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Working Woman. 1985 Oct; 68, 72, 74.Liberation in combination with legislation gives new life to condoms, which now find their way into the purses, brief cases, and shopping carts of increasing numbers of women. The number of female buyers of condoms has risen from 15% in the mid-1970s to perhaps as high as 40% today, thanks to the increasing number of women who are dissatisfied with contraceptive alternatives and a condom industry that is playing to its growing female audience with new packaging and marketing methods. The condom has a distinct advantage in an age when women are more concerned and knowledgeable about their bodies than ever before. The condom has no side effects. The $200 million-a-year condom industry enjoys a current growth rate in sales of about 12%. This is not too bad for a product that has been termed "16th century technology." Currently, Youngs, Schmid, and approximately 4 dozen other US condom companies mold, dry, test, roll and pack nearly 1000 condoms a minute, 400-500 million condoms a year. The Japanese buy 612 million condoms a year. Fewer than 15% of all US couples use condoms, which account for a quarter of the $800 million-a-year contraceptive industry. The growth in condoms was steady until about 3 years ago when it really started to move. There are 3 reasons for the growth spurt. In 1977, the Supreme Court struck down some lingering blue-nosed state laws that regulated who could buy condoms (not minors), where and why they could be sold (only in pharmacies for "disease control" rather than for contraception), how they could be advertised to the public (not at all), and where they could be displayed (out of sight). At the same time, a number of female contraceptive methods considerably trendier and more sophisticated than condoms fell into public, if not medical, disrepute. Finally, venereal diseases have grown in number to fill a category called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that includes more than 30 ailments. Condoms are the only contraceptives that also are effective venereal disease barriers. Consequently, condoms moved from under the counter to in front of it. Most notable of the condom industry's recent innovations have been unisex merchandising. It was decided that a lot more women would buy condoms if the packaging had femine appeal. With or without a yuppie clientele, the condom business is so healthy that existing advertising strictures have not hampered sales. Women are the primary purchasers of condoms in pharmacies and grocery stores.