Beyond Condoms: What’s Next for Protection?
Sex sells except when it comes to, well, sex care. It’s not every day you find a celebrity or influencer who is comfortable putting their name behind a sex care brand. Yes, it’s becoming more common, and I (selfishly) couldn’t be happier to see this progress. Which is why I was so excited to see a Durex condom so prominently featured in Lil Nas X’s latest music video. He has quickly become an icon, especially for those who have previously felt unseen and unheard. Sex ed for the queer community is severely lacking, so a nod to safer sex on a platform of this magnitude means a lot. But still, are people going to take note?
Originally called the London Rubber Company, Durex was founded in 1915 and today is the largest condom maker in the world. Condoms are the first thing — and sometimes the only thing — people think of when it comes to safe sex. But after 100+ years, isn’t it strange that we haven’t really made much progress into developing other forms of risk reduction? Yes, we have PrEP and IUD’s, but neither of those protect against STD’s (PrEP only helps prevent HIV transmission). Condoms have gotten thinner and textured and some even warming, but that’s the extent of their evolution.
Before I go deeper, let’s talk about condom usage. There’s no arguing they protect us from sexually transmitted diseases. This is an enormous benefit for all communities. But what I find especially interesting is that while a handful of queer celebrities have gotten behind condoms over the years, an overwhelming majority of the LGBTQIA+ community does not use them. Here are the details:
• Consistent condom use was reported by 46% of men in 2013, 42% of men in 2016, and 31% men in 2017
• About 2/3 of all gay males do not use condoms and the number is declining each year
These are pretty depressing statistics, right? Talk to anyone — queer or not — and they’ll say that sex without a condom feels better. Combine that sentiment with the increasing availability of PrEP and you have more people willing to say ‘fuck it’ to condoms. We know that PrEP plus condom usage, as well as comprehensive testing every 3 months (at the very least, depending on your risk level), is the best way to protect yourself. It’s what any doctor — including myself — will tell you to do. But we have to stop preaching and start meeting people where they are. It’s like the abstinence-only conversation. It’s simply not realistic.
We as a society (and Durex as a company) invest so much time and money each year promoting condoms. I think it’s time we change that strategy. Let’s invest our resources into developing risk-reduction strategies that are aligned with how people actually have sex. That was the impetus for me starting Future Method. We should analyze how people engage in anal play and create products that scientifically support those practices.
The next battle we face is to continue to normalize the conversation about sex and the products we use before, during, and after we play. Big and small, companies need to come together (no pun intended) to combat the unnecessary censorship we all face on social media platforms. There’s this false narrative that sexual products falls into two distinct categories: contraceptives and pleasure. Contraceptives are generally considered “safe” and get a pass, but products considered to enhance pleasure face much stricter scrutiny. We all benefit from ending this puritanical notion of sex.
So where do we go from here? Sure, this was primarily just a rant. I still give major props to those who are willing to speak up and use their platforms for good, like Lil Nas X. The more we talk about sex (especially those with a huge audience), the more we can normalize it. When it comes to product innovation, unfortunately, I don’t have a clear answer on how we do that. But I hope this encourages all of us to take a step back and really think about how we can create impactful change.