A bulwark against enjoyment, and a cobweb against danger.
That’s how condom was being described in 1671 (in a letter written by Mme de Sévigné to her daughter*).
It’s never been a mystery that the condom, which should encourage the exchange of love (and prevent the exchange of fluids) by sneaking into the passionate union of two bodies, has always been perceived as an obstacle to the experience of sexual pleasure.
Its palpable presence intrudes into the intimacy of sexual discourse spoiling the fluidity.
Those few 5 seconds of suspense in the midst of hormonal fluctuations, dealing with the square sachet with rough edges, are enough to tone down the excitement and the enthusiasm of the moment.
If ‘a kiss is a rosy dot over the ‘i’ of loving’, the condom is a milky semicolon between the ‘s’ and ‘v’ of penis and vagina.
Or at least it was so, until 13th June 2016, when LELO launched HEX, the Condom of the Future.
HEX, the Condom of the Future
HEX is the next generation of condoms designed by LELO, a global leader in luxury pleasure products, branded as ‘The World’s First Re-Engineered Condom’ and ‘The First Major Condom Innovation in 70 years’.
The last major developments took place in the 20s, with the use of latex material, and in the 50s with the reservoir tip at the top of the condom and the first pre-lubricated condom manufactured by Durex.
Afer that, the condom remained almost the same, unabashedly uncomfortable, annoying and intrusive, while STIs kept increasing and condom sales dropped.
Although the condom is still one of the safest contraceptive methods, its bad reputation as a third wheel is enough to discourage the use in favour of a more pleasant but less safe sexual experience.
With their 98%* theoretical effectiveness, condoms are one of the most effective ways to prevent pregnancy and the only one to provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Still, no stats convinced us that those irritating 5 seconds of business before pleasure are at least as important as the following steamy handful of minutes.
Indeed, we never buckled down to learn how to store, put on and use a condom properly and our human errors had diabolical effects reducing its effectiveness to just 85%.
In order to make condom popular, LELO has developed a condom of the future capable of addressing the three main issues that affect condom users of the past and the present: discomfort, slippage, and breakage.
It took seven years to get to HEX and the discovery that ‘it wasn’t the material or shape that needed to change, it was the structure.
The Hexagon revolution
LELO applied the nature’s go-to shape for strength and lightness, the hexagon, to the condom.
And while the big brands were adding ribs and dots on the external surface, trying to mask discomfort by ‘enhanced stimulation for her’, LELO integrated a hexagonal pattern on the inside of the condom.
The result is a condom that delivers strength, thinness and sensation through its honeycomb-like structure that combines a web of 350 interconnected hexagons 0.055mm with ultra-thin 0.045mm latex panels.
The revolutionary internal structure adapts and models to the user’s unique shape giving a new sense of intimacy and comfort never felt in condoms before.
HEX’s public perception: accusations, faults and absolution
Just to make sure that the entire world would notice the revolution going on at LELO’s, the marketing people worked hard heeding no one.
HEX was launched on the 13th June 2016 with a global campaign (HEX Appeal) running across both lelo.com and the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform to offer 10,000 backers the chance to order and try the condoms before anyone else at a 40% off the retail price.
The campaign was followed by two huge launch parties in London and New York, featuring VIP, theatrical demonstrations of HEX’s strength, dancers in hexagon-patterned leotards, condom-shaped ice sculptures and self-congratulatory speeches.
Within a week of launch, LELO sold over 500,000 HEX condoms, but while it was spreading private groans of approval under the covers, it aroused public dissent out into the world.
Some things, in particular, fired up bloggers, reporters and experts in the field.
1. The creepy combo: Charlie Sheen + HEX
What LELO called the ‘perfect match’, appeared to be more like a terrible pairing to the rest of the world.
Charlie Sheen – a history of drugs and alcohol addiction, arrests for domestic violence, drunk driving and fraud, and recent sexual abuse allegations – and LELO HEX – a future as champion of safe sex and forefront initiator of the condom revolution – put together into an empty grey room with depressing background music mustn’t have seemed too convincing.
Clearly, LELO has focused on making the news rather than arousing consent when it chose to pick that bad boy Topper Harley as the spokesperson for Hex.
LELO responded to critics with the motivation of its willingness to generate a conversation about safe sex and continuing the ‘Charlie Sheen effect‘. A few months before HEX launch, in November 2015, the actor came out publicly with the HIV diagnosis he received four years ago. His disclosure produced a spike in Google searches for HIV and other related topics (condoms, HIV symptoms and HIV testing)..
2. The name hardly encouraging
Now everyone knows that ‘HEX’ comes from Hexagon, but some people couldn’t help but notice that it also means ‘curse’. Now, if we put together the condom, the word hex and Charlie Sheen face, what we get is not a “sweet dreams” kind of perfect match.
3. The needle test
One of Hex’s main selling points is its strength and Lelo saw fit to demonstrate this by repeatedly poking holes in a stretched out condom with a needle and showing the result to the world with a video. Compared to a regular latex condom that completely tears apart, HEX keeps its structure and the breakage does not exceed the needle diameter being almost invisible.
Apparently, this would mean that HEX is capable of minimising the semen leakage in case of breakage and still preventing both pregnancy and STDs. LELO’s goal.
As some have pointed out, though, this would also mean that such a small breakage might go undetected during the sexual intercourse without people having the chance to take all the measures to contain the risk of getting pregnant and contracting possible infections. LELO’s own-goal.
In response to the various concerns, LELO declared that the breakage caused by a needle is not comparable to the one that may occur during regular intercourse scenarios (due to excess friction, lack of lubrication…) and that HEXs break as normal under the same stress. Nil-nil, ball in the centre.
