Despite the fact that science has called bullshit on most excuses for not using condoms, convincing people to wear rubbers is still notoriously difficult. It's a problem that prompted billionaire safe-sex proselytizer Bill Gates to donate millions of dollars to researchers who are working to develop an alternative to the standard latex condom.
While whiny dudes have complained that they don't like condoms because of the "way they feel," scientists funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are now on their way to eradicating that complaint. The team of Australian researchers has been developing a new hydrogel condom called the GELdom, which is meant to more closely imitate the feeling of human skin. Just to be sure the material actually feels good, the team is using brain-scanning technology to evaluate the condom's "pleasure" value.
"It's really unusual to touch," Joseph Ciorciari, one of the developers and a cognitive neuroscientist at Swinburne University, told the Sydney Morning Herald. "It feels like real human tissue, like when you're touching someone but they're covered in a lubricant."
Ciorciari and his team had study participants stroke five different materials, including lubricated and non-lubricated latex in addition to the hydrogel. As they stroked, participants were hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG) machine, which measured their brains' responses to each material.
Each substance elicited a distinct emotional response, but the hydrogel in particular set off a neurological "hot spot" in participants' brains when they touched it, which made people think "'I want to feel more of that,'" Ciorciari told the Herald.
""It feels like real human tissue, like when you're touching someone but they're covered in a lubricant."
In addition to crafting a more pleasurable condom, the researchers also hope to identify other reasons why people might be averse to using them. In the United States, condom use has been shown to be limited among teens and declines significantly among couples in monogamous relationships, which can contribute to the spread of STIs. Worldwide, underuse of condoms is believed to be a major factor in the spread of HIV, particularly in Africa.
For this reason, the hydrogel findings could have major implications for condom use across the globe, which the GELdom developers consider "one of the great challenges and human rights issues of the 21st century," according to their website. They plan to launch phase two of their trial next year.