The condom as we know it has been around since the 1850s, and evidence of primitive condom use dates back to before the 15th century. Since the rolled latex condom debuted in the 1920s, condoms have not undergone major innovation.
Mizzou alumnus Charlie Powell is out to change that with a new condom: The Galactic Cap.
The Galactic Cap uses adhesive to stick to just the tip of the penis, exposing much of the more sensitive areas, and its reservoir tip is “thicker and stronger than a traditional condom,” according to the IndieGoGo campaign video. By leaving much of the penis exposed, the Galactic Cap “gives you the same sexual pleasure as skin-to-skin contact.”
Since the product’s conception, Powell has made many design changes. The newest design has an “anchor” that runs down the shaft a bit, keeping the coronal ridge exposed while still staying tight on the penis.
Powell attended MU in the late ‘60s, right at the beginning of the Vietnam War. After graduating with a BA in English, he “got a free ticket to Vietnam” and enlisted in the Army. Following his time in the service, Powell spent the next several years on an international adventure of sorts: a year working at a ski resort in the Bavarian Alps, six months of European backpacking and two years working on an oil rig in Spain and Africa.
During his off-time on the oil rig, he flew to London and attended film school, eventually settling in Los Angeles to start his career working on corporate film. Powell’s film career consisted of mainly corporate clients, but it was through a colleague’s tragedy that Powell made a career change and moved to condoms.
“A buddy of mine who edited for me for about three years, he came down with HIV, and at the time it was a death sentence,” Powell said.
Powell set out to fundamentally change the condom. The desire was not only out of necessity, but also preference. “I didn’t like [condoms],” Powell explained, “so it gave me the idea that there must be something better.”
Powell noticed the same thing studies have been saying for years: The problem with condoms are that people just don’t use them. A 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior found that one in four acts of vaginal intercourse in the United States are done with a condom, and people who say condoms are not pleasurable don’t use them.
Powell said this invention could change the world.
“This is going to do so many good things for the world,” Powell said. “It’s going to reduce unwanted teenage pregnancy. It’s going to reduce overcrowding or overpopulation which, for many countries around the world, is a huge problem: China, India, Brazil, South America, Africa. And it’s going to reduce STDs and HIV.”
After sitting on the idea for about 15 years, Powell began developmental research on what would become the Galactic Cap.
In 2013, Bill Gates funded a competition where inventors were supposed to find the most inventive new condom. Powell didn’t win the funding, but he made up the difference through an IndieGogo campaign that he launched in June of 2014.
In that campaign, Powell raised $100,000 for the Galactic Cap’s design and production.
“The Gates Foundation came out with this $100,00 challenge grant to anybody who could develop the next generation condom,” Powell said. “Well, they awarded $1.1 million to 11 companies and organizations, but guess what: They all covered the whole penis.”
Powell believes that other inventors basically just “rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
“I don’t care how thin you make the material, it’s just not skin-to-skin,” Powell said. That’s where all the sensation is. My Galactic Cap will dominate these people.”
The “skin-to-skin contact” is one of the concerns of the Galactic Cap, though.
By blocking semen, the Galactic Cap prevents one method of HIV transmission. HIV is transmitted through semen or blood. However, many other STIs — HPV, herpes and syphilis, among others — are spread through skin-to-skin contact. Powell sees that a lack of condom usage worldwide is largely to blame for the issues in STI spreading. He cites worldwide condom use at 5 percent and condom use in developing countries “topping off at 20 percent.”
“I like to call it ‘a condom for couples,’ because if you know who you’re with and you’re pretty confident they don’t have an STD, hey, the Galactic Cap is the choice for you,” Powell said. “If you go into a bar and you’re picking up somebody — male or female — that you don’t know, then maybe you better wear a traditional condom until you have a relationship.”
Users of the product are advised not to use lubricant due to the adhesive, similar to a Band-Aid.
“I would say saliva or vaginal fluid is good, but if you start using lubes with it, now you’re going to weaken to adhesive, so it’s not advised,” Powell said. “When you’re doing it, you can see whether the thing is coming loose or not, so there’s no surprise there.”
Powell has brought California State University, Long Beach into the fold on the Galactic Cap. Their engineering department assists in testing the product as well as research and development in their biotech lab.
“Picture the head of the penis. It kind of looks like a fireman’s hat: long on one side and short on the other,” Powell said. “In tests of the first design, it would come off the short side of the head of the penis because there wasn’t enough surface area there to take the adhesive and keep it on, so with vigorous sex, it started coming off.”
With the new design, Powell says that the condom “works dynamite.”
In the future, they may change the name of the product to be something sexier.
“I would say that the ‘Galactic Cap’ is not the most scintillating name,” Powell said. “Maybe the ‘Galactic Prophylactic,’ or something that was better, more hip, more ‘Millennial-esque.’ But I figured that it was ‘pleasure that was out of this world,’ and it covered the head of the penis.”
At this point, Powell is looking towards millennials to help make his vision a reality.
“I’m older now, and I would like to do something to change the world, and I would like to get college kids behind me,” Powell said.