On Why: You Should Know More About Condoms

With more than 18 billion condoms used each year, it’s time you knew what’s in them.

 

 

Quick history lesson

Please grant my degree in Anthropology a moment to shine…

Homo Sapiens, the only extant hominids, are dated as far back as 150,000 years ago. Condoms have been around nearly 13,000 years. The most common materials for condoms (pre 19th century) were linen or animal intestines. During the Bronze Age (c. 3100–300 B.C.E. in Asia Minor) wealthy men wore gilded condoms made of tortoise shells, gold, silver, and silk. In 1000 C.E., Ancient Egyptians protected themselves from diseases like bilharzia by using linen sheaths. With the rise of syphilis in Europe in the 16th-century, the first chemical-soaked condom emerged. (Shout out to Gabriele Falloppio for creating the first condom known to prevent STDs!) It was a linen sheath, tied with a ribbon, and used to combat the spread of disease rather than to prevent pregnancy.

Ironic that while the first known use of chemicals in condoms was to prevent disease, modern condoms now contain chemicals that are known to cause disease.

 

What’s a modern condom made of?

Ask just about anyone what a condom is made of and the first thing they’ll probably say is “latex” or “rubber”. Okay, great … but what is in the latex and rubber? Charles Goodyear (yep, the tire man) vulcanized rubber in 1839 and the first rubber condoms were on the market by 1855. Creating these rubber condoms relied on the use of gasoline and benzene to suspend the rubber and bind it with sulfur.

Latex condoms came a little later, in 1920. Their popularity is attributed to two main factors: creating them didn’t involve the use of gasoline and benzene which removed the fire hazard for factory workers and the stretch made them *essentially* one size fits all.

As condoms have developed and gained in popularity there are four major components of them that can harm a woman’s health. I’d like to acknowledge that, yes, the exposure to these chemicals via condoms is minimal. But it’s exposure nonetheless, in an incredibly absorbant, sensitive, intimate place and that deserves notice and prevention. It should also be noted that many scientists believe that while small levels of chemicals are able to be processed by the body, it’s the cumulative exposure from multiple points that causes the greatest risk, which is why they should be regulated at all levels.

 

… where is the list of ingredients?

 

The ingredients to avoid and why –

  • Nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are a byproduct of creating synthetic latex. They have been linked to tumor growth (specifically both stomach and colon cancer). The World Health Organization (WHO) has been encouraging condom companies to remove Nitrosamines since 2010 as they serve no purpose in the condom’s function and are known carcinogens. They are used to accelerate the latex forming process and save companies money.
  • Nonoxynol-9. Nonoxynol-9 or N-9 is a chemical included in condoms as a spermicide and lubricant. While effective for killing sperm cells and STDs the issue comes with the fact that N-9 cannot distinguish between sperm cells and cells along the vagina and rectal wall. Ironically, in the long-term, the destruction of these cells (vagina and rectal) can increase the chance of contracting an STD or urinary tract infection. *Please note that N-9 is the only spermicide available in the U.S.*
  • Glycerine (or Glycerol). When left in the body too long Glycerine breaks down into Glycerol (sugar). This can throw off the vagina’s pH, increasing the chances of contracting a yeast infection. Flavored condoms have a higher likelihood of containing Glycerine to sweeten them and are not meant to be used vaginally.
  • Parabens. Parabens are mostly used as a chemical preservative to prevent bacterial growth. You can find them across the board in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals (again, only in the U.S. as they are banned in the EU). Parabens are believed to be an endocrine disrupter and have been linked to breast cancer and lowering sperm count in men. This is likely because they have a chemical structure similar to estrogen and can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.

 

All condoms are not made equal

Research your options when it comes to condoms and feel comfortable saying “No” to any that don’t disclose their ingredients or contain the chemicals listed above. The choice should never be between sex without a condom v sex with a condom that contains ingredients you aren’t comfortable with. There are great companies, like Sustain and Maude (aff code: WITHMOLLY for 10% off), that list their ingredients so you can check if they contain nitrosamines, glycerin, N-9, etc.

