Condom Nation

Cases of sexually transmitted infections are at record highs. Could a self-lubricating condom make sex safer and be fun to use?

diagram of a condom being used

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Male condoms help make sex safer, but are not always fun to use. Lubricated to encourage use, condoms are often packaged with only a small amount of lubricant that often requires reapplication. That’s why researchers at Boston University have invented a self-lubricating condom. Designed to become (and stay) slippery when wet, the researchers hope that their condom’s self-lubricant properties will increase comfort and make use more common. Although this new condom has not yet been tested during intercourse, results from durability and preference testing seem promising.

The condom is coated in a layer of water-loving polymer compounds and dried under UV light to create a surface-coating that stays slick. Researchers took care to measure the condom’s strength to make sure the coating didn’t weaken the latex underneath. They found that their condom can last for 1000 thrusts and hold 1 ¼ cups of water. Granted that the average act of intercourse lasts between 100-500 thrusts and results in a teaspoon of ejaculate, these condoms appear plenty equipped for the job.

A small group of participants performed a blind touch-test to compare the coated condom to dry and old-fashioned lubricated condoms. Nine out of ten participants reported that the coated condom felt the oiliest, and 73% said they liked it best. Almost all of the participants who ‘usually’ or ‘occasionally’ use condoms during intercourse said they preferred the coated condom and would consider using it regularly. Eighty-three percent of individuals who ‘never’ use a condom during sex reported that they would prefer an inherently slippery condom, while one-fifth reported the slippery coating would make them consider using one.

Cases of sexually transmitted infections are at record highs. Wearing condoms can prevent STI transmission. Yet glow-in-the-dark and bacon-flavored condoms don’t seem to be having an substantial impact on increasing use and preventing infections. A condom that stays slippery might just do the trick.

Graphic from Royal Society Open Science, “Friction-lowering capabilities and human subject preferences for a hydrophilic surface coating on latex substrates: implications for increasing condom usage,” Benjamin G. Cooper, Stacy L. Chin, Ruiqing Xiao, Karen Buch, Ducksoo Kim, and Mark W. Grinstaff. Published:01 October 2018.