This Week in Sex: Condoms for Women, New Vibrating Underwear, and the ‘Fifty Shades’ Effect on Sex Toy Purchases

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Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: Condoms for Women, New Vibrating Underwear, and the ‘Fifty Shades’ Effect on Sex Toy Purchases

Martha Kempner

This week, design students want to revamp condom packaging to appeal to women, a sex toy company released new underwear, and sex researchers predict 2014 will mark the return of "vanilla" sex for couples—but we're not so sure we agree.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Design Students Revamp Condom Packaging

Students at New York City’s School of Visual Arts are working to redesign condom packaging to make women feel more comfortable buying and carrying them. Mansi Gupta and three fellow students have come up with Mine products, which thus far include two different gender-neutral condom wrappers; one is a rectangular and one is circular, and both come in yellow, orange, or green, with a subtle white leaf design. With the tagline “There’s Nothing to Hide,” the line also includes a nifty night-table stand that allows women to store the condoms openly and proudly, and a caddy for holding condoms and tampons together.

The project is part of a course called “Design for Social Values,” which is conducted in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before settling on a line of products, the students surveyed more than 200 people and found that 77 percent were embarrassed to buy condoms and a full 60 percent believed that women who carry condoms are promiscuous. They set out to change this through design. Gupta explained to Fast Company, “We hope to encourage more women to buy condoms, thus adopting healthier sexual behaviors.”

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The products are not yet available commercially, but the students would like to partner with an existing condom company or manufacturer of feminine hygiene products to bring them to e-commerce outlets and drugstore shelves.

Bluetooth-Enabled Vibrating Underwear

Amid talk of new gadgets for your kitchen, media room, and home office at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas came this little tidbit: The sex toy company OhMiBod is releasing new underwear. How is that an electronic breakthrough, you ask? Well, the underwear is specially made to hold the blueMotion massager, a vibrator-shaped toy kind of like a pantyliner—or maybe an athletic cup—which can be controlled via Bluetooth, and an accompanying app available for iPhone and Android. Yep, as long as the two of you are within Bluetooth accessible range, your partner can control the vibrator in your underwear from his or her phone without anyone being the wiser. Cocktail parties just got a whole lot more interesting.

Brian Dunham, who founded OhMiBod with his wife Suki, said the two of them came up with the idea when they realized they were spending more time on their smartphones than being intimate. He told Mashable, “Technology can drive couples apart, but this is using technology and gadgets to bring them closer together.”

The gadget will be available in March for $129. The company is working on a future model that could be controlled from a further distance.

The “Fifty Shades of Grey Effect” May Be Waning, at Least in the Sex Toy Market

Fifty Shades of Grey, the just-short-of-pure-porn trilogy that seems to have been read by every suburban woman in the United States and Britain, made a huge splash when it hit bookshelves and e-readers a couple of years ago. Many have credited the books for a rise in curiosity around BDSM activities, such as tying up a partner or using a whip during sex play.

In 2012, the international sex toy company LELO released its 2012 Global Survey, noting that sales of certain toys had gone way—way up. That year, there was a 34 percent increase in sales of role-playing lingerie, 50 percent rise in sales of whips, 80 percent jump in sales of blindfolds, a 100 percent uptick in sales of handcuffs, and a 400 percent surge in sales of ben wa balls, which are featured in the book.

But, despite the fact that the movie version is set to come out later this year, the Fifty Shades phenomenon might be over. LELO released numbers showing that sales of products like whips and leashes plateaued at the end of 2013, and couples are instead investing in high-end vibrators and vibrating rings. Sales of these products spiked by 82 percent last year.

LELO is saying that this marks the return of “vanilla” sex, but maybe it just means people feel their toy chest is well-stocked for nights when they want to pretend to be Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, and they now need some things that suit their many other moods.