To Talia Frenkel, the condom aisle is a battlefield. The brands--Magnum, Trojan, Armor--default to an aggressive maleness (a "sex-is-war kind of thing") that’s out of touch with modern sexuality. "Why do I feel I’m entering an artillery unit?" she asks. "There’s nothing sleek or sexy or sophisticated about them. It’s fire and ice. And, what girl wants fire and ice in her?"
Frenkel’s response to the man-centric prophylactic market is the L. Condom--a more "female-friendly" condom featuring less fleshy imagery, an emphasis on love-making, and more natural components. The latex, sourced in Malaysia, is tapped from a tree. The lubricant won’t leave you, or your partner, itchy and smelling of chemicals.
"It’s about looking at the ingredients and deciding what women would want in their bodies," Frenkel says.
L. Condoms is about more than sensation. The company has a one-to-one model that sends a contraceptive to Africa every time you buy one here. By improving the availability of condoms in countries that often run short, Frenkel says we can help cut the rate of HIV infections, and unwanted pregnancies. Nine out of 10 countries with high rates of sexually transmitted disease have regular "stock out" problems, studies show.
Frenkel, who has a background as a photojournalist, recently returned from trip to Swaziland, where she met up with a group that distributes L.Condoms packaged with special artwork. The company also works with a group in Uganda.
L. will be shipping a lot more condoms in the coming months. Soon, CVS’s 785 stores in California will start stocking the product, which comes in several varieties. Up until now, Frenkel relied on hotels, upscale stores, and subscription deals with college dormitories.
"We’ve been in trendy boutiques and hotels. Now it’s major distribution and it’s exciting to be able to have that kind of exposure," she says. "For me, it’s about being able to give people the opportunity to make a difference."