Photography by Jennifer Hoffner
Last week I got that dreaded call from my gynecologist’s office. I’m due for my annual pelvic exam and pap smear. You know that feeling when your stomach falls into your panties, you start to sweat, and you feel like your breakfast is about to come out the wrong end? That’s how I feel every time I go to the gyno. You see, I have an irrational fear of the speculum. You know, the scissor looking thing that opens your cervix but looks more like a medieval torture device? Surely, this cannot be an instrument of modern medicine. As I sat in the waiting room, I filled out the medical form. Standard stuff, my age, my weight, could I be pregnant, what kind of birth control do I use, yadda yadda ya. I wrote down what I always write down: Condoms. Every year, this instigates a conversation between my doctor and me about whether or not I want to get on the pill, and my response is always “NO.” I don’t want to take anything that is going to muck up my hormones. I try to live my life as holistically as I can, which means I don’t use anything containing harsh chemicals in my home or on my body. It occurred to me right then and there that I don’t have a CLUE about what chemicals are used in the making of condoms. So, I started digging, and what I found might surprise you.
Cool fact: Condoms can be traced back to 1000 BC. Oiled silk and lamb intestines were used in the making of condoms, as well as turtle shell and eventually leather. I don’t even want to imagine how the latter two worked, but what I’m saying is condoms have been around for a very long time! Today’s condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy and STD’s, and there is a variety from which you can choose. But, what goes into those condoms? It turns out, a lot of stuff I don’t want inside my nay-nay, and you probably don’t want inside of yours.
Parabens, which are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors, are a common ingredient found in regular condoms. As is benzocaine, which makes a man “last longer,” but can also cause headaches, breathing problems, severe BURNING, weakness, and BLISTERING. Yes, you read that right, BLISTERING!!!!! Nonoxynol-9 is basically a detergent used to kill sperm and STD’s, but with repeated use it can kill cells inside your vaginal or anal wall. N-9, as its commonly known, also increases your risk of contracting HIV. Shouldn’t this be on the box? It also leaves you more susceptible to urinary tract infections. Ouch and no thank you. Another common ingredient is glycerine, a preservative used as the condoms lubricant. It also increases your risk of getting a yeast infection.
So, what does this all mean? It means that we all need to be a little more discerning when selecting our condoms. I encourage everyone to take proper precautions when having sex to reduce chances of unwanted pregnancy as well as the transmission of STD’s, and I am in no way suggesting that all condoms are bad. In fact, I think condoms are fan-fucking-tastic when they don’t contain toxic additives. For this reason, I personally use Sir Richard’s Condoms, which are made from all natural latex and silicone. They contain no fillers and are free of parabens, N-9, glycerine, and other petrochemicals. These condoms are certified vegan, and PETA approved, meaning they don’t test on animals. Need some extra lube? Coconut oil is your very best friend. It’s cheap, natural, and most importantly, safe.
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