We're constantly seeing cutting-edge innovations designed to make our sex lives hotter than ever pop up, from virtual reality porn to vibrators that sync up to erotic literature. But there's one important part of sex that society still struggles to think of as sexy: condoms. While the CDC reports that STI rates are at an all-time high (one million people a day contract one), condom usage rates are declining. According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior by the University of Indiana, only one in four acts of vaginal intercourse are protected.
So why aren't people using condoms? For one thing, folks complain that they "ruin the mood" (even though they take a minute to put on), reduce pleasure (even though a 2014 Trojan survey of 1,000 American adults' condom use and attitudes found that 50 percent of women don't fully enjoy sex without a condom), mess with erections (which even science says is false), or think "It won't happen to me" when it comes to STIs and unplanned pregnancy (also clearly BS).
Condoms are often left out of the conversations partners have about sex. The same Trojan survey found that 62 percent of partners stopped using condoms after two months, and 50 percent ditched them without a discussion. And condoms are pretty much nonexistent during steamy sex scenes in mainstream porn, movies, and TV shows — even though a recent study in PLOS ONE of 265 men who have sex with men found that when condoms are used in porn, those watching have safer sex.
So how do you remove the stigma around condoms and make them appealing? Re-engineer the condom, says luxury sex toy brand LELO. Today marks the launch of LELO HEX, a new condom that is structurally different from others and aims to fix a lot of common complaints — and it's pretty sexy, to boot.
"The challenge was to make something radically different with a material already approved for condom use," Filip Sedic, Inventor of LELO HEX and founder of LELO, said in a press release. "We did this because people need to be having great, safe sex today, not 10 years from now. That’s why all the talk of new condoms has never resulted in a revolutionary design making it onto store shelves. Talk is talk, but innovation is what really changes things.”
I went to the launch party last night and got to see HEX in action ― put over a dildo, replicated in an ice sculpture, and filled with water. I also saw two badass women ― Cindy Gallop, Founder & CEO Of MakeLoveNotPorn, and journalist and Real Housewife Carole Radziwill ― confirming that safe sex is as cool as ever.
Here's what you need to know about the new condoms made to revolutionize sex.
1. Charlie Sheen Is Endorsing It
Sure, it's a controversial partnership, given his past behavior, and Sheen even pointed out at the event that people were probably wondering why he was going to discuss the importance of condoms. But after Sheen announced that he is HIV positive last year, he opened up an incredibly important conversation and got the world interested in sexual health. In fact, Google searches for HIV symptoms and testing skyrocketed after his public announcement.
"We wanted a partner who was truly engaged on the topic, and would be able to engage a wider audience," Steve Thomson, LELO CMO, said in the press release. "Charlie's personal condition is of course a tragic reflection on sexual health today, but he is also a symbol of change with the strength and courage to confront key issues head on ... we believe his participation will help drive safe sex and innovation to the forefront."
2. Here's What They're Made Of
HEX condoms are inspired by Graphene, but they're made of an internal hexagonal web compromised of 350 individual hexagons over a thin latex surface.
“There’s a reason honeycombs are the shape they are, and why snake scales move the way they do," Sedic said. "It’s because hexagons are strong, symmetrical, and tessellate perfectly. They’re one of nature’s go-to shapes for anything needing to be at once lightweight and incredibly strong. That’s why the structure of Graphene – the thinnest, strongest material we know of today is … you guessed it, hexagonal.”
3. They're Supposed To Stay Put During Sex
One way LELO says HEX is different from other condoms? They're designed to minimize slippage. The web structure is internal, not external, meant to grip the wearer.
4. LELO Says They Won't Break
The company says that HEX's Graphene-inspired structure provides thinness and strength. At the event, I watched someone prick HEX with a needle repeatedly like in the GIF above, and it did not tear then either.
5. They May Provide A More Natural Feeling
LELO says that HEX's raised inner structure is meant to mold to the wearer, so it may offer added sensitivity and a more natural feeling.
6. They Were Seven Years In The Making
Aimed at addressing common condom complaints and revolutionizing safe sex, HEX was no simple creation. It took seven years to create.
7. They're Launching With A Project Called "HEX Appeal"
Starting today, a two-month project called "HEX Appeal" will offer 10,000 backers the chance to order the condoms before anyone else. LELO hopes these first customers who experience the condom will encourage conversations around sexual health. You can order LELO HEX for $12 for a 12-pack. This price will change to $19.90 once HEX Appeal is over.
"These are not your grandfather's condoms," Sheen said at the launch party. And considering the usage rates and stigma around condoms, I'd say that's a good thing. Whether or not these re-engineered condoms will actually change the public's opinion or behavior remains to be seen. But creating something different and getting people talking positively about safe sex is a step in the right direction.
Images: Courtsey of LELO