People love to hate on condoms. Whether it’s folks of any gender complaining that they cut sensation or someone who just can’t stand that latex smell, there’s definitely plenty to complain about when it comes to the average condom experience. But you know what? It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there are a few companies that are working really hard to make the entire experience of condoms — from buying them to carrying them to having sex with them — exponentially better.
But before I dive into what these defenders of rubbers are doing, I want to put in my own defense of condoms. I’ve used a range of birth control in the decade and a half since I became sexually active: hormonal birth control, the pull out method, condoms, a diaphragm, and combinations of all of the above. And while they all have their pros and cons, condoms still come up on top for me in terms of preferred contraceptives. Surprised? My reasons are many but the number one is mainly comfort — for me.
Yup, I’m going there. I’m talking about condoms and comfort from the perspective of the woman. We talk a lot about condoms and comfort for men but, let me tell you, not having to deal with ejaculate for hours after having intercourse is really, really nice. Sure, there’s a lot to be said for the intimacy of condom-free sex but, for me at least, that benefit is mostly psychological. To be perfectly honest, I really have to concentrate to tell the difference between condom and no-condom sex. But you know what’s not psychological? A damp crotch for the rest of the damn day as the consequences of your good time make themselves known for the next six hours.
And, of course, there’s the added protection from STIs, which can’t be over-celebrated. Condoms quite literally save lives and allow us to control our reproductive health without adding all kinds of hormones to our bodies (the Pill) or implanting anything in our wombs (IUD). For heterosexual couples, they also bring the added benefit of being the only effective, common birth control method on the market that brings the man’s body into the equation. When we ask our male partners to use condoms, we are asking them to be even more aware of the effects of our coupling and responsible for the potential outcomes. In terms of gender equity, my friends, condoms are huge.
Claire Courtney, of Lovability Condoms, knows just how important the product she pedals is to gender equality.
“Condoms are tools for equality,” Courtney tells Bustle. “Every girl boss carries condoms. I'm certain of it. Family planning is career planning in it's truest form. I'd love for young women to use condoms with the confidence they bring to the classroom (or the soccer field or the chem lab). Consistent condom use is a path to success, ladies.”
Amen to that, sister! Now, let’s take a closer look at these three female-run, ecologically-friendly condom companies that will change your mind about this much-maligned form of birth control.
While traditional condom companies are clearly marketed to men (Trojan, anyone?), Lovability is all about the ladies. In stark contrast to the hyper-masculine packaging that you’ll find on the packages of most brands sold in your local pharmacy, for example, Lovability condoms come in a cute pink and gold hard case that will fit right in with the other stuff in your purse, while also ensuring that they don’t get punctured. They’ve also eliminated that icky condom smell — which comes from the condoms fermenting — by working directly with a rubber plantation in Malaysia. Their goal is to get women to carry their own condoms by making them feel like a high end lifestyle product instead of something you’re too shy to bring up to the counter.
“Why aren't condoms associated with other products we love to use?” Courtney explained. “They're presented as these sterile, awkward products. Are you kidding? They provide dual-protection, relieve anxiety in the bedroom and give you control over your future. They're magnificent.”
Lovability is also proudly and unapologetically feminist, with a website that declares that they’re “about your health, rights, and pleasure” and also has items like a grey sweatshirt that proclaims “FEMINISTS CARRY CONDOMS.” Their combination of high-femme style and an eff the patriarchy attitude means that they’ve long been at the top of my favorite female-run companies — condoms or otherwise — list.
2. L. Condoms
Did you ever think that sex could change the world? (Um, I definitely do/have/always will, for what it’s worth.) Well then, L. condoms are for you. Founded by photojournalist Talia Frenkel after her work exposed her to the effects of HIV (particularly on women and girls) in Africa, L. distributes a condom in a developing country for every condom that’s purchased. That means that using L. condoms as your birth control of choice not only empowers you and your partner but also empowers people around the world to protect themselves from STIs and unwanted pregnancy.
Don’t think that’s really a big deal? L. points out that if just one in 20 people who buy condoms bought L. condoms, they would be able to donate enough condoms to cover 26 percent of the market in Swaziland, 24 percent of Lesotho, and 25 percent of Botswana — the three countries with the highest rates of HIV. One in 20 is five percent! That’s such a small percentage that could potentially have such a huge impact!
As for the condoms themselves, L. promises a vegan, cruelty free, low-scent, ultra thin, 100 percent natural product. Oh, and if you live in Brooklyn or San Francisco? They’ll even deliver a box of 12 condoms for $15, with a guaranteed delivery time of under an hour and they’ll donate twelve condoms to Uganda to match your purchase. Convenience, a lovely product, and world changing? Can’t really beat that.
Jeffrey Hollender is a serial entrepreneur whose former company, Seventh Generation, revolutionized house cleaning by creating high quality cleaning products that don’t contain nasty chemicals. With Sustain, he and his daughter Meika are bringing attention to the fact that birth control is, in fact, an environmental issue. Confused? Think about it: more unplanned pregnancies means more people on Earth means more resources used. Their solution? Great condoms.
Like Lovability, Sustain has put a lot of thought, money, and effort into packaging. While Lovability is high-femme, Sustain condoms come packaged in a soothing ocean blue, with each type of condom also featuring a different plant or sea creature. The end result is reminiscent of the packaging of Jeffrey’s former company and looks so different from traditional condom packaging that I bet your grandma wouldn’t even realize what that box in the bathroom cabinet contained.
Sustain condoms are also totally non-toxic, which can’t be said for a lot of condoms on the market.They’re also vegan, cruelty-free, and made from fair trade rubber, so you’re not only protecting the environment by not making unwanted babies but also by using eco-friendly condoms.
Oh, and they also have a range of other products, including post-play wipes, organic lube, and cheeky pouches that say “unzip me” and “turn me on” were you can keep your condoms or, in my case, a Kindle. (Seriously, it's the perfect size for a Paperwhite.)
So what are you waiting for? Stop falling for all of the old tropes about how “terrible” condoms are and take control of your reproductive health with one of these three amazing, female-run, eco-friendly condom companies.
Want more sexual health coverage? Check out Bustle's new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you're afraid to ask.