4. Il Respect for the male
As usual, LELO’s products are studied in every detail. Maybe too much.
Every HEX has the word “Respect” printed at its base. During the launch party, one reporter asked about the message’s implications and was answered with a response characterised by a sexist and patriarchal aftertaste: “Respect the man who wears it”*.
LELO must have thought that ego also wants its share and that the penis owners would have appreciated a little of manly incitement and paraded their condoms more willingly.
5. A not-so-subtle bravado
Ok, LELO also forgot to save a little modesty and humility when it made a million dollar offer to the world’s three biggest condom brands, Trojan, Durex and Ansell, to access its new HEX’s technology.
A personal analysis: guilt and absolution
It looks like, in the heat of the condom of the future revolution, LELO sinned the same way the condoms of the past did: a lack of tact and sensitivity.
It’s clear that, in the effort to making the news, LELO used both hands to draw from the well of the marketing levers capable of drawing attention and building engagement.
I guess we can forgive the marketing bad boys if the risky choices, however controversial and questionable, have managed to bring attention to a topic of universal importance as safe sex and to what seems to be a good product.
I don’t want to say that the end justifies the means, but surely revolutions are not made with silk gloves.
The other Condoms of the Future (?)
The entire world is talking about him, but HEX is not the only wannabe Condom of the Future.
In March 2013, Bill Gates, through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, challenged the world to reinvent the condom, offering $100,000 to the most promising designers who would have developed the “next generation” condom that “significantly preserve or enhance pleasure”, in order to improve uptake and regular use.
The foundation named 11 grant recipients (out of 800 total entries), many of which have stalled, underscoring the regulatory obstacles and expense of bringing a new condom to market. A few are still being developed, but no one ever turned into a product available on the market*.
To this day, the wannabe condoms of the future still remain projects of the past.
My (our) test
After several years of condom use, me and my better half learned to be wary of stimulating textures, exotically flavoured lubricants and ‘invisible’ condoms, surrendering to the fact that no marketing promise would have resulted in some sort of comfort, sensitivity or a semblance of naturalness.
Before trying out HEX, our curiosity was equal to our scepticism.
Taking out all the bombastic press releases and the advertising messages worshipping hexagon as the sex saviour, what we’re talking about looks nothing more than yet another latex condom, not even the thinnest available, with a new design, packed in a pretty, minimalist, elegant white box.
When we received a 6-pack of condoms to be tested and reviewed, we planned to save at least a couple of them for tests and photo shooting.
After the first test, we said that one would have been enough.
After following tests, we decided just to use them and this is why you’re not going to find any video about vegetables wearing condoms or any picture of HEXs subject to bizarre household tests.
The only stress they have been subject to is love-making, and here’s what we now think about the overtalked condoms of the future.
Her (mine) opinion
HEX is not the thinnest condom we ever tried (that was 0.03 mm), so I just was expecting it to be slightly less uncomfortable than every other condom.
I was delighted to find out it’s capable of so much more: for the very first time, I didn’t perceive the condom as an unnatural barrier, something inconveniently extraneous, artificial and intrusive.
No whiff of little folds, friction or whatever artificial overlapping.
His opinion: the floor to my better half
Condom time calls the fun side of sex back to order and reminds everyone to use their heads right at the very moment you’re allowed to use the other organ you prefer.
When it comes to interpose a latex barrier, the options are never really in favour of fun, due to the poor sensations condoms provide. Except for the ultra-thin ones: those work better. Well, in that case, anxiety raises as you approach the climax in the hope the friction doesn’t lead condom to break in the middle of the party. The final check on condom integrity is the only way to allay concerns.
Between feeling with fear and not feeling by sweat, I approached HEX with mistrust.
It must be because of my low expectations, but I immediately felt like LELO HEX was actually designed to protect my little friend when I put it on. Not too thin but not at all bulky like a diver’s suit. HEX adapted like a gecko on a wall and allowed me to get the sense of everything happening all around it and stay tuned in to the end.
Usually, with all the other condoms, the transmission went dead because of the lack of signal (or the ultra-thin jitters) as soon as I wore them.
Just to make sure I haven’t made that up, I went for a second test and then I tried a BeSafe dotted, ribbed, lubricated condom.
I had 3 packs I bought online and I threw them all forthwith. Until the next valid revolution, I’ll go for LELO HEX.
The real revolution is invisible
On balance, the LELO HEXs has all the tools to be responsible for a revolution.
If all the positive reviews and the successful sales recorded from the launch to today would lead to an actual increase in condoms’ popularity and a higher predisposition to their use, then LELO would have turned the condom into something people want to use and not just something they must use.
The real revolution would be to have changed not just the condom but also the user experience and the idea people have about the condom.
So, is LELO HEX the condom of the future?
Despite LELO’s progress, some issues remained unresolved.
The condom of the future is probably the one that is accessible to all: a non-latex hypoallergenic condom at an affordable price, other than safe, effective and able to preserve the sexual pleasure experience’s naturalness.
I don’t know if HEX is the condom of the future, but I do know it’s the one of my present and I’ll keep purchasing and using it.
HEXs are available on LELO’s website in packs of at £ 29,90 / $34.90 (free shipping). You can buy them here.
Forget about Charlie Sheen, just focus on the hexagon and give it a chance.
Before you know it, you’re saying
they don’t just make condoms like they used to.
 Image sourse: LELO
 Gif tratta dalla serie tv Friends, Stagione 8 – Episodio 3
 Gif tratta dalla serie tv Extras, Stagione 2 – Episodio 9
 Fonte immagine: Blog Sex & London City
[5-6-7] Fotografie I’M