Is it ethical to use a condom?

Our ethical columnist on how we can make love while still loving the planet.

Ethan Greenhart

Topics Politics

Dear Ethan,

I recently started Uni where I’ve been seeing a beautiful girl for the past two weeks. I think I’m finally going to get lucky with her this weekend! Of course, as observant eco-warriors, we have no desire whatsoever to start a family, and my lady friend does not take the Pill because of its origins in animal testing. So, this is just a quick note to check with you that it’s okay for me to wear a condom this Saturday night. Cheers, dude.

Paulie Wren

Dear Paulie,

Yes, you may wear a condom on Saturday night, as you make sweet love to your girlfriend and lose yourself in orgasmic pleasure. Alternatively, you may wish to take a stroll to your local petrol station, pump some of the black stuff into a bucket, and hurl it over nearby autumnal trees and flowers while shouting ‘Global warming is a myth!’ Because, my dear, deluded student, that would be on a par with the eco-crime of wrapping your penis in a piece of rubber that takes years to biodegrade as it floats from our sewage systems into the weeping blue sea.

Paulie, what are you thinking!? A condom?! A piece of LATEX stolen by force from rubber trees?! If you decide to ignore my advice (unfortunately, the words of wisdom dispensed by me and other ethical lifestyle advisers are not yet legally binding), then I want you to think about the following little-known fact as you have condom-enabled relations with your girlfriend…. Condoms are doused in a non-ionic detergent, spermicide, which contains a manmade substance called Nonoxynol-9: an alkylphenol ethoxylate that is made in laboratories by attaching a hydrocarbon chain of nine carbon atoms to the phenol ring in either the ortho, meta or para position – in other words, CHEMICALS – and we all know about the terrible threat posed by chemicals to nature and the animal kingdom.

Well? Not feeling so horny, now, are you? Good.

Of course, I’m very pleased that you and your girlfriend have taken the responsible decision to avoid starting a family. As I’ve argued before, Gaia hates nothing more than hearing the pitter patter of tiny carbon footprints, as mankind unthinkingly spawns yet more consumers/polluters who will each emit around 60 or 70 tonnes of carbon in their lifetimes. From all the disposable nappies they use up, to the plastic bottles, plastic bibs and plastic toys that are required to keep them alive and entertained, babies are not so much bundles of joy as cradles of carbon, carry-cots of chaos.

And I’m delighted that your sensible-sounding girlfriend is refusing to take the Pill. Not only was the contraceptive pill devised through animal testing – it continues to harm animals in the here and now! Canadian researchers believe that water contaminated with residue from birth-control pills can bend the gender of male fish. They deposited some estrogen-packed Pills into a lake in Ontario and found that all the male fish in the lake became ‘feminised’; some even started to grow eggs in their testes! Now, I am generally in favour of the feminisation of everything – what could be better than making the whole world more caring and nurturing? – but it would probably be better if there were a few blokey fishes around to propagate the species.

Yes, yes, it’s true that many leading scientists question whether women’s birth-control residue really warps wildlife. (Have you noticed that while scientists now accept The Science on the inevitability of global hellfire if we continue shopping and flying, they still doubt The Science on issues such as freak Pill frog-and-fish mutation? Shameful.) Yet as America’s leading green magazine, Grist, argues: ‘If you feel personally convinced that birth-control hormones are mutating frogs and fish…then shop for the reuseable barrier technique that’s right for you.’ Exactly! There’s far too much emphasis on ‘evidence’ these days – where’s the evidence that estrogen destroys the ecosystem…where’s the evidence that we must reduce our carbon emissions by 80 per cent in the next 10 years… blah blah blah. It’s our feeling that Mother Earth has been doomed by humanity that really counts.

So, top marks for your attitudes to starting a family and taking the Pill – but nul points for even thinking about wearing the sinister sheath. Condoms are an affront to the natural world. For a start, they are made from latex, which comes from the sap of the Pará rubber tree, one of the most proud and beautiful members of the Euphorbiaceae family of trees. In other words, man-unkind hacks at the body of the suffering rubber tree with a machete, then collects the milky tears it weeps and turns them into rubber Johnnies to wear on his penis for pleasure! Can you believe such arrogance? Anyone who wears a condom is literally fucking with nature.

If that wasn’t bad enough, latex condoms also have manmade stabilisers, preservatives and vulcanising (hardening) agents. Because of these added ingredients, condoms are not biodegradeable. So, as the sassy and sexy Eco-Chicks blog reminds us, all our flushed-away condoms ‘end up covering coral reefs and sea grasses’. We destroy trees in the making of condoms, and seas in the disposal of them. All for three to eight minutes of sticky pleasure. Nice one.

I’m afraid to say that ‘eco-condoms’ are not much better than evil condoms. Some people like to use lambskin condoms, since they’re more natural than latex injected with chemicals. I’m sorry, but what gives men the right to use lamb intestines to catch their jizz? Did the poor lambs consent to taking part in this sex act? No, they didn’t – which means that every sex act involving a lambskin condom is effectively an act of rape against the animal kingdom.

If you absolutely have to use a condom, despite my protestations (and the cries of the planet), the most eco-friendly condom is the vegan condom. Where normal condoms contain milk proteins, stolen from imprisoned cows, vegan condoms are made with cocoa powder instead. As regular readers will know, I’m a passionate believer in preserving natural and sustainable farming methods in the developing world – and cocoa farming, where many use muscle power and cutlasses instead of machinery, is a model low-carbon lifestyle. If we can offset our carbon emissions by encouraging Third World farmers to get some refreshing exercise on a treadle pump, why shouldn’t we offset the outcomes of our sexual pleasure by using farmed cocoa to cover our cocks?

It’s better not to use contraception at all – and friends tell me you don’t even need to! There are apparently lots of interesting things you can do with your lady friend with no risk of reckless reproduction. I strongly suggest that when you feel the overwhelming urge to give your love physical expression, try ‘oral pleasure’. You don’t need to learn all the Latin terms (fellatio and cunnilingus can be a mouthful, I know), just work out what feels good. It’s also a great way of recycling protein that might otherwise go to waste. (As such, you might want to point out to your lady friend that it’s more ethical to swallow.)

The lesson of the day is that man’s penis and testicles are dangerous weapons. Not only do they start wars (we all know that every conflict is ultimately driven by testosterone), but they also create new carbon-producing human life! Unprotected, our penises contribute to overpopulation – but protected, they contribute to environmental destruction. That deranged quack, Sigmund Freud, once suggested that some women suffer from penis envy. But every sensible eco-feminist I know merely feels ‘penis pity’. How awful for men to be cursed with such a potentially destructive tool. So, Paulie, be careful what you do with it. And remember that the best form of birth control – the best form of ‘safe sex’ that is actually safe for the planet, too – is to have no sex at all. Eco-celibacy has a lot going for it.

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer all your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him at {encode=”” title=””}. Read his earlier columns here.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today