TheyFit unveiled a data analysis of sales relating to its range of custom fitted condoms as part of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C, July 25th 2012.
The sales data for the custom fitted condoms showed some remarkable trends. In just the first 250 pack sales:
- only 12.4% (1 in 8) of sales were within the range of sizes allowed by current ASTM regulations
- 174 individuals from 11 countries made purchases
- each of the 12 widths (41-69mm) and 14 lengths (80-240mm) were sold
- the smallest and largest condom sizes were sold
- 61 (64%) of the ninety-five unique sizes were purchased at least once
Click to see a graphical representation of the data analysis (opens in a new window):
1. Tell me about TheyFit, AIDS 2012 and the study?
For years, researchers have called for more condom sizes to be made available. In December 2011, TheyFit launched an expanded range of 95 condom sizes in the EU. We tracked the initial 250 sales of condom sizes to determine what percentage of them would ordinarily be allowed. The data analysis of these sales showed a significant mis-match between the condom sizes currently available, and the condom sizes that men actually want.
2. But can’t you make a condom any size that you want?
Condoms are regulated medical devices and as such are subject to regulation by international standards organizations and medical regulators. To be sold they must conform to international standards developed by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and ASTM (American Society for Testing Methods). Such standards dictate which sizes of condom can be made.
In comparison, after extensive work with medical experts and European medical regulators we are able to offer 95 condom sizes in the EU that were thoroughly researched to cover the majority of male sizes observed.
3. So why do condoms come primarily in one size?
The latex revolution of the 1930s meant condoms could be mass produced reliably and quickly for the first time. The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision in 1937 to regulate condoms as medical devices led to strict requirements on how condoms could be made and how they had to be tested. Within the past few decades, international and national standards organizations such as the ISO and ASTM have developed condom standards that mandate the requirements for making and testing condoms. Such requirements dictate for instance how much air and water a condom must be able to hold without bursting or leaking. Thus these standard’s laboratory testing methods functionally mandate and restrict the range of condom sizes that can be produced. Consequently, most condoms are approximately 7 inches long (180 mm) and 2 inches wide (52-54 mm lay flat width).
4. What were the main findings?
Our findings suggest that the range of condoms ordered by men after an appropriate fitting do not reflect the range allowable by current standards. Only 1 in 8 of the TheyFit condoms sold were within the current ASTM standard. In actuality, customers buying condoms in stores worldwide select from an even smaller range of sizes than allowed by the ASTM. For example, condoms with lay flat widths of 47 mm, 49 mm or 51 mm (all of which are in the ASTM range) are not readily available in stores, as most condom brands have a lay flat width of 52 mm or greater.
5. Why is this important for AIDS research?
AIDS research involving vaccination and medications receives the most emphasis; however a recent position statement by UNAIDS, UNFPA and WHO stated that the “male latex condom is the single most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections". If the strategy is to promote condom use for safe sex, why not provide men with condoms that fit comfortably rather than have everyone wear the same size?
6. But since latex stretches can’t one size fit all?
Latex does stretch, to almost 7 times its original size. But there is a big difference between something fitting and fitting comfortably. When latex stretches it reciprocates the stretching force back onto the penis – this is the feeling of tightness that many men experience when using an incorrectly fitting condom. Furthermore, latex can’t “unstretch” – that is to say, one size of condom cannot accommodate a smaller penis size. Instead, the condom is likely to slip, or fall off completely for those men with a smaller penis.
7. How often do men complain about their condom not fitting?
Roughly 40-50% of men in multiple surveys in different countries complain about their condoms not fitting properly. In a survey of African-American men who have sex with men, a high risk population group for contracting HIV, only 47% reported that their condom felt comfortable.
• Reece et al. Experiences of condom fit and feel among African-American men who have sex with men Sex Transm Infect 2007;83:454–457.
• Crosby et al. Does it fit okay? Problems with condom use as a function of self-reported poor fit. Sex Transm Infect 2010 86: 36-38
• Reece et al. Penile dimensions and men’s perceptions of condom fit and feel. Sex Transm Inf 2009;85;127-131;
• Potter and de Villemeurb Clinical breakage, slippage, and acceptability of a new commercial polyurethane condom: a randomized controlled study Contraception 68 (2003) 39–45
• Smith et al Factors affecting men’s liking of condoms they have used. International Journal of STD & AIDS 1999; 10: 258±262
8. Does this have anything to do with condoms not being used?
Condom fit and feel is very well recognized as a major reason that men do not wear condoms. Imagine if you were trying to have people wear shoes and you only had one pair of shoes for people to wear—a lot of people would go barefoot instead of suffering a poorly fitting shoe. It's exactly the same when it comes to condoms. Men are less likely to use a condom that fits incorrectly, because the poor fit will in turn impact negatively on their sexual pleasure.
• “Researchers have suggested that experiences with the fit and feel of condoms and condom breakage and slippage reduce consistent use by some men. Men have associated condoms that are too tight, too loose, too long or too short with difficulty in applying condoms, erection problems when using condoms, and an increased likelihood of condom failure. It is also known that adult penile dimensions vary widely, and associations between penile dimensions and condom failure have been used to encourage manufacturing standards that support a wider range of condom sizes.”---from Reece et al. Experiences of condom fit and feel among African-American men who have sex with men Sex Transm Infect 2007;83:454–457.
• “Sexual health professionals continue to promote correct and consistent condom use among sexually active individuals yet research indicates that some men remain resistant to using condoms because of perceptions that they do not fit properly or feel comfortable. This study empirically assessed relations between men’s penile dimensions and their perceptions of condom fit and feel.”—from Reece et al. Penile dimensions and men’s perceptions of condom fit and feel. Sex Transm Inf 2009;85;127-131;
9. Do men who wear condoms that do not fit properly have any sexual health problems?
Yes, plenty. An article published in 2010 reported that 45% of men complained that their condom did not fit correctly. These men had sexual health problems including increased rates of condom slippage and breakage, reduced pleasure for both partners, increased difficulty with orgasm, and early removal of condom.
