Let’s talk about sex. Did that make you feel awkward? Well there’s more where that came from because it’s time to tackle the big taboo with a sustainable twist! In a bid to increase awareness about safe sex and, you guessed it… the planet, our editor Amy Beckford has teamed up with the vegan, gynocologist approved product company Hanx, in a bid to show you how sex can not only be better for your body, but the environment too!
Condoms: A long and gruesome history
It’s fair to say the art of birth control has come a long way… with no such thing as the pill, condoms (if we can call them that) stole the contraceptive show. Ancient Egyptians used papyrus, a type of thick paper, and in ancient Rome condoms were made of mule’s fur. In Japan extremely fine leather was also used but in some cultures even methods like tar and liquid lead had been used to prevent pregnancy! OUCH!
In recent history animal intestines became preferred (definitely not vegan and pretty grim sounding). In the 18th century UK, condoms received backlash from members of parliament who tried to have them banned. They believed they offered insufficient protection against syphilis and said condoms encouraged sex with unsafe partners. Even then, sex education within the working class was far and few between, meaning condoms were often a luxury to the upper classes.
Only relatively recently rubber and latex were developed, and although we are lucky to have these options available, there’s still lots of improvement to be made. Of course with condoms being single use and infrequently biodegradable, its time we start looking for greener options in our sex lives. Our desire to enjoy sexual encounters whilst avoiding pregnancy throughout history is an interesting one, for a more in depth history, Aine Collier’s fabulous book called ‘The Humble Little Condom: A History’ is available on amazon.
It was not until the vulcanization process was discovered that we could produce actual condoms from raw rubber which we derived from rubber trees. The process involves heating the rubber with sulfur to make it more durable. Latex was then discovered in the 1920’s which took the shelf life of a condom from a few months to 5 years. Using latex in the manufacturing process meant that harmful chemicals such as benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer with overexposure, were not needed to make the rubber into liquid, creating safer work environments for condom factory workers.
Still curious about the actual manufacturing process? See Durex’s ‘How Condoms Are Made’ page for more information.
Condoms are one of the only products that can both prevent pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STI’s) simultaneously, they are incredibly important for your wellbeing. However, making regular contact with your body particularly if you have a sensitivity to their ingredients can affect your health negatively. And unlike food products, they dont require regulation and a detailed list of ingredients on their packaging.
What to watch out for:
Casein – A milk protein used to soften latex making the condoms better for human use, unfortunately it is derived from cows and goats milk. Using condoms with casein indirectly supports the dairy industry which of course has well-known environmental impacts, and morally is not great. Casein is an important one to watch out for if you are vegan / cruelty free.
Polyisoprene – Fabulous for those with a latex allergy: polyisoprene is a synthetic form of latex without the proteins that cause allergic reactions. However, because polyisoprene is so chemically close to latex, it is also not biodegradable.
Nonoxynol-9 – Whilst being an effective spermicidal detergent, preventing pregnancy and killing STIs, this chemical can cause irritation of the cervix, vagina, and rectum, undermining their cellular integrity. The inflammatory reaction in women is also linked to an increased risk of urinary tract infections (yes we all hate those pesky buggers!).
Glycerin – A sugar alcohol which is sweet tasting and used in lubricants and flavoured condoms, provides no protective benefit and increases the growth of yeast infections leading to STI risk. It also disrupts the pH balance of environmental flora if not disposed of correctly. Never flush a condom down the toilet! It can cause serious plumbing problems and will most likely find its way into a waterbody where it can interact negatively with aquatic life.
Parabens – There is ongoing debate with their linkage to cancers. Parabens have the ability to bind to estrogen receptors and interfere with normal hormonal activity, this has been known to increase accelerate the growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers or even affect the quality and quantity of sperm production in men.
So what’s the solution??
‘Safe sex is often associated with moments of lost passion and unpleasant sensations. It’s time to change the way you feel about safe sex because STIs and STDs are not a fair price to pay for having ‘better’ sex. Use an ultra thin, silky smooth condom that’s designed to make you both happy down there for a more intimate experience. Stay safe. Have fun.’
Hanx was created by founders Farah and Sarah after discussing the ailments of modern condoms… ‘overtly masculine, garish and with cringey names’ for a long time wellbeing has taken a back seat and stigma has surrounded them. They agreed that it was time to be friendly to our bodies and the environment.
What makes Hanx condoms different?
- They’re vegan – Hanx condoms use thistle extract to make their condoms silky smooth instead of the milk protein casein.
- Biodegradable – As HANX condoms are made of natural latex you can chuck ‘em in your compost with your banana skins. They’ll start to decompose after just 3 months!
- Cruelty Free – 100% against animal testing.
- Safe and tested – every single batch of condoms they make are tested for defects, durability and elasticity. They are CE certified, which means they conform to European standards.
- Thinner and reliable – Thinner condoms are just as robust as other condoms, same reliable protection, more pleasure!
What do students think about them?
“Very similar feel to a durex condom and had no problems with ripping or anything like that”
“I have really sensitive skin and certain products can make it [sex] feel awful afterwards, but I didn’t feel any itching or discomfort with these Hanx condoms”
“At first it was fine and me and my partner agreed they felt really no different to a “normal” condom… until we noticed it was actually completely ripped.. So if that’s your only form of protection against pregnancy (and also against STI’s) then that’s a huge problem, I’d definitely recommend being on another form of contraceptive pill with condoms too”
“They don’t smell bad (way better than normal condoms) and although they are quite thin, they’re just as durable”
“I’m so glad they’re biodegradable and vegan, it’s a real game changer as my girlfriend is vegan and always worried about accidentally using non-vegan products”
But it’s not just condoms that Hanx have created, it’s lubricants too… they’re also set to release a vegan (yey), water-based, hypoallergenic and paraben free lubricant too. Good news for us and the planet!
Important things to remember:
Safe sex is not always everyones prirority in the moment so it’s important to have conversations with your partner and be open minded; you may disagree on things and its always good to open minded. Communication is key.
Make mindful choices; of course as students, cost is important and its crucial to find products that are inexpensive but are still good for you.
It goes without saying, whether you’re sexually active or not, being knowledgeable about products and contraceptive options out there is always good! The environmental consideration is the added bonus. As Lil’ Dicky once said “We love the Earth” and we should give it the same care as our bodies and one another.
HANX not for you? still want a vegan environmentally friendly alternative? try these other WILD recomendations:
- Sustain Natural Condoms
- Glyde Premium Vegan Condoms
- YES WB organic water based natural personal lubricant
About the Author: Amy Beckford is the current managing Editor of WILD Mag and the former Online Editor. Amy is a 3rd year Environmental Geography student.