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If you can build a better (more pleasurable) condom, Bill Gates has $100,000 for you

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates attends the Allen & Co Media Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho July 12, 2012.


Bill Gates wants you to have maximum pleasure. Melinda does, too.

That's why the moneybucks behind Grand Challenges in Global Health, a research foundation established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have pledged $100,000 (U.S.) to the inventor of a condom that will leave us panting for more, reports.

After all, nothing says "I love safe sex" like a rubber that doesn't feel like a raincoat.

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As the foundation's official call for entries noted at length, condoms are god's gift to birth control and disease prevention. They do not require a prescription or assistance from a health-care provider, and when used properly, they help prevent pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections.

Too bad condoms leave so much to be desired. As the foundation put it, "the primary drawback from the male perspective is that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom, creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable." Similarly, female condoms are expensive and hard to insert. In other words, they both suck.

Pleasurable condoms may seem like a first-world problem. Commenting at, kaitzi expressed frustration with "the whole 'condoms reduce sensitivity!' whining." Many women don't have orgasms at all, Kaizi wrote, and "if you can orgasm while wearing a condom, it can't be THAT bad."

But as Gawker reader dayman_nm pointed out, condoms exist outside the Western world. A North American woman might be able to insist that her partner wear a condom (or take a hike). But "women in Niger? Not so much."

The call for entries was clear that no funding would be given to concepts that would prove too expensive for use in the developing world.

Nevertheless, the funders are looking for a "Next Generation Condom." They noted that condoms have undergone very little technological improvement in the past 50 years. (Clearly, they are unimpressed with the array of ultra-thin condoms sporting ribs, dots and studs designed to boost ecstasy for him and her – or him and him, as the case may be.)

The winning entry will either propose a blissful new condom material, draw on neurobiology (the pleasure centres of the brain) and vascular biology (presumably to increase blood flow) or create a new condom design to "provide an improved user experience."

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Gates himself must have had a hand in drafting the document. Only a computer geek would refer to sex with a condom as a "user experience."

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More


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