Move Over Trojans, Condoms Appeal to Crunchy Women


Founded by Talia Frenkel, a photojournalist who said she witnessed the effects of HIV/AIDS in Southeast Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the company's marketing motto is: "better condoms = better sex."

In a recent promotion online, L Condoms shows a romantic "good man" in a forest luring women with his social consciousness.

"L conjures up the right things in the female and the male imagination -- love and lust," Frenkel told

"It was shocking to me when I came back to the U.S. and saw the lack of innovation in the condom market," she said. "This was an opportunity to make something different."

Frenkel said the company "purifies" its latex to avoid the most common complaints about condoms: "They are physically irritating, uncomfortable and they dry out and smell bad."

Like the Hollenders, she said L Condom was targeting female buyers.

"Most condom purchases are made by women and they are being ignored in the condom aisle," said Frenkel. "Sex looks like an act of war. It doesn't resonate with modern men or women."

L Condoms, which can be found at CVS, says it donates one condom to Third World HIV/AIDS prevention programs for every condom purchased in the United States.

If the two companies' marketing strategies are successful in making women feel more comfortable buying condoms, it could help reverse the trend of condom use going down in the United States.

According to a 2012 National Health Statistics Report, 62 percent of women of reproductive age use birth control and the most preferred methods are the pill and sterilization. Condom use declined from 20 percent to 16 percent between 1995 and 2006 to 2010.

"The decrease in condom use was largest among teenagers," according to the report. In women aged 15 to 19, condom used dropped from 36 percent to 20 percent in the same time period, the report said.

Meika Hollender said she wants to reverse that trend by appealing to millennial women and their values with her company's Sustain condom.

She said she hopes to address a myriad of world issues -- population increase, climate change, poverty, hunger and fair trade.

"I wanted to choose an issue that would resonate with my generation and with women," she said.

Statistics show sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, are on the rise, with the greatest increases among women and young people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at estimated 1.1 million Americans aged 13 and older are living with an HIV infection, including about 200,000 whose infections have not been diagnosed. The number of new infections among men aged 13 to 24 who have sex with men has jumped by 22 percent, says the CDC. Nearly two-thirds of all new infections are among Latino and black women.

"The AIDS crisis has fallen in the background," Meika Hollender said. "People really don't see HIV and STDs as a big a threat."

Another carrot on the stick is the Hollenders' pledge to divert 10 percent of the company's future sales to women's reproductive and family planning care in their nonprofit arm, 10%4Women, which will be run by Meika and her mother, Sheila Hollender.

"We don't want to just donate products," Meika Hollender said. "There's an educational gap if we just hand out condoms. We want to complete the whole circle providing education and the product."

Soon, women can find Sustain in stores like Whole Foods, she said.

"Our mission is to be a positive force in society -- that's the way I was raised," said Hollender, who grew up in both New York City and Vermont. "Ten years ago if you'd ask me if I'd be a condom salesman, I'd say, 'Probably not.'"

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