- A pair of latex underwear that costs R100 is now cleared by American regulators as STI protection for oral sex.
- Previously, only dental dams were available to protect people from STIs during oral.
- One user told the Times the vanilla-flavoured underwear, called Lorals, taste like a 'cookie.'
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For the first time, a type of underwear has been cleared by American regulators as protection to help reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) contracted through oral sex.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the thin, stretchy, flavoured, disposable underwear, called Lorals, on April 22 for use "as a barrier when engaging in oral/vaginal and oral/anal sex."
The underwear are only the second form of protection the FDA has okayed to protect against orally-acquired STIs. (The much older oral sex protection option, dental dams, are pretty unpopular.) The move also follows the FDA's authorisation of the first condom designed to reduce STI transmission during anal sex, in February.
Lorals an Instagram ad, Lorals says its combination of skin-tight fit and ultra-thin condom-grade latex fabric in the panties "means that you can feel everything through them" while performing or receiving oral sex.
"Lorals for Protection" come in two shapes (bikini and shortie) and cost $25 (R400) for a pack of four. The FDA did not require human clinical trials of these undies, but instead evaluated the thickness, elasticity, and strength of the product before clearance, as the New York Times first reported.
A Lorals user named Wisty, who has had sex with men and women and uses they/them pronouns, told the Times that the Lorals underwear made "it easier for me to enforce the boundaries that I wanted to."
Wisty told the Times they have herpes simplex and that using Lorals allowed them "to be able to still play and explore while having that comfort and safety of knowing that I'm protected from my fluids going everywhere."
'Like you're eating a cookie'
Shelly, another Lorals user, told the Times she bought the panties with her fiancé Ashton. Ashton recently had cancer-related surgery that made it difficult to use his tongue or taste like he used to.
The couple marvelled at the stretchiness and vanilla-flavouring of the panties, before eventually trying them out. Their experience went well.
Shelly said she could barely feel the undies on her, while Ashton told the Times they tasted "like you're eating a cookie."
Some gynaecologists say the vanilla flavouring isn't necessary. Dr. Jen Gunter was critical of the company's flavouring strategy back in 2018, when Lorals was not yet FDA cleared, and was still raising money on Indiegogo.
In a blog post, she said she was genuinely excited about the idea that "this could be an alternative to dental dams or cut up condoms! A hands free approach that does not require scissors would be great," but she also cautioned that scented "products like Lorals just reinforce the false belief that a normal vagina is somehow unpleasant."
The company says its panties can serve various purposes in addition to providing protection against STIs, for whenever people don't want to have direct skin-to-skin contact during oral sex. Other reasons people might want to use the undies, Lorals suggests, include being on a period, feeling sensitive or self-conscious, avoiding scratchy stubble, and avoiding poop.