'Speed Her Up, Slow Him Down' - Durex finally solve humanity's greatest sexual problem. Or not.

by Guest Blogger // 2 March 2012, 23:37

Tags: advertising, sex

Guest blogger Ludi Valentine tells us why the latest Durex campaign turns her off
durex.jpg

Oh dear, Durex. As though yet another voice in the cacophony telling us our sex lives aren't up to scratch, our vaginas aren't adequate, our orgasms abundant enough or fast enough, and our partners aren't virile enough, was exactly what we needed, Durex have just come out with this.

'Speed her up, slow him down' - a new and magical system designed to shoehorn our orgasms into a more socially approved form, simply through the use of a dubiously textured sheet of latex sprinkled with scary chemicals. Oh, dear.

These are old, old stereotypes at work here: men come fast, women come slowly, intercourse is the most 'real' or 'true' form of sex, simultaneous mutual orgasms from intercourse alone are the Holy Grail, so the apparent differences between male and female physiologies become a problem to be overcome.

There is a great deal that is harmful about a model of sexuality that articulates 'sex' as primarily meaning 'PIV intercourse'. Aside from othering and marginalising the very real sex lives of many queer people, disabled people and kinky people who don't have intercourse often or at all, it's pretty rubbish for het people as well. It sets up sex as a 'performance', where men must 'last' a long time, and women come easily from vaginal stimulation alone, for the sex (and the people) to be deemed as 'good'. It sidelines the clitoris, well-known to be the main female sexual organ, as well as other kinds of non-genital stimulation. In short, it is heteronormative, cock-focused, unrealistic and ridiculous.

Capitalism works by creating a problem and then selling the solution. Just as a myth of a 'perfect' body can be created entirely seperately to silly notions such as human anatomy, features of natural bodies labelled as deviating from this arbitrary ideal and so being wrong, and expensive modifications sold to fix them (I mean, who had heard of cellulite before cellulite cream was invented?) - so too can this idea of how sex 'should' be is popularised, simultaneous climax made an ideal, and deviations from that labelled as pathological and fixed with expensive products.

Only under a performance-based model of sex can there even be notions such as 'too fast' or 'too slow'. Only if something can be sold to 'cure' it can a person's sexual physiology be classed as 'wrong'.

Simultaneous orgasm is a goal that humanity (or at least, the universe of Cosmopolitan magazine) has apparently been chasing for ever, and Durex are making a lofty claim in suggesting they've finally found the answer. What sorts of magical substances are in these condoms that could possibly have such a powerful effect?

Oh, right. Anaesthetic on the inside, because numbing sensation in the name of improved sexual performance is definitely a sensible and pleasurable course of action. People, benzocaine is a *dental anaesthetic.* Who thought using this in sex was a good idea?! Textured ribs and dots on the outside, because if there's anything guaranteed to 'speed her up', it's sandpaper being rubbed in her cunt faster and faster by an increasingly numbed partner who is expecting the combination of his high-tech condoms and, er, 'slowed-down' mechanics to send her instantly into ecstatic spasms. I mean, really?

Sexuality researchers have said for decades that the majority of women cannot orgasm through intercourse alone, that they need clitoral stimulation as well, and that most need plenty of time as well. I'm amazed that 'speeding her up' through giving her nothing but more intercourse is still being promoted as a realistic and reasonable way to make sex better.

This is not the way to improve peoples' sex lives. Durex are not concerned with giving us better orgasms. However, the advice to invest time and energy in experimenting with fingers, tongues, toys and other kinds of sex would not sell as many gimmicks, so the anaesthetised sandpaper it is.

Ludi Valentine is a sex geek. She writes about queer sexualities, sex toys, anticapitalism and more on tumblr.

Image, by flickr user SimonQ錫濛譙, shows a close up of a Durex condom packet and is shared under a Creative Commons license.

Comments From You

SexierThanThou // Posted 03 March 2012 at 02:09

The timbre here is a little bit petty I feel. Actually,some might see some of the hyperbolic similies as mildly offensive.

