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A self-lubricating condom could be the future of safe, enjoyable sex

It can withstand 1,000 thrusts

In the last half a century, not much has been done to improve condoms other than a myriad of flavourings and colours. But now, a team of scientists has designed a new self-lubricating condom that reduces friction and increases pleasure – it’s being touted as a revolutionary tool that could encourage safe sex and decrease STIs.

The condom was designed as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s competition, which offered $100,000 to scientists who could design a condom for the “next generation”. The foundation identified that the reason not many people are using condoms (only about one third of U.S men use them) is because “condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom, creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable”. The competition asked researchers to design a condom that overcame this drawback – a condom that “preserves or enhances pleasure” whilst also ensuring safe sex.

According to the published report in the British journal Royal Society Open Science, this newly designed condom provides protection and increases “user’s satisfaction” by being able to self-lubricate. The lubricant layer is made up of “hydrophilic polymers” and coats the latex condom. These polymers become wet when they come into contact with moisture. Unlike some avaliable condoms where the lubricant layer wears off, this condom’s slipperiness can withstand “1,000 cycles” (scientific speak for thrusts), which works out as 16 minutes of sex.

The new condom was tested by 33 participants who had to feel three types of material (non-lubricated latex, lubricated latex and the new, self-lubricating latex) before and after they had been placed in water. They were then asked asked which material they would prefer if there existed condoms made from of the three samples they touched. 73 per cent chose the newly designed condom.

Researchers say that they hope it will “increase condom usage among populations that do not consistently use condoms”.

Mark Grinstaff, a College of Arts and Sciences professor of chemistry, College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering, and coleader of the research team, told BU that the condom’s main purpose was to help decrease the spread of STIs, HIV and other diseases. “That really was the driving force for creating new technology here.”

Nearly 2.3 million STDs were diagnosed last year in the United States, with growing numbers of people contracting syphilis and gonorrhea. Chlamydia cases have doubled in the last six years in the UK, and people are going out to get tested less

The actual condom itself has yet to be tested in action. If it makes it to the mass market after testing, it’s likely that the sales of such condoms would start in Southeast Asia, where the countries are the leading growers in of rubber trees needed for its production. The scientists would like to see their new condom on the market in two years time.