Condoms really are mavericks of prophylactics. They can protect you from sexually transmitted disease, prevent unwanted pregnancy, and — given the right style — add a touch of unexpected sensation. Now, Sir Richard’s brand condoms have one more asset for their resume: they help people in developing countries.
For every Sir Richard’s condom you buy, the company, which claims to be the most ethical condom company on the planet and is described as the “TOMS Shoes” of condoms, donates a condom to someone in the developing world. The condoms are also vegan. (Yes, many condoms — even non-sheepskin ones like latex — are often not vegan because they’re coated with casein, a milk by-product.)
The founder of Sir Richard’s is, despite what you may have thought, neither named ‘Richard’ nor knighted (yet). He is Mathew Gerson, who found inspiration for Sir Richard’s while reading a biography of one of the co-founders of Partners in Health, which Sir Richard’s now partners with to bring condoms to Haiti, one of the target countries of Sir Richard’s free condom distribution.
According to Sir Richard’s and Partners in Health, the cost of buying condoms in Haiti is high in the wake of Port-au-Prince’s 2010 earthquake and “the need for free condoms is growing…to keep a probable surge of new HIV infections from happening in the post-disaster regions.”
Sir Richard’s also wants increased condom availability in poorer areas of the U.S. A post on Sir Richard’s blog, written by Hugo Schwyzer, Ph.D, points out that, in the past, studies have shown close correlation between condom use and economic class — in that the lower you are on the economic scale, the less likely you are to use condoms and have safe sex.
One of the reasons this unfortunate correlation exists could be lack of education. But the Sir Richard’s blog post recognizes another possible reason: that condom use, especially to prevent pregnancy, which (according to the post) is what hetero teens focus on as a consequence of sex, “requires a basic belief in the possibility of a brighter future.” The post goes on to say that, “teenagers who know that they have colleges and careers ahead of them are more likely to insist on condoms not just because they are better aware of consequences, but because of this sense that early pregnancy could derail their plans.”
“Sir Richard’s is committed to increasing availability with its radical program to give away one condom for every one sold. Yet as important as it is to give access to contraception, that’s only part of the solution…Our commitment to transforming the conversation around teen sexuality has to start with attainable goals like increasing access to resources like condoms and other forms of reproductive care. But it has to go farther than that. It has to give young people a sense of their right to both pleasure and protection.”
When it comes to “pleasure and protection,” it seems Sir Richard’s has both in the bag. The condoms come in extra large, ultra thin, classic ribbed, and even “pleasure dots” varieties, and are packaged in a fun, neon-plaid design — I presume so that when you purchase these charitable contraceptives, you can shoot a look to the store clerk that says, “Yeah, I’m about to have some safe sex AND help out someone in a developing country. What did YOU do today?”
Adding to their appeal, and in alignment with the goal of giving tangible incentives to people who might otherwise not buy condoms, one of Sir Richard’s clever marketing strategies involves putting a “price sticker” onto their condom boxes — but instead of a straight numeric value, the “sticker” says how much less the price of the condoms are than, say, a stroller or a year of diapers. For example, one box of Sir Richard’s condoms is “$32,994 less than a brand-new minivan.”
If the idea of condoms that give to developing countries has you trembling with the anticipation of some sexy philanthropy, can find them at Whole Foods, Viceroy Hotels and online.
photo via istock