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Sexy Innovation

Nadia Manzoor, Susie Essman, Lee Roy Myers, and Henrik Vibskov redesign the condom.

September 22, 2013

During one particular late-night editorial meeting, when all of us here at GOOD HQ probably had a few too many, we came up with the idea to send briefs detailing global problems to some of our most creative friends with one simple instruction: to design a solution to the problem in less than 30 minutes, a time frame that would make them think about the problem, but limit the extent to which it might overwhelm them. Call it "The Half-Baked Design Challenge." Some of the solutions are comical. Some are super thoughtful. Some, to be perfectly frank, are mildly disturbing. But all of them engage creatively with a problem in search of a solution, and we think that's a good thing. In this installment, we redesign the condom.

Two truths prevail about modern latex condoms. One, they are wonderfully effective at preventing unplanned pregnancy and preventing the transmission of diseases like HIV. Two, they are decidedly unsexy.

Using a condom makes sex 10,000 times safer, at least when it comes to preventing HIV transmission, according to a study by researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Those sorts of odds are welcome in a world where the HIV burden looms large. In 2011, 2.5 million people worldwide were newly infected with HIV, according to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Roughly 34 million people are HIV-positive around the globe, and two-thirds of those are in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Global Fund, HIV claimed the lives of 1.7 million people worldwide in 2011.

Widespread condom use would help put a dent in those numbers.

Indeed, the disease prevention benefits of condoms were touted long before their effectiveness as a contraceptive device. They’ve been in use in various forms—silk paper, animal intestine, linen, leather, and synthetic materials —since the 1500s. One 15,000-year-old cave painting in France even appears to show a condom in use.

So what’s the problem now?

Only 5 percent of men across the globe use condoms, a damning statistic despite all the health benefits. The reasons cited are many: Condoms decrease sensation, they smell bad, they’re inconvenient to put on after sex heats up. They’re not fun.

They’re also easy to mess up, put on wrong, or dry out. Too often, condoms are accidentally left too long in wallets, causing them to expire and become brittle.

Thirty percent of condom users who mistakenly put a condom on backwards just flip it over and try again instead of getting a new one, which negates its disease prevention and contraceptive benefits.

And all this data is about male condoms, which are cheap, simple, available without a prescription, and easy to find. Female condoms are harder to use, have a higher learning curve, are more expensive, and are more difficult to find and purchase.

We all know how important condoms are for our health, but that knowledge is all too easily thrown out the door—or left in our bedside drawers—because they’re just not fun enough.

We are suffering from condom fatigue. It’s time to spice things up a little. Redesigning condoms to make them fun and sexy can help us decrease the deadly global disease burden.

Nadia Manzoor: Writer and Performance Artist

My half-baked solution is Condom Cream, which can be applied manually, or orally, on the penis. The penis doesn’t need to be erect for application, as part of the process of using the Condom Cream is stimulation. The cream, once applied, with heat (generated with hand massage, or with mouth) creates a protective film around the penis, killing all sperm.

The cream comes in different flavors with various stimulating results, (menthol, lavender, mint, paprika). The different varieties lead to different effects during intercourse. For example, the paprika cream would create a spicy, intensely stimulating effect, whereas the lavender cream would be used for more slow, relaxed intercourse.

The cream is not exclusively for use on the penis. It can also be applied to the vagina, and will have the same effect. In order to determine whether enough cream has been used, it changes color once applied, indicating that it is a safe, no-sperm zone.

Susie Essman: Actress, Curb Your Enthusiasm

Hmmm...thinking about it and not coming up with anything particularly inventive. How about a spray-on condom from an aerosol can? Spray-on silicone that also stiffens like hairspray to enhance an erection? And you can actually use it on your hair as well. Multipurpose! But where to put the semen? This is complicated.

Lee Roy Myers: Award-Winning Pornographer, Canadian

My condom is called “The Hip Pornographer.” In order to get folks in their rubbers, you are going to have to add some Beats by Dre headphones for the testicles. I guess that makes them Ballphones. You see, kids love Beats, and testicles love vibrations. Hence, “Ballphones by Dre.”

Of course, everyone, kids included, loves a contest. Inspired by Tim Hortons coffee shop’s, “Roll Up The Rim” contest, if you roll the condom all the way down the penis, you have a chance at winning. Valid with purchase only. (Not valid in Hawaii or Puerto Rico.) But, then again, sex is like winning. So, maybe everyone is a winner. And, of course, you can’t have the contest without that fresh coffee smell. Every “The Hip Pornographer” condom is caffeinated and infused with the scent of fresh Tim Hortons coffee.

Finally, for the modern techie and the wannabe adult auteur, the reservoir tip doubles as a small camera (it’s about the size of a GoPro anyhow). And, with the ability to make a tiny camera, comes the ability to make a monitor out of latex. Hence “The Hip Pornographer.”

Henrik Vibskov: Fashion Designer

My half-baked redesign of the condom would involve a coating with some sort of Viagra-like drug, which could create hype—or a condom that plays German techno music.

For more fully-baked solutions, check out our companion piece about the future of the condom.

Illustrations by Kate Bingaman-Burt

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