For instance, "...designed to shoehorn our orgasms into a more socially approved form..."

A trivial, 40 sec, minamalist vignette is hardly indicative of some Orwellian scheme. It's not about being socially approved in some sinister sense, it's about appealing to the masses - business sense. This "model" of sexuality isn't being built by the scary corporations. The advert is simply attempting to appease the desires of Durex's target market. A target market which permits the company access the largest possible demographic. So yes, their content should abslutely fit the heteronoramative perspective, because that's who they're appealing to. They're not suggesting that alternative visions of sexuality are wrong, nor are they suggesting that "fingers" and "the clitoris" are extraneous to the pursuit of pleasure simply by focussing this particular commercial skit on PIV. In fact Durex do indeed have a line of products designed for purposes other than penetration (so clearly they believe the "advice to invest time and energy in experimenting with fingers, tongues, toys and other kinds of sex" is marketable).

When I see a jeremiad like this I'm reminded of all those pots and kettles. Here:

"...sandpaper being rubbed in her cunt faster and faster by an increasingly numbed partner..."

Tell me that that haranguing polemic isn't gonna raise the eyebrows of the many men and women that genuinely enjoy using textured aides and that might actually want to trade a mild amount of sensation for greater longevity.

"...performance-based model of sex..."

Is it inherently wrong to think of sexual pleasure as both a spectrum and a result of effort & ability? What's wrong with minor amounts of humorous pride in having a particularly satisfying session?

"These are old, old stereotypes at work here: men come fast, women come slowly..."

Yes, but this stereotype is born in truth as the article itself attests to:

"...and that most need plenty of time as well."

It's not a matter of treating nature as abnormal or abhorent. It's not even suggesting that any particular person's "sexual physiology is 'wrong'". No, it's taking two anecodotal truths (or apocryphal beliefs, if you really believe that) to come up with a saleable product:

1 Men tend to orgasm quicker than women
2 Hetero couples do see 'simultaneous orgasms' as rarely attainable but immensely desirable

I don't see what's so reprehensible in any of that.

sohcahtoa // Posted 03 March 2012 at 10:17

Nothing much to add, other than that I'm glad that it's not just me for whom the 'textured ribs and dots' felt like sandpaper (I sure everyone's different, but...ouch). Also, don't forget the tingly and strangely flavoured lubricants that can cause irritation and thrush, but which we need to use because the tastes and sensations of our real bodies aren't enough, are they?

Lisa // Posted 04 March 2012 at 11:38

Your paragraph beginning "Oh, right" cracks me up. Awesome writing!

> Only under a performance-based model of sex can there
> even be notions such as 'too fast' or 'too slow'. Only if
> something can be sold to 'cure' it can a person's sexual
> physiology be classed as 'wrong'.

This was the only bit I wanted to say something specific about - I agree that there are definitely strong links between pathologization of sexual physiology and selling products. But women's sexual physiology has been classed as 'wrong' since long before capitalism. This is just the present day version - to borrow very loosely from Rebecca West, this kind of product is what is sold when people express sentiments which differentiate their vaginas from a Fleshlight.

Tara // Posted 05 March 2012 at 09:31

Just felt like I needed to express something on the contrary to some of SexierThanThou's statements (most of which seemed quite pragmatic and understandable).

On a personal level, I have been bothered by this advertisement. Two vinyls representing opposites in synonymity with a heterosexual relationship? Females are slow, males are fast? This acquiescence to heteronormative stereotyping makes no sense to me as I've received free durex condoms in rainbow packets supporting gay pride, they weren't altered in any way past the packaging, just a basic condom that appeals to everyone who doesn't want STDs/Babies. Which, sure enough, may suggest they're attempting to tailor to everyones needs, but it's that exact assumptive categorisation and definition of every set of female/male reproductive organs that is the issue (I'll get onto that later). The most relied-upon condom company in the UK, supplied in some places for free, is now reinforcing sex-roles as innate and natural, even -oppositional-, and that only a product can aid your sex life. "Oh hello again gender binary, I'm still not cissexual!"

