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No, I don’t sell Condos. I sell Condoms.

Meika Hollender is co-founder of Sustain Condoms and specialist in sexual health.

“The green real estate business is really booming right now, good for you!”. I meet new people almost every day whomistake my industry for “sustainable condos”.

I’m not in the real estate business, i’m a 26-year-old sustainable condom entrepreneur. Twelve months into starting a condom business, I am still amazed by how people react to condoms and, more generally, to sex. The reactions are a mix of embarrassment, shock, a change of subject, or, in some cases,an offer to ‘test out’ our product. There is no doubt that our culture is still sexually repressed in many ways. Sex, even safe sex, is generally a taboo subject. I’m here to change that.

Throughout the entire (still ongoing) Hobby Lobby debate, a ton of news outlets have dedicated space to explaining all the other ‘non-sex’ related reasons women use birth control. One writer did the total opposite. She called out all these other females who were trying to explain the ‘OTHER’ benefits of birth control and explained that as a society, and especially as women, we should not have cite other ‘non-sexual’ reasons as to why we use birth control because there is nothing wrong with having casual sex if you’re being safe. If you look at everything from wage discrepancy to the arrest of condom-carrying women as evidence of prostitution it becomes clear that we live in a world where women and men are not treated equally, especially when it comes to their sexuality.

A few months ago, I started talking to a young guy at a bar.When I told him what I do, he quickly whipped out a condom from his back pocket with an ‘aren’t you proud of me’ grin on his face. I was pleased and surprised. “That’s great!” I said.“Do you carry them around whenever you go out?” He replied, “Yeah, but a lot of times when I’m about to have sex with a girl and she sees me reach for the condom she says ‘It’s okay, I trust you.’” Oh god. Not only are women embarrassed and uncomfortable buying condoms but now they feel like they aren’t even necessary. Due to a combination of not enough sex education, low STD/HIV awareness and traditional gender stereotypes, my generation may be seriously in trouble.

I recently graduated from business school, where I was surrounded by smart, educated and confident women. Ninety percent of my female peers admitted to being embarrassed and uncomfortable when purchasing condoms, findings that were confirmed by more extensive research. And worse, my male peers readily explained to me that if they were hooking up with a girl and she had condoms with her, they would immediately assume she, as they put it so gently, “gets around.” These stereotypes and behaviors are alive and well. I’m here to tell my generation that sex is part of a natural, healthy life. Treating it as something that needs to be discussed behind closed doors is a major factor in the declining rates of safe sex and rising rates of STDs.

People often ask me why I do what I do. I am a millennial woman, and I sell sustainable condoms because I want us to take safe sex into our own hands. I work to remove the stigma around women buying and carrying condoms. I want to empower women to feel good about their sexuality and protect themselves accordingly. I want to educate women about why our sexual health is just as critical as our mental and physical health. My generation has proven that women are powerful, insanely intelligent and capable beings. We are CEOs, entrepreneurs, owners, mothers, and educators.There is no reason that we should be embarrassed, ashamed or uncomfortable when it comes to getting on top of our sexual health.

Meika Hollender Co-Founder, Sustain Condoms

Follow me on Twitter @missmeiks @sustaincondoms

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