  • Common Argument #1: Specialty condoms are too expensive.
  • Common Argument #2: It’s just more convenient to buy condoms from the pharmacy.
    • I agreed with you, it definitely is. But it doesn’t have to be. Backing companies that promote safe, female-centric products is how those companies grow. And if you are truly a forgetful person and worry about forgetting to order more Maude has a subscription service that can automatically send you new condoms every 30, 60, or 90 days depending on your needs. And utilizing that service lowers the cost to $10.80. And using my code WITHMOLLY will get you an additional 10% off.

 

And as always

  • Practice safe-sex methods. This article is not meant to scare or deter you from using condoms. Condoms are an important part of safe-sex practices and should absolutely be used.
  • Be mindful of your condoms expiration date and do not use expired condoms.
  • Store your condoms away from direct sunlight and avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures at this can degrade the latex.

 

Simple Loving: A Modern, Sexual Wellness Company

A few months ago I did a mini-review of maude and their modern ethos of “sex made simple”. I touched on their condoms, massage candle, and (most importantly) vibrator. Today we’re going to dive a little deeper and I’ll give you my final thoughts after playing around with their products for a little while.

 

The blog

The first thing I want to highlight about maude is my favorite part, which is how accessible they make difficult sex-centric conversations through their blog, the maudern. Not only do they cover the fun topics (like camping sex and talking dirty), but they also have topics about the important (like consent and insecurities) and the more difficult to discuss (like open relationships and sexual fantasies). I think they do a fantastic job offering detailed insights on each post and highly encourage you to check it out.

 

The products

vibe

Small and incredibly powerful, but still quiet? Dream combination. There are three speeds, it’s latex-free, and completely water-proof (so you can get as adventurous as you’d like). The best part of the vibe is, in addition to it’s intensity, the ease of use. This makes it an ideal partner tool as the learning curve is super low. It’s very “point and shoot” if you know what I mean. If you’ve never brought a toy into the bedroom with your partner, make this the first one. The last thing I will note is that because it has such a strong vibration you may want to start slow if it’s your first vibe.

 

 

burn

Think that a little romance and kink don’t go together? Guess again. Why I ever thought that a massage candle would go to waste is beyond me. I love this little guy. Light it, wait a few minutes, and you have a brand new way to mix things up. The scent is unreal. The oil is soft, a little slippery, and is absorbed at a nice pace. You won’t need to constantly relight the candle to get more oil and you also won’t end up covered in a film. You can use it as a massage oil before sex or during sex for a little temperature play. And if dripping hot oil on your partner isn’t your thing it will still set the mood with it’s “warming notes of amber, cedar leaf, lemongrass, tonka bean and medjool date”.

 

 

shine – organic  /  shine – silicone

It’s time to upgrade your lube. If you still think that picking up lube from CVS is hot, that a snap-open top is helping the mood, or that using lube means your partner isn’t turned on enough, it’s time to wake up. Lube should be in everyone’s sex drawer. High-quality* lube. I absolutely love Shine, the product and design. Design is everything and when the mood strikes no one likes to be fumbling with a little snap-open tube. Shine comes in both siliconeand organic so you can opt for the slippier silicone option or organic to use with toys (remember that silicone lubes can degrade silicone products).

 

 

rise

The is the most perfect packaging I have ever seen for a condom. With their buttercup style opening you don’t have to rip them open with your teeth and I think we all know how irritating it can be, in the heat of the moment, to sit there and watch him fumble with the little foil packet.

The condoms themselves are FDA-approved, fragrance-free, latex-free and incredibly smooth. They have a velvety, second-skin feel and are lubricated with a silicone lubricant. The only drawback I found was that the size is not ideal for your more well-endowed partners. If you typically shop for Magnums XL condoms you may find them a little too constricting.

 

Final thoughts

maude is one of the first sex companies I’ve seen that feels like they are here for you and your sexual experience, not just to sell you a product. They offer a subscription service so you don’t need to worry about remembering to pick up more condoms, have tons of sex-positive resources on the maudern, and are sincerely simplifying sex.

 

maude generously sent me the products reviewed, however, they did not sponsor this post and all thoughts are my own.

all images courtesy of getmaude.com