Condoms are awesome. They're inexpensive, convenient, and they protect against both pregnancy and STIs. This means that by using them regularly, you get to relax, be in the moment, and enjoy having hot, safe sex. Despite that, some folks just don't like using them because when not properly lubricated, condoms can feel uncomfortable, or they could slip or tear. Not great. But all that is about to change thanks to an incredible innovation in condom technology: Self-lubricating condoms. Yep, you read that right: Condoms may soon come with their very own high-tech lube.
This new condom was developed by a team of researchers at Boston University, as part of the the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s competition to design a better condom. And this team's groundbreaking innovation, for which the researchers were awarded a well-deserved $100,000 research grant, was to add a coating of super-hydrophilic nanoparticles to the condom, which is activated and becomes slippery when it comes into contact with bodily fluid. Nanoparticle-coated condoms that mean you don't have to buy lube anymore? What a time to be alive.
If right about now you're thinking, "Hey, don't lubricated condoms already exist?" the answer is yes, but this new condom technology outperforms the current lubricated condoms in the heat of the moment. As the the Royal Society Open Science journal reports, when friction tested, these new condoms could withstand 1,000 thrusts (approximately 16 minutes of intercourse, if you assume one thrust per second). The lubrication on standard store-bought condoms lasted about 600 thrusts (about 10 minutes of intercourse).
In this same study, participants were asked which condom they preferred when they touched non-lubed, lubricated, and the new self-lubricating condoms — and, more importantly, which one they were more likely to use. The study found that 73 percent of the participants preferred the new condom — including participants who said they had never used condoms in the past. That is incredibly important when you consider a recent survey conducted by Public Health England and YouGov discovered that, of the more than 2,000 16- to 24-year-olds they surveyed, 47 percent of sexually active participants had sex with someone new without a condom. Almost half!
Why were those numbers so high? Well, according to a subsequent investigation by Newsbeat, "The main reason for not using a condom was because they said sex felt better without one." Sigh. The good news is, a properly lubricated condom feels better, so hopefully if and when this new self-lubricating condom comes to market, more people, as the Royal Society Open journal research study suggests, will start using them.
If you’re wondering when you'll be able to get your hands (and other parts) on these new condoms, the answer may be sooner than you think. While Researcher Prof. Mark Grinstaff told the BBC that "more tests are needed to compare how well the self-lubricating condom performs against other brands of condoms in real-life settings," clinical trials with couples "could begin early next year." And a product for the commercial market is in development from a spin-off company from the university as soon as they receive regulatory approval.
One of the most important and empowering decisions you will make is your choice of contraceptives. Finding the one (or ones) that's right for you is a personal decision, but it's important that you not only consider protecting against unplanned pregnancy, but also protecting your sexual health. So, if you love your IUD, fantastic! But don't forget to pop a few condoms in your pocket, too. Hopefully, they’ll be of the self-lubricating variety soon.
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