This Week in Sex: Chicago Wears Condoms and Australia Tests a New One

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Roundups Contraception

This Week in Sex: Chicago Wears Condoms and Australia Tests a New One

Martha Kempner

This week is all about condoms: Chicago launches a new condom promotion campaign, Australian researchers test a new condom material, kids take a potentially dangerous condom challenge, and Star Wars condoms cover your "lightsaber."

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

Chicago Wears Condoms

The Windy City launched a new condom campaign this month called #ChicagoWearsCondoms that was thought up by members of the target audience. Young people working with Mikva Challenge, a nonprofit that trains teens to become more politically active, decided to take on the issue of sex education and sexually transmitted disease.

Heaven Johnson, who started working with Mikva after her sophomore year in high school, explained to the Chicago Tribune, “We decided to focus on sex ed after learning about Chicago’s [sexually transmitted infection] statistics and teen pregnancy rates. … We wanted to start a conversation about safe sex.”

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Another teen involved with the project, Daniel Mercado, said at a press conference, as reported by the Windy City Times“We came together and talked about becoming more educated about sexual health at our schools including the fact that students should have access to condoms and STI tests. After those discussions we decided that a campaign was needed to get this information out to the public. That’s how Chicago Wears Condoms was created.”

The campaign includes billboards depicting the city’s famous skyscrapers wrapped in condoms and a website with more information, including where free condoms are available at 169 locations across the city. The messages of the campaign are positive, with slogans such as “Stay Safe When You Go Downtown,” and “It Doesn’t Take Balls to Wear Condoms.”

The young creators are proud of the tone. Johnson told the Chicago Tribune, “So many times, we see different ad campaigns made to shame and scare teens about having sex. We want to promote positive behavior and positive practices and get the word out there in a better way.”

Test Subjects Like the Feel of an Experimental Condom

Scientists at Swinburne University in Australia have begun to test a condom made from a hydrogel material to see how it affects sexual pleasure. Hydrogel is made from water and molecular chains called polymers and is said to be thinner and stronger than latex. Associate Professor Joseph Ciorciari, a researcher on the project, told the Sydney Morning Herald, “It’s really unusual to touch. It feels like real human tissue, like when you’re touching someone but they’re covered in a lubricant.”

For initial pleasure tests, participants in the pilot study were asked to touch five materials, including lubricated and non-lubricated latex and the hydrogel. The touch tests involved moving three fingers from left to right across each material up to 80 times. Participants were wired to an EEG machine, which measured the level and location of brain activity as they did the test.

Ciorciari explained, “The hydrogel was the only one that had a strong hot spot at the right front of the brain. We also got a perceptual novelty response, as in ‘oh that’s different, I want to feel more of that.'”

The pilot study was supported by a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation condom challenge. Researchers aim to begin phase two of the trial early next year.

Condom Challenge Goes Viral

A new viral video campaign shows teens dropping water-filled condoms onto others’ heads. Business Insider says the videos, which are being posted to social media with the hashtag #CondomCampaign, began with two teens in Japan. In their video, one teen holds the full condom over his friend’s head and drops it. Instead of breaking, the condom stays full and falls over the teen’s head, in such a way that makes it look like his head is in a latex fishbowl. The video got more than 245,000 hits by the end of last month, spurring teens around the globe to do the same.

Some reports suggest that this is a pro-condom education campaign that teens are using to promote condom use and remind their peers that condoms can stretch to fit anyone’s penis and that they don’t, as sometimes misreported, contain tiny holes.

While that’s a noble goal, the videos seem more like teens just trying to have fun and might actually be risky. Latex does not have little holes in it—which makes it good for protecting you against pregnancy and diseases, but not good if it’s covering your mouth and nose. Though no accidents have been reported yet, it is possible that this prank could be dangerous.

May the Condom Be With You

Graphic Armor, a condom manufacturer that specializes in custom-made condoms, has launched a new Star Wars-inspired line called Saber Skins. Fans of the movies can choose from one inspired by Darth Vader and printed with the saying “I will not be your father” or the Yoda version: “Do or Do Not, There Is No Try.” I can’t say that I find either Vader or Yoda particularly sexy, but I suppose these sayings are better than others they could have come up with, like “This is not the [redacted] you’re looking for.”