The Four-Handed Condom

Content warning: rape.

You’ve probably seen the news about people taking a technological look at the issue of consent, lately. One thing that’s been getting a lot of attention is the Tulipán Placer Consentido, an Argentinian condom which comes in a packet that requires the cooperation of two pairs of hands to open it.

Four hands opening a Placer Consentido packet
I’ve seen simpler escape room puzzles.

Naturally, the Internet’s been all over this shit, pointing out how actually you can probably open it with just two hands [YouTube], how it’s inaccessible [YouTube] to people with a variety of disabilities, and how it misses the point by implying that once the condom is on, consent is irrevocable. A significant number of its critics try to make their claims more-sensational by describing the Placer Consentido as “a real product”, which is a bit of an exaggeration: it was a seemingly one-off promotional giveaway by its creators: it doesn’t look to be appearing on their store pages.

Hands moving to the magic pressure points on a condom packet.
Move your fingers just a bit lower. No… up a bit. Yes! Right there! That’s the spot!

One fundamental flaw with the concept that nobody seems to have pointed out (unless perhaps in Spanish), is that – even assuming the clever packaging works perfectly – all that you can actually consent to with such a device is the use of a condom. Given that rape can be and often is committed coercively rather than physically – e.g. through fear, blackmail, or obligation rather than by force – consent to use of a condom by one of the parties shouldn’t be conflated with consent to a sexual act: it may just be preferable to it without, if that seems to be the alternative.

Indeed, all of these technical “solutions” to rape seem to focus on the wrong part of the process. Making sure that an agreement is established isn’t a hard problem, algorithmically-speaking (digital signatures with split-key cryptography has given us perhaps the strongest possible solution to the problem for forty years now)! The hard problem here is in getting people to think about what rape is and to act appropriately to one another. Y’know: it’s a people problem, not a technology problem! (Unshocker.)

"It's a no", from the advertisment.
“If it’s not a yes, it’s a no.” If you ignore the product, the ad itself is on-message.

But even though they’re perhaps functionally-useless, I’m still glad that people are making these product prototypes. As the news coverage kicked off by the #MeToo movement wanes, its valuable to keep that wave of news going: the issues faced by the victims of sexual assault and rape haven’t gone away! Products like these may well be pointless in the real world, but they’re a vehicle to keep talking about consent and its importance. Keeping the issue in the limelight is helpful, because it forces people to continually re-evaluate their position on sex and consent, which makes for a healthy and progressive society.

So I’m looking forward to whatever stupid thing we come up with next. Bring it on, innovators! Just don’t take your invention too seriously: you’re not going to “fix” rape with it, but at least you can keep us talking about it.

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Oh Joy Sex Toy - Vasectomy

This comic from the fabulous Oh Joy Sex Toy folks gives a pretty good explanation of vasectomy that mirrors my experience (part one, part two)… except for the fact that I didn’t have this dude’s anxiety issue and was instead (according to the surgeon) “creepily interested” in the nitty-gritty of what he was up to!

Contraception advice please Claire Q!

Liz wrote:

A huge thank you to everyone who posted support last week. I felt alot better knowing that other people believed me.

Thankfully simon believed me too and the whole thing has made us a lot stronger.

Could I please ask for some advice from claire. Simon and i are having incredibly bad luck. The second condom in a month broke this morning and I am going to go yet again to have the morning after pill when the shops re-open tomorrow. I have been reading about getting an IUCD fitted and i was wondering about the logistics of it. I read that a doctor would need to fit it which is fine but do I ring my GP 3 hours drive away and ask for an appintment to talk about it, or can I get it sorted more quickly by contacting the sexual health clinic here and asking them if they can fit me in some time. I have no idea what questions i should be asking to be honest. i know the general things that the NHS can tell me about what the IUCD is and what the side effects are, that I will need a local anaethetic etc. I just need to get it sorted soon and i don’t want to go on the pill agai. I was crap at remembering to take them.

Oh my goodness though, guess what? I crashed my car into a post on friday night.

