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The Condom, Reinvented—For Your Pleasure

But the celebrity spokesman is already causing controversy

Photo courtesy of Lelo

More than 5 billion condoms are sold around the world each year, and most of them are, well, boring. Beyond weird artificial flavors (bacon?), novelty condoms that measure your manhood or give props to the Pope, not to mention warming sensations or good old ribbed texture, the vast majority of condoms at your local drugstore are variations on the same old, same old. In fact, since the introduction of latex in 1920, the condom has seen relatively few updates— given its enormous volume of users.

Get ready for HEX, a game-changing new condom from LELO, a Swedish company focused on “intimate lifestyle goods.” While it’s still made from latex, the HEX differs vastly from traditional options in its hexagon pattern—350 to be exact—throughout each condom. Why does this matter to you? Not only are the hexagons designed to be more pleasurable to the wearer (as opposed to ribbing, which is marketed as mostly for your partner’s benefit), they are also virtually unbreakable.

According to its maker—which has been dubbed the “Apple of condoms”—the hexagon is “nature’s go-to shape for anything needing to be at once lightweight, and incredibly strong.” Billed as the world’s first re-engineered condom, HEX just surpassed a crowdfunding goal of 10,000 backers on its website this week; condoms are slated to ship in August.

Engineers worked for seven years on the HEX, not so long in the overall history of condoms. Its maker says condom innovation has failed to keep up with the growth of new sexually transmitted diseases over the last 70 years. Because this condom is less likely to slip or break, LELO hopes HEX can encourage more people to practice safe sex with better-designed protection. Considering there is a direct correlation between condoms being unwieldy and people not using them, it’s an admirable—and necessary—goal.

According to a 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in the U.S. alone have all increased for the first time since 2006. And rates of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis, the most infectious stages of the disease, have increased by a staggering 15.1 percent since 2013.

But LELO’s choice in tapping actor Charlie Sheen as spokesperson for HEX is already causing controversy. The company presumably picked Sheen, in part, because of his announcement last November that he is HIV-positive. In a video on LELO’s Indiegogo page, Sheen says that many people, including himself, never think HIV will affect their own lives. And “they can avoid that by using this,” he claims.

Feminist bloggers and activists were quick to blast LELO’s pick because of Sheen’s past history with domestic abuse. Among other allegations, Sheen pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor third-degree assault charge in 2010 after his then-wife, Brooke Mueller, accused him of threatening to kill her on Christmas Day 2009. LELO defended its choice, writing “there is arguably no other person who can so personally and actively drive conversations on sexual health” on its Indiegogo page.

Whether Sheen is the right spokesperson for HEX is up for debate. What’s less arguable is the popularity of the condom itself—LELO has already reached 1979% of its crowdfunding goal with 16 days left.

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