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Improve the Glove, Spread the Love: How "b condoms" Is Changing the Condom Game

An Interview With Jason Panda and Reggie Thornton of b condoms

February 13, 2013

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Reggie Thornton: Yeah. And I think, as heterosexual men, I think it's critical that we kind of alter our mentality. I'll be candid. I alluded to it earlier when I talked about how we can make reckless decisions, using bad judgment -- whether it's with one person, or whether it's with a hundred people. And I think we have to change the mentality of how we view condom use.

I always kind of joke with friends that know I'm in this. They say, "We think back and years ago, when Ol' Dirty Bastard from the Wu Tang Clan rapped, 'Oooo, baby, I like it raw'" -- and you look back at it and you're like, wow, that's kind of the mentality.

And it's only, I think, gotten worse, in terms of people kind of -- and especially heterosexual men, I think -- embracing this mentality that no condom use is somehow cool. So I think to Jason's point, we have to have open communication with others and, more important, with ourselves and say this mentality's got to stop. I think that coming from a heterosexual male, changing that mentality will be able to resonate and connect with other heterosexual men, I believe, in a greater way.

Olivia Ford: Where can we find b condoms out in our communities, whether for free or for purchase? And if we can't find them, what can we do to help make them available at our local stores or organizations or sex supply shops, or wherever we get our condoms?

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Jason Panda: Initially you can go to bcondoms.com. You can also go into your local Whole Foods Market. I know in New York City we're carried at almost all of the bodegas and corner stores in Harlem. We're also kind of spread in some of the other ones -- not as much in Brooklyn, but a little bit in Queens.

b condoms are available through a number of nonprofits here in New York City, whether it's National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Exponents, Iris House or others.

Outside of New York City, we're probably distributed by about seven or eight states right now, including the states of Georgia, Indiana and Florida -- a bunch of different states, as well as nonprofits. But people can support the movement by, if you have a relationship with a store and that's where you get your condoms, tell them that they need to carry b condoms.

Or, if you want to help us with the movement, reach out to us. We're always available at info@bcondoms.com. We're open to having anybody that can help us get this to the next level of support.

Reggie Thornton: We've got big plans in 2013, and we expect, really, to have tremendous growth. And I think anyone that is reading and knows anyone that is the person responsible for purchasing condoms; say, "Hey, where are b condoms?"

Because what we do know is that there are tens of thousands of people out there that are behind the brand that are supportive, and we're on a true mission. So I think to Jason's point, anybody that wants to help us with that mission, please reach out.

Mathew Rodriguez: I recently read something about people in the dating world who actually think the date that they have sex with a new partner without a condom is more significant than the date that they first have sex with that person. So, the question is: Do you think people romanticize barebacking within their relationships? And if so, why?

Reggie Thornton: I think so. You know, it's interesting. An article that just came out the other day saying that a lot of people think sex is actually better with condom use. I think it's a mixed bag.

"And I think any time you talk about condom use and why people will use them or why they won't use them, I think there are elements of closeness, of relationships, of trust, of caring, of love ..." -- Jason Panda

Clearly, I think, there's a certain role that pornography plays. And I'm not here to say whether it's good or bad; but is it imitation of art? You know, that whole thing.

I definitely think there's a romanticized thing about it. That's the challenge, I think, for any condom company. You know, we can have all the bells and whistles, but as long as you do have this kind of romanticized idea about barebacking, I think it always will be a challenge.

Jason Panda: And then I think a central issue amongst two people that are in a closed relationship is the element of love. And I think any time you talk about condom use and why people will use them or why they won't use them, I think there are elements of closeness, of relationships, of trust, of caring, of love, that I think, when it comes to two people that are in a relationship, a lot of times barebacking or, you know, not using a condom, becomes a deeper level of engagement -- a deeper level of trust. I trust you. I love you. I'm willing to take it to the next level with you.

And I think that's part of the reason for the romanticism may come around it. Some people express love in different ways. And I do think that, at the end of the day, you need to love yourself. And loving yourself is caring about yourself enough to care about your own health and your own personal wellness, as well as caring about the person that you're going to be with.

Reggie Thornton: I also think there's just a stupid mentality that's out there. It's almost as though it's a thing of conquer. Like, "Oh, I went up in there raw." You know? What does that mean? I think we all have to get to a point where we hear those words and think, "Wow; what is that person really saying when they say that?"

"It's almost as though it's a thing of conquer. Like, 'Oh, I went up in there raw.' You know? What does that mean?" -- Reggie Thornton

Olivia Ford: In closing: We do little features on Valentine's Day on our site pretty much every year. And we oftentimes ask people questions about their own experiences finding love. So I wondered if each of you would care to share sort of an anecdote or a piece of advice that you've learned about relationships, or about looking for love, that you'd like to share with our readers?

Jason Panda: Even when you're in the doghouse, you still need to love one another!

Olivia Ford: The doghouse!? Can you elaborate on that?

Reggie Thornton: In terms of a message for love: I think that each day brings a whole new set of challenges. And when you love someone, I think the challenges really aren't anything that's insurmountable, because you've got someone who loves you, and they've got your back. So I think that's really what my take on love is.

Jason Panda: Also, love is not easy, and it's something that evolves with time. The way that you love somebody today and the relationship that you have with somebody today isn't going to be the way that it's going to be in five years, or 10 years, or even looking further out into the future. And you have to be kind of willing, if you truly do love someone, to grow with them, and to grow with their changes, and be open to that.

Reggie Thornton: Being yourself is the best way you want someone loving you. When you are yourself and that person is loving you, then you're not going to feel that way. You know? It's when you go into it not necessarily loving yourself and bringing the best you; I think those are the relationships, a lot of times, that fail.

But then again, none of us really know.

Jason Panda: Love can be a messy business.

Olivia Ford: It sure can. It can, indeed. But thank goodness we have b condoms to help us through! On that note, thank you all so much for speaking with us today. I think you guys are so amazing.

Reggie Thornton: It's been awesome. We appreciate the opportunity.

Olivia Ford: Absolutely.

Mathew Rodriguez: Thank you for sitting down with us. I had a great time talking with you both.

Reggie Thornton: It's not every day you're asking Valentine's Day questions about barebacking, so that's always good.

Mathew Rodriguez: That's just how my mind works. Like, most people are picking out topics for Valentine's Day, and I'm like, "What do you think about barebacking?" It's what's on my mind.

This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.

Olivia Ford is the executive editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Mathew Rodriguez is the editorial project manager for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.


Copyright © 2013 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
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This article was provided by TheBody.com.

See Also
TheBody.com's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
HIV and Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
More Personal Accounts on African Americans and HIV


 

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