These 'then' vs 'now' stories show how attitudes towards condoms are changing

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There shouldn’t be anything awkward about buying or using condoms, but is there anything worse than the knowing silence between you and the chemist when you buy a pack? It’s about time that changed…

There’s a point in most people’s lives where condoms are a source of humour. But mostly it’s horrifying embarrassment. 

Admittedly, that might have been in high school when boys were putting them over their heads, or during early sexual experiences when you weren’t entirely sure how to put them on (thanks so much, sex ed).

But for many of us, the odd shame surrounding them has taken some time to shake off, whether you’re buying condoms at the chemist, or one has fallen out your purse.

Thankfully, we’re in a time of increasing sexual progressiveness, openness and understanding, particularly from a female-identifying perspective. 

And there are condom brands taking that on board. Take Hanx, which boasts Instagram-worthy packaging, and are 100% natural, vegan and subtly scented (and they have a subscription service that delivers to you). 

So, to illustrate the shift in conversation (and feelings) around condoms, we spoke to five women about how their attitudes have changed…

The pink box

Joanne, Bristol

Then: “When I was 16 and going out with my first boyfriend, I used to visit the family planning clinic and stock up on condoms. I’d scurry back home and stash them in a pink plastic safe I’d had since I was a kid to hide them from my parents.” 

Now: “I wouldn’t think twice about leaving condom packets scattered across my bedroom floor. No one would care if they saw them anyway - the condoms I use could pass as a beauty product.” 

The new singleton

Tina, Manchester

Then: “I was married for 12 years and my husband never once wore a condom (and contraception was sorted by me, of course).” 

Now: “Now I’m newly single, I have no qualms about asking for condoms - not that I’ve had much practice (yet). After all, if it ain’t on, it ain’t on.”

The reclaiming

Emma, London   

Then: “I used to feel sick asking sexual partners whether they had protection. I’m not entirely sure why - maybe it was just inexperience, my serious social anxiety or just a fear that it would ‘ruin the moment’. 

If I’m being honest, the whole ‘having to ask’ routine did make the whole experience less enjoyable.”

Now: “I have my own little pack in my handbag I carry with me all the time (you never know). I figured the only way to deal with the above was to take things into my own hands. 

Now I whip out my own pack and barely have to say anything. It’s kind of changed sex for me.”

The wallet sneak

Shannon, London

Then: “When I was in high school, my brother used to hide the odd condom in my mum’s wallet, so it would fall out when she was at the supermarket checkout. We thought it was hilarious.”

Now: “While I was backpacking across Europe in my 20s, my boyfriend was too embarrassed to buy condoms, so I always ended up having to buy them. It pissed me off for years after.

Now, as a single mum, my three kids sometimes find an old condom in a drawer somewhere, and all I can do is laugh.”

The puppy incident

Simone, Manchester

Then: “I used to be mortified buying condoms. My biggest fear, though, was one falling out of my purse in front of someone. I once dropped a packet on a packed train and the ground could have swallowed me up.”

Now: “The morning after a date that went surprisingly well, I popped out of his room to go to the toilet and left the bedroom door ajar.

While I was in the bathroom, his flatmate’s new puppy came in, found a condom packet next to the bed and scattered them all along the corridor and down to kitchen where all his flatmates were having breakfast. We all just saw the funny side.”

Hanx is changing the way women think about condoms, and Stylist readers can claim 25% off the subscription service. Just enter the code STYLIST25 at the checkout. Try it now