While one might argue that their target demographic is heteronormative and this explains away any irritating sexual stereotypes, why have they popped their advert afront every single bloody video on youtube? As if every video in Vevo on youtube is a signifier of heternormatism (that's another discussion). Now I'm not offended that some people -do- perceive and experience hetero sexual intercourse in the way outlined in the advert- it's clear they exist en masse- But to think that someone who isn't heteronormative would be soothed by the explanation of "these stereotypes aren't "built by the scary corporations"? That's just missing the point; I don't want to associate with who engendered these binarial sexual definitions, "scary corporations" or not, and I'm not bothered that they're constructed or "built" because that's obvious- heck that's my main viewpoint.

The point- this sexually-reductive stereotype is -reinforced- to me every single time I want to watch Stupid Hoe on youtube.

"1 Men tend to orgasm quicker than women
2 Hetero couples do see 'simultaneous orgasms' as rarely attainable but immensely desirable

I don't see what's so reprehensible in any of that."

1. I've never experienced this as a rule, so I can't testify toward it. Sometimes I finish quicker, sometimes he does, sometimes we orgasm mutually. But I'll take your word for it, and sure, that's not a problem.
2. Hetero couple here, and we don't see them as either rarely attainable or immensely desirable. Sometimes they happen, and that's just as fine as when they don't, because both instances are mutually gratifying. So even if my partner did tend to ejaculate prematurely, all I could imagine drawing me to this benzocaine condom is the pure mystery and curiosity of it. It definitely would not be a solution- there's no problem.

We can all accept these stereotypes unfortunately exist, and that some people live by them- but in durex's new end to financial gain, they've exploited the untruth that genitals are innately made as the advert describes. That's why it's a physical product- it's a direct administration of drugs to your genitals. They're upgrading sexual roles from an intangible "built" ideal, simply foisted upon us- to a palpable, physiological problem. That problem equating to: everything that inhibits mutual orgasm, because that's obviously what your genitals are meant to do. They're not promoting a book explaining a variety of other sexual practices that could help mutual orgasm, it's not a sexual counselling class, it's definitely not a day in bed with your partner working out what's best for you both. The intervention of a drugged sheath of latex is the medicine to solving something that isn't even a problem- we're just told it is. You see, I experience none of the supposed, aforementioned slowness- and even if I do, or if my partner is fast, we never perceive it as something we'd like to fix, it just seems natural. So when Durex imposes that physiological accusation on my genitals, it really rubs me up the wrong way. Just sayin'.

JessLeeds // Posted 05 March 2012 at 10:31

I am durex's 'target market' and I think this is utter utter bollocks. I don't want a condom that 'slows him down', I want a condom that 'keeps him erect for longer than 30 seconds whilst still being thick enough to stop his sperm passing into my vagina'. Find one of them and I am ALL OVER THAT, DUREX.

That is all.

Rose // Posted 05 March 2012 at 11:43

Yeah, that ad made me wanna reach for my crowbar...... .

I personally go for the idea that it doesn't take long with a good partner when you both know your bodies, plus women being quite multiorgasmic creatures... well, their idea of sex seemed boring and insulting.

Anyone that suggests that all women just like slow romantic sex, and need 'speeding up', (as there is that nasty little element to the ad), well, I wouldn't trust their advice as a sex expert!

JP // Posted 06 March 2012 at 20:01

This isn't the first local anaesthetic condom I've ever seen, and the concept has always horrified me. If I'm sleeping with someone, I want him to enjoy it. There's often too much focus given to "performance" in the bedroom rather than just enjoyment.

Also, I tried ribbed condoms once, and it was like shagging a cheese grater. Definitely not for everyone.

Lisa // Posted 29 January 2013 at 12:25

(Here via the "top posts of 2012 link) - reading my comment above and shaking my head, I wouldn't write that now; our feminisms change and grow.

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