I’m really not having good luck at the moment.

At least i’m in love.


I’m sure Claire will post something soon. In the meantime, a quick conversation with her yeilded the following suggestions from the pair of us (we’ve been drinking, and we expect you’ll appreciate a sober answer from her tomorrow):

  • Before diving into the IUCD as a solution, be aware of some of the alternatives: Claire and I successfully used the injectable contraceptive for about a year, maybe more, without problem. You get an injection once every three months, so it’s hard to forget (and you can be up to a week late and still be covered), and it works in the same way as the pill, so if you’ve taken that without side-effect before, it’ll “work” for you. Plus, after the second or so injection, your periods will stop as your hormones become “levelled out”. Downsides: well, it’s an injection in the arse. It can be performed by any sexual health nurse, so you could probably get it done, like, tomorrow if you so wished.
  • Also consider the implant. Works the same way, again, but lasts 3-5 years. You *can* feel it in your arm, if you know where to fondle, but it’s otherwise very discreet. It’s added under local anasthetic, and is apparently only uncomfortable for a couple of days (and again when it’s removed or replaced).
  • Okay, now we’ll get onto the coil. I’ll share with you some of my experience of it, but bear in mind that Claire will undoubtedly have a lot more to say. Claire initially reported some discomfort and pain when having it inserted, owing to her small cervix (before 1990 or so, the IUD would typically only be offered to women who had given birth before, to reduce the risk of repeatedly jabbing the cervix with what is essentially a plastic tube from a biro). We decided on the IUCD based on several factors, including the fact that it lasts longer than the implant and that there is no local practitioner qualified to do the implant – factors that may not be relevant to you or have different importance weightings. In addition, there have been half a dozen times when I’ve felt the (quite sharp, be warned) “tails” of the coil during sex, and on one ocassion even managed to leave a mark. It’s always possible to maneuver the tails into a different position (either with a well-placed finger or simply by shifting sexual positions). Okay, disadvantages aside: the IUCD works from the second it goes in, can be used as a substitute to emergency contraception (so if you can find a doctor tomorrow, you’re laughing), and you’re theoretically fertile again from the second it comes out. Apparently there’s a risk that it can come out of it’s own accord (happened to an aunt of mine once), but again, for a non-mother, it’s very unlikely.

Did I mention you have to have check-ups on the coil for weight gain? Perhaps you do for the implant, too, but – if you can stomach it – the implant seems to me to be a preferable option. Just my thoughts.

Oh; and if you’re considering switching from a barrier to a hormonal method of contraception, and you haven’t already, it’s a great excuse to get tested for all the other things a barrier keeps you safe from. Make a day trip of it and see the STD nurse: you know you want to!

Good luck with it. Claire and I are, I’m sure, available for whatever questions you can throw at us – between us, we’ve tried pretty much every contraceptive method under the sun.

Thursday Afternoon

Good progress at work today, easily catching up on the things I didn’t get done yesterday on account of having been at the Royal Welsh Show.

AbNib is proving itself popular, but I’m still not happy with it: there are a load of really cool features I’d like to add, yet. But that’s a job for another day. I’ll be up in Lancashire this weekend for Andy‘s party and to visit my folks, so I can’t do it then, either.

Claire’s gotten herself temporarily sterilized with a fantastic hyperdermic full of progesterone and with the aid of the nice people at Aberystwyth Family Planning Clinic. Woo and indeed hoo. She’s (theoretically) a lot less likely to forget to have an injection every three months than she is to forget to take the pill: something she’s demonstrated herself to be very proficient at.

I’ve been excessivley stressed for the last 48 or so hours. I think it’s mostly a result of having no money and my paycheque still being a week away, and having to live off my credit card in the meantime (which I don’t like doing). Also that my crisp-wound in my mouth from the other day has developed into a spot which would probably heal faster and hurt less if I could stop playing with it, but I can’t. And that I’m not making nearly as much coding progress on Three Rings as I should be.

I have a strange urge to go for a long walk in the rain this evening. I hope it rains.