A new birth control product is promising men it will make them “fall in love with sex all over again.”
However, experts say it doesn’t prevent pregnancy or protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The Jiftip is a sticker placed over a man’s urethra prior to sexual activity.
It’s composed of polyurethane film and a strong adhesive that attaches to the head of the penis.
Unlike a traditional condom, the majority of the penis is left uncovered during sexual activity.
“This product does not prevent against pregnancy. There is no study about it,” Dr. Darius Paduch, a urologist and director of sexual health and medicine at New York-Presbyterian and Weill-Cornell Medicine, told Healthline.
“Even from the perspective of me as an expert in this area, the strongest message is that this product does not prevent pregnancy and does not prevent STDs,” Paduch added.
It’s not a condom alternative
According to the Jiftip website, the product “is not an alternative to condoms.”
However, it’s clear that’s what the product really is.
In fact, the website states that the product is intended for those who “prefer unwrapped.”
Finally comes the legal disclaimer: “Jiftip makes no health, prevention, or medical claims.”
June Gupta, associate director of medical standards at Planned Parenthood, told Healthline, “[E]veryone deserves a sex life that is safe and healthy, which is why we encourage people to protect themselves and their partners by using barriers that have been scientifically tested and proven to reduce the risk of both sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy.”
When contacted by Healthline, a Jiftip representative from the company said that the product is an instance in which research lags behind the innovation.
“Research what the doctors and science were saying back when the IUD [intrauterine device] was introduced. Is it safe for everyone today?” the representative said.
Speaking of research, there isn’t any, according to other experts contacted by Healthline.
“For men, there is nothing other than the condom which is proven and studied clinically to prevent pregnancy,” said Paduch.
Explaining the risks
Nonetheless, Jiftip will undoubtedly appeal to some, but experts say the risks of the device should be made patently clear.
Paduch explains that many STDs, including syphilis and herpes, aren’t even transmitted through the semen itself.
Instead many diseases are transferred via micro abrasions — small cuts and tears on the penis and vagina that can occur during sex.
The Jiftip also creates another interesting health dilemma because the semen doesn’t leave the penis — a phenomenon sometimes called “injaculation.”
While there are no problems associated with the Jiftip forcibly keeping semen in the urethra, the buildup can be problematic if not cared for immediately.
“This product would really have to advise men to remove it once you ejaculate because the semen is full of fructose. And during sex you’re not only exposed to your own bacteria but you’re also exposed to the bacteria of your partner, whether it’s oral or vaginal or anal, whatever it is,” said Paduch.
There is a risk of developing an overgrowth of bacteria, leading to urethral or urinary tract infection, he explained, but said the chances are low.
Semen is usually cleared from the urethra through urination.
The current state of condoms
The debate over Jiftip does raise important questions about the current state of prophylactics.
Among them: Are men still so unwilling to wear condoms that they will go to greater lengths to avoid them?
Planned Parenthood points to a study from this year that overall condom use in the United States is actually up — 14 percent more men are using condoms.
“Contrary to popular myth, people who use condoms rate their sexual experiences as just as pleasurable as people who don’t,” said Gupta. “And many people say they find sex more enjoyable when they use condoms because they aren’t worrying about STIs or unintended pregnancy. So using condoms can actually be a good way to feel more relaxed about your sex life.”
“There’s this entire idea that if you put on a condom you’re going to lose sensation, but it’s not really supported by any of my experiences as a professional in sexual medicine,” Paduch said.
Nonetheless, he says that Jiftip does indicate an “absolute need” to study new and better contraceptives.
“For right now, there is no replacement for the condom,” Paduch said.
Gupta said that a healthy and pleasurable sex life involves communication, as well as appropriate protection.
“Stress that your health (and your partner’s health) is your priority. Sometimes it’s about finding the right type of condom, using condoms along with lube, or reassuring your partner about why you want to use them,” she said.