Condoms are safe to use and effective at preventing pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections. But some men will do anything to avoid them — even deluding themselves into thinking that corking their urethras with a piece of plastic during sex will protect them from spreading sperm and disease.
This kind of thinking has led to the emergence of Jiftip, a company peddling a protective film that covers the tip of the penis to allegedly prevent against infection and pregnancy. The company says the device, which is intended to be used instead of a male condom, will protect a man’s urethral opening during intercourse. This shield supposedly prevents the urethral opening from leaking sperm-containing pre-cum into his partner and stops his partner’s fluids from leaking into the opening, keeping everyone safe during sex.
The catch is that he must pull out and remove the plastic before ejaculation. Trying to keep the penis corked while ejaculating, the company warns, is not safe.
But neither is having sex with the Jiftip on.
The Jiftip, with its promise of protection against STIs and pregnancy, might sound like a good idea to people who don’t like using condoms. But here’s the problem: The company does not have any lab tests to back up its claims, and its claims are based on some strange logic. This example speaks for itself.
The device has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the group that regulates legitimate medical devices, such as condoms. The FDA considers condoms Class II medical devices, meaning they pose a greater risk than Class I devices, such as bandages, if they malfunction. Here’s an excerpt from a statement the FDA issued in 2004 regarding its authority to make sure condoms are made properly:
It is important to recognize that latex condoms for men are a well-made medical device that laboratory studies have shown to provide an essentially impermeable barrier to particles the size of STD pathogens. FDA has oversight responsibility to ensure that condoms are manufactured properly, and manufacturers - in turn - follow quality system regulations, including design controls, to ensure that their products do what they are intended to do: protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
“This product will not protect from HIV, HPV, or herpes. It is unknown if it protects from gonorrhea or chlamydia,” she said in a Twitter direct message. “It is unknown if it prevents pregnancy. It is unknown how the adhesive affects skin. It is unknown if men who cannot remove it in time could suffer urethral barotrauma from ejaculation (though I doubt the adhesive is that good). It is on par with suggesting men use a balloon or cling wrap.”
Beyond the fact that its device has not been proven safe or effective, Jiftip’s messaging is strongly and dangerously anti-condom. This image appears on the company’s website:
“The message that condoms interfere with sexual pleasure is irresponsible,” says Gunter.
As of this article’s publication, Jiftip had not responded to Inverse’s request for comment.
If you’re morbidly curious (we know you are) about how it works, there’s a NSFW instructional video that shows how to apply the Jiftip. Be warned: It includes a lot of penis wiping. It’s possible that the application process is so tedious it could keep impatient penis-havers from using it.
Even though the Jiftip is not FDA approved, the company downplays the importance of consumer protection. The company’s blog includes a post entitled “Is Jiftip For You?,” which introduces the laughable notion that using untested medical technology is just like any other life choice:
It’s worth acknowledging that risk is a part of almost everything we do in our daily lives, not just sex. We all make a rational choice to incur “acceptable risk” when we get into a car, or get a dental x-ray, or leave a child with a daycare provider. The real question is, is this level of risk appropriate to my situation? Is it a reasonable risk in my life, given my perception of the likely outcome?
Yes, these activities are risky. But they are not activities that people enter into blindly, trusting a sales pitch. Governmental agencies help consumers make informed choices in each of these examples. Your dentist’s x-ray machine underwent testing and certifications before it could be labeled safe and effective, just as your car did. And even though daycare typically doesn’t involve any medical devices, providers must be licensed.
So yeah, there’s a “rational choice to incur ‘acceptable risk’” in all these examples, but to equate them with an unapproved contraceptive is intellectually dishonest at best, and, at worst, it dangerously dismisses consumer protection in favor of uninformed personal responsibility.Photos via Jiftip, Flickr / Wesley Fryer