The internet has been in a frenzy with the latest trend in sexual health: pickle condoms. According to the BBC, Indian manufacturer Manforce added a spicy pickle flavor to its lineup of flavored rubbers. While many have questioned the company’s logic behind the newest offering, Quartz examined the country’s condom industry in May. They found that flavored condoms actually make up between 50 and 70 percent of the market.
While condom use remains low in India, companies hope to target younger customers with offbeat options. “This is the third phase of evolution, where condom makers want to be seen as ‘cool,’ as opposed to the 60s and 90s when they were meant for awareness and pleasure (respectively),” Hari Desikan, Chennai branch head at advertising agency Rediffusion YR, explained to Quartz.
The approach seems to have paid off. Vishal Vyas, marketing general manager at Skore Condoms based in India, explained to the website that 40 percent of the company’s sales come from flavored varieties, which have experienced a boost in popularity.
“Flavours weren’t big, say five-to-six years ago,” Vyas said.
Some sexual health experts believe that the popularity of flavored condoms is also spurring more oral sex.
In the United States, flavored condoms are available, though the flavors are a little more basic than spicy pickle. Medical professionals here also hope that making condoms appealing with fun flavors will encourage people to use them during oral. According to the Centers For Disease Control, infections including gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, herpes, HPV and HIV can be spread through the activity.
According to the CDC, more than 85 percent of sexually active adults between 18 and 44 have had oral sex at least once. The likelihood of getting a Sexually Transmitted Infection depends on many factors, but the organization says that poor oral health, sores on the genitals or in the mouth and exposure to pre-cum can increase the risks.
Many infections are treatable, but some are becoming drug-resistant. In July, the World Health Organization warned that gonorrhea was becoming much harder to treat with antibiotics.
“The bacteria that cause gonorrhoea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them," Dr. Teodora Wi, Medical Officer, Human Reproduction, at WHO, said in a statement.
Unfortunately, developing new antibiotics isn’t lucrative for most pharmaceutical companies as the medication is only needed for short bouts. Since they would eventually become less effective, new versions would need to be developed, making it a poor business decision.
As STI rates have risen, many health professionals are urging people to take extra precautions when engaging in sex. New York physician Dr. Demetre Daskalakis told Metro newspaper that oral sex should be treated as traditional intercourse. “Anecdotally, speaking as a medical provider, very few people use condoms for oral sex,” Daskalakis said. “No matter if [the condom] is flavored or not, try to work in that space of reality; if you use it, test it. If you use your mouth for oral sex, you need to get it tested.”