• Crosby et al. Does it fit okay? Problems with condom use as a function of self-reported poor fit. Sex Transm Infect 2010 86: 36-38
10. Aren't there already a variety of condom sizes of the market?
Yes, but the range is narrow. In the UK, one leading brand's standard condom is 56mm in diameter and their XL condom is 57mm, for example. In the US, a leading brand’s XL condom has a diameter of 54mm. The largest TheyFit condom is 69mm in diameter by way of comparison - the smallest 41mm. The available range of typically available condoms sizes has not changed appreciably since those studies showed around 40-50% of men reporting that their condom did not fit.
11. What can be done to fix this problem?
The ISO and the ASTM are currently revising their condom standards and both are considering expanding the range of allowable sizes. Without approval by these organizations, it is nearly impossible to broadly expand the range of condom sizes allowable. Medical regulators in different countries should allow more consumer choice by allowing an expanded range of condom sizes. The point of this study is to demonstrate that, if given a choice, most people (7 out of 8) will choose a size different than that which they can currently purchase.
12. The study indicated that condoms are too long for most men. Can you elaborate?
The breaking properties of condoms are tested by inflating them using a 150 mm (6 inches) apparatus so most condoms are around 180 mm (7 inches) long as a result. However, surveys of men’s penis length show that the average man’s penis is around 5 inches long, so condoms are consequently too long for most men.
13. Doesn’t that extra roll of latex at the base do some good such as help with keeping erections?
The rolled up latex makes it painful for many men to don a condom over the glans. The extra latex serves no medical benefit as a barrier and can act as a tourniquet too. The fact that so many men say that their condom does not fit properly and that there is no rush to make extra long condoms so everyone can have rolled up latex at the base argues against it serving any useful purpose. Those wanting a tourniquet effect can easily buy a product designed for that purpose.
14. Why are the condoms in the expanded range of sizes available in Europe if they are outside of the range of the ISO/ASTM standards?
We presented a large amount of laboratory and clinical data to the European medical regulators in order to demonstrate that our expanded range of sizes was substantially equivalent to condoms already available for purchase in Europe. We are in the process of requesting permission from medical regulators in other countries.
15. Did you study the efficacy of fitted condoms?
This study was descriptive about which sizes were selected. A prior study compared fitted condoms to generic condoms and found similar breakage and slippage rates. The fitted condoms had better acceptability i.e. were felt to be more comfortable.
16. 95 sizes is a lot of sizes. Why so many?
Within 72 hours of launch, each of 14 lengths and each of 12 widths were sold. By comparison, there are many more than 95 sizes of shoes available, or to use another example – sizes of bras for women. The key to a comfortable fit is minimizing compromise – simply put, the more size combinations available, the less each man has to compromise and the better the condom will fit.
17. What do you hope to gain from this study?
Having multiple sizes of condoms is such a simple idea that it should have been allowed already. Interestingly some have argued against any need for additional condom sizes, ignoring the fact that nearly 50% of men complain about their condom fit and that condom usage rates are inadequate. Hopefully, the dramatic finding that when given a choice of an expanded range of condoms sizes, only 1 in 8 men choose a size that is allowable as per current regulations, will spur international standard organizations and medical regulators into allowing an expanded range of condom sizes.
18. How do you test your product? Do you test every condom size before sending them to consumers?
Standard sized condoms are tested by being filled with at least 18 liters of air to check for breakage and 300 cm3 of water to check for holes. Over the past few years thousands of condoms of many different sizes have been tested by international experts to develop similar testing methods for different sizes of condoms (i.e. larger condoms are tested with a proportionally larger amount of air and water; smaller condoms are tested with a proportionally smaller amount of air and water). Otherwise, the manufacturing and testing of an expanded range of condom sizes are identical to those used with standard sizes.
19. How are the sizes represented?
A letter and number combination represent the sizes in order to increase the feeling of anonymity for our consumers. We used non-sequential letters for lengths and numbers for widths rather than incremental measuring units such as inches or centimeters to select a condom size and safeguard men's privacy.
20. How do people get their measurements?
Men can measure themselves by using one of our FitKits available online at www.theyfit.com. This will allow them to discover their unique custom fitting code that will give them the best fitting condom.
21. Where are the TheyFit condoms currently available?
TheyFit condoms were initially launched in the UK in December 2011 and are currently available for purchase throughout Europe. TheyFit has not yet asked other medical regulators for permission to launch in other areas but is in the process of doing so.
22. When will they be available in the US? Or when do you anticipate availability in the US?
We will soon be sending the FDA our request for selling an expanded range of sizes in the United States. We hope that the results from this study, in addition to the substantial work already done, will demonstrate the need to allow additional condom sizes on the US market. Additionally we are considering applying for approval in other countries after submitting to the FDA.
23. Are the condoms lubricated?
TheyFit condoms are pre-lubricated, colorless, and odorless.
24. What are they made of?
TheyFit condoms are made of latex and meet the strict safety requirements of the CE mark.
25. How many condoms come in a pack?
Six condoms come in a package with volume discounting for those who want to buy more.
26. What are the ordering options? Is there a trial period before ordering more?
We deliver six packs, and you can order 1, 2, 3, 4, or 10 packs at one time. They carry a 100% money back guarantee if you are not satisfied.
27. Will my size be printed on the condom box?
The size code is on the box - all boxes and foils look identical.
28. How long will delivery take?
It varies depending on delivery location. International deliveries can take a few days.