April 29th 2018
Why aren’t more women buying and carrying condoms?
February 20th 2018 / 0 comment
Imagery: Jade Nina Sarkhel
1 in 5 of us feel embarrassed to buy them, but a ‘by women’ brand of condoms is looking to change all of that. Here’s how HANX is set to change your sex life, and tired old stereotypes at the same time…
Hands up who loves condoms? No takers? According to a survey carried out by Public Health England and YouGov, one in 10 of us haven’t even used one, which is why it’s high time we introduce you to a brand that’s transforming the contraceptive landscape, one sleekly packaged, thin, fair trade rubber at a time.
HANX is a beautifully conceived and female-focused brand that is not only disrupting the condom market, but opening up frank, honest and funny channels of conversation about everything from first-time sex to STIs (soaring, FYI) and dating in the digital era. And boy do we need it. According to a survey of 2000 UK adults by sexual health charity FPA, one in five of us perceive purchasing condoms as embarrassing, with the 16-24 age group most likely to feel uncomfortable doing so. The research also revealed that longstanding stigma around women and condoms sadly still stands: one in 10 believe that it remains taboo for women to both buy and carry condoms.
Condom design has scarcely changed since the 1950s, and it seems that attitudes are firmly stuck in that era too, but looking more closely at why women are so put off purchasing condoms, and changing both the conversation and the end product to empower them to do so, will go a long way to shutting down stigma. After all, to get all biological on you, women feel condoms too, and asking for what you want in bed will always make for not only a better sex life, but a more gender equal distribution of sexual power. And we all know that we need that in this day and age. To get back to the nitty gritty for now, here are a few common issues that present barriers to buying condoms, and ways in which the likes of HANX is solving them.
They’re aimed at men
This seems like an obvious marketing move given that men wear the condoms (unless you’re into femidoms of course), but companies are missing a trick by capitalising on macho branding (trojan horses anyone?) and rolling out sexist advertising.
HANX is doing away with such glaring condom turn-offs by tailoring everything from packaging to the buying experience to women. A survey conducted by HANX revealed that 73 per cent of women would be far more likely to buy condoms if they were a more discreet product, and so the brand has gone about giving condoms an image overhaul and a positioning update appropriate for the 21st century, and you know, women. Just how are they going about this? By taking matters into their own hands for starters…
They’re designed by men
Men don’t know what a condom feels like from the outside, but HANX founders Farah Kabir and Sarah Welsh sure do. Financier Farah and medical doctor Sarah are well placed to come up with a more female-friendly condom, not only because they’re women, but with a combined background in gynaecology, sexual health and business, plus a friendship that’s been going strong since childhood, they can lay cards on the table frankly about what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to women buying, carrying and ultimately asking men to use condoms.
Changing the image of condoms, and doing away with any related cultural associations of carrying condoms with sleaziness or shame was key to the inception of HANX: modern women should be firmly in the driving seat of their own sexuality, thus talking about sex, asking for what we want and taking matters into our own hands is imperative. As sexual views and practices become more liberal, any prejudice linked to protecting ourselves looks positively prehistoric. It’s time condoms got cool, and we celebrated women taking ownership over them. HANX has a slogan of ‘Empowerment Starts Here #GetYourHANXOn’, and that’s the vibe that Kabir and Welsh want to foster: we should have positive attitudes towards women’s sexual independence and choice of contraception. It helps when condoms are actually desirable in themselves, of course...
Which is pretty ironic when you think about it. ‘Condoms’ and ‘chic’ aren’t words you’re likely to find together in any sentence, except, here we are. You could write off aesthetics as frippery, but actually, what condoms look like has a huge bearing on how we value and relate to them, and whether or not we buy them. And we need to be buying them - condom use has dropped amongst Brits in the 25+ age group, and STIs are on the rise in London in particular. Given that condoms are the only method of contraception that does protect you from contracting STIs, having one to hand can protect your own health, and that of any current or future partners. Having one (or five) on you is a lot more appealing when packaging is subtle and non-shouty, and when they fit in with the contents of your handbag rather than sticking out like a sore thumb.
HANX’s take on the condom is white and gold matte foil wrapping within a slim white box. Think luxe, not lairy, and never cringeworthy to add to your basket. There shouldn’t be any shame implicated in the purchase of a potentially life saving contraceptive as it stands, but current attitudes expose that a sea-change is necessary, and this goes a long way to making condoms not only more palatable, but actually covetable. As well as updating the general appeal, Kabir and Welsh have given the condom a technical redesign too…
They get in the way
Whether too long, too thick or a hassle to put on, finding the right condom for both men and women can be quite the Goldilocks exercise. HANX are ultra-thin, allowing for max sensitivity, and that musty clinical smell has been done away with too - 100 per cent natural latex means that actually these smell pretty damn good. It’s the little things, but it’s also the big picture…
They’re made with animal byproducts
I for one did not know this: the majority of condoms contain animal byproducts, such as casein. Not only is this not a goer for vegans, it can also trigger allergies, which does not make for a satisfying sexual encounter, ever. HANX use a vegan plant-based alternative in addition to natural, sustainably produced and fairtrade latex. Let’s call it the conscious condom. In more ways than one.
They’re not integrated with modern lifestyles
Placement next to pregnancy tests or in a dusty old dispenser in the ladies that has definitely been there since the early 80s means that many of us don’t even register condoms, or consider them vital to our wellbeing.
HANX wants to turn this on its head by making condoms widely available while you’re having a mani, at your yoga studio, buying a bra or even just direct to your bedroom - they can wing their way to your door at your own convenience, because this is modern times after all. Given that effective contraception is as vital an aspect of our health and wellbeing as working out and eating well, it makes sense for women to be able to purchase condoms in a lifestyle context.
HANX are on sale at Coco de Mer stores, Wah nails bars, online from the HANX website or via an online subscription service as individuals or packs of three - prices start at £1.87 for a single delivery every 30 days. Incidentally, HANX received over 10,000 direct orders in the eight hours prior to Valentine’s Day this year- condoms available at the the click of a button should clearly be the norm.
Whether you’re chatting sexual health while having your gels done or picking condoms up with your post, accessibility and making carrying condoms a part of daily culture is key to establishing a healthy, empowering environment for both men and women alike. It’s time we moved on from the 50s, on every level.
The feature was written in partnership with HANX