All too often, you see a new invention that has excellent intentions and yet SO utterly misses the point of what it’s trying to accomplish. It’s like those yoga classes that offer free wine–instead of feeling calmer, you’re just drunk. The new “consent condom,” which can only be opened with four hands (aka two partners), from Argentinian company Tulipán is the latest example. It means well, but my god, this thing totally misses the point.
I get the idea: The four-hand requirement ensures that there’s been a clear, consensual agreement from two parties who are about to have sex. In theory, these condoms should promote having a conversation beforehand (never a bad thing!), and from what I can tell, are meant to be somewhat of a symbolic product dropped in a few bars around Buenos Aires. Clearly, no harm intended.
The thing is…the assumption behind this new condom completely misses the mark. It presents a fantasy in which sex is always clear cut and naturally egalitarian; where the simple act of two able-bodied individuals opening a box together assures an equally straightforward sexual experience. It believes that people (including rapists and sexual predators or abusers) always wear condoms in the first place and importantly, that once a condom is on, consent cannot be revoked. Ever. It’s a done deal.
It assumes that consent is a done deal and cannot be revoked at any moment going forward.
In all those ways, there’s so much wrong about this concept.
On Tuesday, I tweeted my initial thoughts on these condoms, saying a truncated version of basically the same thing. People reacted with both agreement and sarcasm, with comments ranging from discussing the grayer areas of consent to blaming #MeToo for creating a dystopian society where women can “change their mind” about consent after sex has already happened, and therefore, have the power to deliberately punish men. (Note that the latter group were the ones who seemed to support the consent condom—however bitterly.)
This isn’t the first time a proposed solution to sexual assault has been some form of physical “proof” that consent was, in fact, given at one point. From the prospect of recording a partner giving verbal consent to signing a legally binding contract, the bedroom is steadily morphing into a preemptive courtroom. These methods are posed as a way to help victims of sexual assault hold their perpetrators accountable, but in actuality, they create an environment of paranoia and distrust. They incentivize people to get evidence of consent not because they want their partners to feel safe, but because they want to protect themselves from being falsely accused down the line.
Think about it: If someone was empathetic to your basic sexual needs, why would they need you to partake in a bizarre condom-opening ceremony with them, to sign on the dotted line real quick? Why would they assume that consent is as finite as an audio recording, when halfway through sex—of any kind—you can say you don’t want to continue?
Reading #MeToo accounts can be painful, and it’s understandable, even admirable, that people want to help eliminate sexual violence. The problem is: It’s not going to be simple, or easy, or quick. Consent lives in the nuances of human interaction. Consent involves navigating tricky areas—someone saying “yes” because they’re too shy to say “no,” or verbalizing something like, “It kind of hurts, but I think I’m okay?”
To reduce these moments to a box of condoms that has to be opened by four hands is to miss the point by about 500 miles. Sex is loaded with so much complexity and emotion, and at other times, so much fear and pressure, that there are a million reasons why someone could or would want to pump the breaks in the middle of a hookup. Thank you for trying, Tulipán, but the answer to bad sex won’t come in a neat little box.
Sex and Relationships Editor
I’m a Sex and Relationships Editor for Cosmo’s Snapchat Discover, which you should definitely subscribe to :).