Why is latex still King of the condom?

I was reading some interesting facts on our use of condoms, the history of their development, through to what we actually think of them. While reading I couldn’t help ask myself, If the latex condom has been so unpopular, which it appears to have been, why oh why has it not faced greater competition on the condom aisle? How is it, that after so many years we still view latex as the king?

It is an interesting thought particularly when studies show, and indeed you may feel differently, that many people appear to not like latex condoms. Of course we have all heard the metaphorical comments associating it’s use to “taking a shower with a raincoat on” but for some of us out there, latex condoms have been associated with irritation and pain for both men and women. There is of course the natural delay and application process which can be fiddly, their lack of secure fit for some shapes and sizes, and as much as they go on, they can come off too, and that’s if they don’t happen to break either mid-coitus. Latex also happens to decrease sensation, doesn’t warm to the skin, is unpleasant in odour and also doesn’t leave a pleasant taste in the mouth. So all in all, not really a great product for the job it is designed to do.

This view that many just do not like to use latex condoms was also backed up by a large Natural Survey of Sexual Health and Behaviour that was conducted and published in 2010, the largest ever nationally representative sexuality study conducted. Very surprisingly from those findings it was revealed that 63% of women and 45% of men and who had recently had sex with someone they deemed a new acquaintance had not used a condom. Even more alarmingly 75% of women who were not using any additional birth control admitted not using a condom the last time they had sex.

However we have had challenges over the years but not one that has championed the product. Lambskin condoms did first appear in the 80’s very much during the time of the AIDS crisis as they offered an incredibly strong alternative that proved nigh on indestructible. They proved to be thin, offered better sensation during sex and would even warm to the bodies temperature. However there were some negatives, no least of which they could smell anything from fishy to gamy and were rather expensive compared to the latex offerings. They have not left the market and today you can still buy a pack of 10 Trojan Naturalamb, the only lambskin condom currently available in the United States, which costs about $32 and you can buy them on Amazon. Unfortunately during some rather dubious testing the lambskin condom was not deemed to be consistently safe at preventing the transfer of dangerous viruses due to the porosity of the natural membrane. This resulted in the fact that even today all lambskin condoms have to carry the label “Not to be used for prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). To help reduce the risk of catching or spreading many STDs, use only latex condoms.” So back to the drawing board for a better, more user-friendly product.

We have to remember the value that would come with producing a condom that many would embrace. In November 2013, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation started to offer grants of $100,000 to researchers who were looking into creating the next generation of condom. The Gates Foundation who is strongly associated with AIDS charities in the Third World hopes that it will be possible to create a product that people will want to use, not just randomly and infrequently use, the benefits for global health would be huge and very significant in terms of birth control and prevention of infection.

There have been a few, but one of the proposals to emerge looked at using graphene, a form of carbon and only an atom thick, offering an ultra sheer wrapping condom using polyethylene which is a form of plastic we are used to in plastic packaging. Another inventor based in California has raised more than $100,000 in 2014 on the crowdfunding site IndieGoGo developing a Galactic Cap, designed to fit firmly on the head of the penis while leaving the shaft bare.

So there are creators busy looking into finding our next generation condom and not without time to knock latex off the top spot, and offer that perfect solution we would not hesitate in always applying, but it hasn’t happened yet, or has it?

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