From a public health perspective, condom effectiveness is a numbers game.
As Ron Frezieres, a Gates grantee who has designed and executed clinical contraceptive trials for more than 30 years, says, “Even if a condom had twice the breakage rate …
Using grant money from the National Institutes of Health, he conducted small clinical trials with condoms that fit much more loosely than latex condoms, designed to be pulled on like a mitten instead of rolled on, allowing freedom of movement inside, and to provide sensation for men from the interior of the condom, which is lubricated.
(In 2014, a former employee accused Resnic of misusing NIH funds; Resnic denies the allegations.) All the while, Resnic kept tweaking.
“I have always been looking for a monogamous relationship and was never really happy with casual sex,” he says, but in the gay subculture of Miami Beach, where he’d moved from California in 1991, casual sex was the norm.
When Resnic slept with men he didn’t know, he insisted on condoms. I lost all my friends during the AIDS crisis, and I used condoms religiously.
A more enjoyable condom—a condom that people to use—could significantly reduce STIs and unwanted pregnancies, both in America and abroad.
So why hasn’t the always unpopular latex condom ever faced any serious competition in the condom aisle? In 1960, the Food and Drug Administration approved the birth control pill for contraception, giving women a reliable means of controlling their fertility for the first time ever.
“The whole concept of the rolled condom is flawed,” Resnic told me shortly before asking our server for a Mediterranean lamb burger.
In 2001, Resnic bought some wood at Home Depot, carved it into a mold with a jigsaw, sanded it down, dipped it in liquid latex, and created the first prototype of his condom in his home, which was, at the time, a house boat on Marina del Rey. He began experimenting with silicone—the flexible, durable material found in spatulas and charity awareness bracelets.
He found a silicone manufacturer to formulate a recipe with the precise combination of tensile strength and elasticity he was looking for, and then found a medical device manufacturer to make silicone prototypes.
“Both women and men mentioned disliking the smell, taste, feeling, inconvenience, and sense of wastefulness of condoms.” Fennell drew the title of her paper from something a woman named Millie said, “It’s not the same feeling, it’s not the same closeness. More alarmingly, 75 percent of women who weren’t using a back-up birth control method reported not using a condom the last time they’d had sex.
Adults who’d had anal sex in the past year—the highest-risk sexual act with regard to HIV transmission—said they’d used condoms only 20 percent of the time.
In 1993, Danny Resnic was having anal sex during a casual hookup in Miami Beach when his partner’s latex condom broke.