Condoms have been around for many years, and in wide use for decades now, but it may surprise you to know that very few scientific tests have been done on them. In fact, only recently has there been an exhaustive test on a wide range of condoms.
In the early months of 2014, students at the University of Oregon took part in this groundbreaking test. Over seventy different condoms were tested on a wide range of criteria. The test was part of a class called “Epic Challenges: Solving Massive Problems through Design Thinking” which focuses on product design. The test comprised a huge amount of documentation and data with over 600 test results being the final product.
The professor that was conducting the testing with her students commented that her desire with the class was to show them how to solve real world problems, problems they may actually encounter in daily life. Since the majority of college students are likely sexually active and might have occasion to use a condom, the test is especially appropriate.
The professor also noted that the class was created in light of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s challenge to create a better condom or the “next generation” condom. The foundation’s goal with the challenge is to inspire the creation of a condom that is both effective and also enhances the pleasure of sex. Certainly, creating a condom that actually enhances sexual pleasure would increase the use of condoms, a win-win all around as far as sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies are concerned.
One student who signed up for the class had traveled across Africa. She noticed that people were not taking free condoms which were being handed out. Or if they might be taking the condoms, they didn’t use them. With HIV and AIDS such a critical issue in many African countries, creating a better condom that might be used more is something that would be highly effective in reducing rates of HIV transmission in the developing world, such as in African countries hit hard by the devastating disease.
A number of unusual tests were conducted by the students. Some students took part in testing in darkness or with special glasses that impair the vision. This testing was designed to see how difficult or easy it was to put on a condom without proper lighting. This testing is highly useful since many times a person would use a condom, they may not have the perfect lighting to see exactly what they are doing.
Each student was tasked with testing condoms for things like durability, texture, sensitivity, heat transfer, taste, sound, lubrication and many other criteria. Initially, the professor told the students to create their own methods for testing. In subsequent days, the most successful methods were refined and used for the final testing where extensive data, documentation and notes were taken.
For taste testing, students actually licked the condom to see how it tasted. To test how long lubricants would last, some students rubbed the condom on their wrist. While some students noted that performing the tests looked weird, all agreed that these methods were great ideas for determining the best condoms.
During the testing, students used great care to duplicate the exact testing methods they created on all the different condom styles and brands. Before the testing was commenced, each student was able to consult with an expert in the health field. One student was able to consult with an OB/GYN and she was able to draw upon her consultation for her testing on condom textures. In particular, the doctor noted that condoms which have ribbing or other textures are more likely a drawback. Quite simply, women would not be able to feel such small textures and it would not enhance sexual pleasure. In fact, the doctor concluded that textured condoms would actually cause more friction once lubrication runs out. In her testing, the student came to the same conclusion.
Even packaging was tested. Some criteria that were considered were the ease of opening the condom package, as well as the box it might come in. Since many couples buy a box of condoms that may contain 10 or more condoms, this is certainly an important test. The color of the box and the attractiveness of the packaging overall were also considered. In particular, students tested how easy the condom packaging was to open. Did it have perforation or tabs? Or did it have writing on it? These criteria were all rated. One student noted that you shouldn’t have to use your teeth to open a condom package.
Some students used rollers to roll condoms flat against a sheet of paper. This test was designed to see how well the lubricant was distributed on the condom from top to bottom.
A phallus was used to test the lubrication of condoms. Students placed a condom on a phallus and stroked it to see how long it took to get dry and how dry it became after a certain amount of time.
For durability testing, students used their hands to stretch the condom tightly until it might tear or break. In testing one particular condom, a student was able to lift the entire phallus, which was glued to a table, off the floor. There’s no doubt that that particular brand of condom scored highly on durability!
At the end of the class, the students participated in a condom product design trade show which was held in March of this year, where they were able to display their product test results to top condom brands and manufacturers.
Putting it on
As far as test results are concerned, the best condom for avoiding putting it on inside out was the Trustex Lubricated, which was very easy to see when it was inside out.
The condom brand with the most “feel” or sensation was the Kimono MicroThin, which also had the best texture.
Applied Texture and Texture
Durex High Sensation won for best applied texture with its large ribbing feature, while Kimono Thin won in the best texture category.
Durex Extra Sensitive took top marks for how quickly it was able to be put on.