lit). The AIDS epidemic was still fresh in the cultural memory, and as a result everyone from our teachers to our parents to MTV VJs were instilling the fear of god (unprotected sex) in us. Basically, most vaguely cosmopolitan, vaguely middle-class Millennial kids growing up in North America were over-saturated (like, in a good way) with condom content by the time we left for college. Safe sex was cool, or whatever. Everyone was doing it.
But then something happened. Somewhere between early-2000s condom mania and today, everyone started getting it on in the raw, and now we all have syphilis. Okay maybe not quite—but definitely chlamydia.
As will come as no shock to anyone, many guys will say literally anything to sleep with you without a condom—from it doesn’t feel as good, or “they always break,” or they slide off, or his dick is “too big” (okay, buddy). And because women have largely been taught that, when it comes to heterosexual sex, men are supposed to provide the condoms, if they don’t, sometimes we just say fuck it and make him swear on his favorite street style brand that he doesn’t have a disease, and that he’ll pull out. It’s like the coital equivalent of taking pills from a stranger at rave – you’ve done it in the past and nothing too heinous has happened, so you’ll probably get away with it this time too. Right?
For what should be obvious reasons, this is not a great strategy. Women face disproportionately more consequences than men from unprotected sex (for example, HPV-related issues and unplanned pregnancy), and yet women still face stigma and slut-shaming for buying their own condoms. So how do we dispel this stigma, and Make Safe Sex Cool Again?
Here’s one idea: we could start by making condoms better. It’s been about 70 years (wtf?!) since condoms last saw any major innovation, which explains people’s concerns about very real issues like pleasure reduction, slippage and breakage. But luckily for humanity, sex toy and sexual health company LELO has spent the past decade revamping the condom. The result is HEX condoms: protection that is genuinely thinner, stronger and frankly, inspired. I’m not gonna lie, the science is a little over my head, but the idea is that these condoms feature an internally integrated hexagonal pattern (hexagons… on the inside… because science?) that ensures significantly less breaks and slips. HEX condoms also feature an internal network of channels and cells that work to transmit body heat between partners, and the condom itself molds to the wearer’s shape – making them the best condoms to combat his “it doesn’t feel good when I wear one” complaint. And in 2018, LELO introduced HEX Respect—a larger size condom (for those guys who actually weren’t lying about the tight squeeze).
So now that LELO’s done the dirty work of improving condoms for us, we need to start pulling our weight. It should come as no surprise that women’s bodies are rigorously surveilled and policed to such an extent that even a topic as innocuous as sexual health is still somehow a contentious issue in the United states. While women buying their own condoms may not sound like the revolutionary act that will take down the patriarchy once and for all, it is nevertheless an important (and radical) act of self-care and defiance.
You don’t have to leave your safety in the hands of other people. It’s not “slutty” (in a bad way) for girls to carry condoms—it’s slutty in a good way, duh. Carrying condoms is cool, because it means you’re a bad bitch who’s in control of your life. And we shouldn’t feel like we have to ask permission to use one. Assume it’s a given: Grab a Lelo HEX from the nightstand, or your bag (or your bra? chic), and slide it on him. And remember that, ultimately, you make the rules. Like, if you tell a guy you’re going to bail unless he puts on a condom, he’s always going to put one on.
You can now grab your condoms—shame free!—at your Walmart and Target. And here’s a review by vlogger Sarah Rae Vargas, if you’re still on the fence :)
Words by Karley Sciortino and Sophia Larigakis. Photos by John Tuite