Some of you might think I'm a bit condom-obsessed, but that's not accurate. I'm actually obsessed with people enjoying sex while preventing unwanted pregnancy and the spread of disease. And let's be honest: no one is truly thrilled by latex condoms. In a word, they suck. Leaving aside the fact that they taste funny and a chunk of the population is allergic to them, they just don't feel good -- for either partner.
When protecting yourself during sex bangs up against the reality of a contraceptive method with all the appeal of eating lima beans, a lot of people skip the method. I think that's a big problem.
So does L. V. Anderson, the author of this fascinating article for Slate published in April of this year. In it, she talks to inventors who are trying to think up better -- or at least more pleasurable -- condom materials so that people might actually use them. On the way, she uncovers how FDA regulations, the need for clinical trials, and a narrow and slow-to-change set of testing standards have been great at reducing failure rates, but have also led to fewer alternatives to latex in the condom aisle.
From the article:
The primary obstacle to getting a new non-latex condom to market...is the need for clinical trials. Latex condoms don't have to be tested in human studies to get FDA approval -- as long as a manufacturer can demonstrate that its new latex condom is "substantially equivalent" to an existing latex condom in terms of materials, length, width, and other physical specifications, that latex condom can be sold. But makers of "new material condoms" must demonstrate that their product performs comparably to latex when used by real, live sex partners.
It's a interesting and frustrating story.
Read the rest at Slate.