A Better Condom

For a moment there, Ben thought he might be interested in a career in sustainable leather belts. Why, he wondered, are many of us focused on where the food on our plates comes from, and yet not at all in the fabrics of our clothes and accessories? If you care that your hamburger began its life as a reasonably happy, well-treated cow, shouldn’t you also care that your belt began its life the same way?

That passion petered out, although not before we had driven with Babygirl to rural Pennsylvania to visit a retired cowboy who’s been making and selling belts out of his shop for decades with his seven remaining fingers and the help of some part-time assistants. He’s not far from State College if you’re ever in that area and want to make a pilgrimage yourself; he’s got great stories.

But I retained a minor interest in such individual, entrepreneurial endeavors, which is why I perked up this morning when I saw this headline: “A Better Condom for Women, By a Woman (And Her Dad).” Yeah! Where and how are condoms made? Could they be made better, more sustainably, more ethically? Could they be feminist, even?

Could an improved condom be coming to a drugstore near you?

If the heiress to the Seventh Generation line of products has anything to say about it, they sure will.

Most condoms on the market are made with parabens and animal-based ingredients. Sustain, on the other hand, sells an all-natural, vegan product that also happens to be the world’s first Fair-Trade condom. Marketing specifically towards women, the brand has proven its concept — its already landed at retailers like Whole Foods and Fresh Direct, as well as many health stores in New York City, Hollender’s current location. Sustain also just landed a massive deal with Target. …

Do you think women care about eco-friendly condoms? It is a use-and-go type of product.

I think they do. We’ve come a long way in the past 10 years, in terms of the natural product world. Women are looking at everything from their cosmetics, to their food, to their cleaning products, and really thinking about what’s in them.

The other reason why I found condoms interesting was that they are very stigmatized among women. Women aren’t looked on in a positive light for buying and carrying condoms and I think that’s a real problem. So when we talk about sustainable condoms, we mean how they are made but also how they are packaged and how they are marketed. I found there was an opportunity to create a more female-centric product, because 40% of condoms are actually purchased by women.

What is it about condom marketing that you think turns women off?

Well, they’re not included in the conversation for starters. It’s all spring break, frat-boy 101. I mean, Trojan Man! Why not create a brand where we’re speaking to women? Why not have packaging that is beautiful, like the rest of their personal care products and health products? And in terms of a messaging standpoint, why not educate and empower women about why they should be using condoms rather than just talking about the act of sex?

This seems almost too good to be true. Feminist, vegan, sustainable, Free Trade, sex-positive condoms? It’s a dream. Maybe next she’ll promise me they don’t reek. I haven’t used condoms regularly since college but my strongest memory of them is wrinkling my nose every time I ripped open a package.

Oddly enough, the interview concludes without mentioning cost. Will they be significantly more expensive than the competition, Durex and Trojan?

The Sustain website offers a 2-for-1 welcome deal of six condoms (total) for $6, which seems like a good deal. The site also lets one ogle the merchandise. Boxed and presented the way they are, I could easily see Sustain condoms being sold at Lululemon, which is part of Hollender and her father’s strategy, as well as at other wholesome, pastel-friendly, mainstream shops like Bath and Body Works or, hell, even the Container Store. I do wonder though if men will buy them with any kind of regularity, or if most people will even recognize them, at a glance, as condoms, rather than tampons or air fresheners.

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