Monday, March 15, 2010

Condom Shopping


In the past, I have been guilty of educating that condoms will fit any penis. I’ve blown up condoms to the size of large watermelons and asked classrooms full of students if they thought any human’s penis was bigger than the blown up condom. No? Then, it’ll probably fit, right?

Well, yes. It is true that you can force a condom onto pretty much any penis … but as my penis’ed brethren may know … just because it fits doesn’t mean it feels good.

And that’s because it’s true that condoms mute sensation during penetrative sex. It’s the trade-off for STI and/or pregnancy prevention.

With that being said, you can still totally find condoms that will work with you, and will probably also come across some that will work against you. Which condom is which varies greatly from dude to dude, lady to lady, couple to couple, and even session to session. So … how do you figure out which condom is best for you? You gotta think about a couple things, and then you’ve gotta do some exploration.

Here are some tips for stuff to think about when you hit up that huge wall o’condoms at your local drug store.

#1 Material

Condoms currently come in four materials. I will list out some details about each.

Latex. Someone give you a free condom? It’s probably going to be a latex condom. If you’re buying condoms, these will have the lowest prices on the shelves, generally.

Polyisoprene (Lifestyles Skyn Condoms) – Does your skin get itchy or swollen when you use latex? Then these are a great alternative. They’re usually a bit more expensive than Latex, but not by much.

Polyurethane (Trojan Supra) – Also a non-latex style. These tend to be more expensive than polyisoprene or latex. These condoms also tend to be wider than ‘standard’ condoms, so they may not fit smaller penises.

Lamb Skin – These DO NOT. I repeat DO NOT protect from STIs. They will keep you from getting pregnant, but you could still get an STI while wearing a lambskin condom. These are by far, the most expensive of all condoms. The reason? Most are made from sheep intestine. It’s much more expensive to harvest intestine than it is to manufacture the other three materials. (Word.)

#2 Brand
This is one where it’s definitely different strokes for different folks. People have their total go-to brand, some people can use any brand of condoms, and some people go through phases.

Don’t know what brand you like? Go to your local sex-shop or go online and between one of the two you'll be able to find a sample pack of your liking.

Buy a condom sampler, and get ready to experiment. You don’t have to try to the whole condom sampler in one night, but I do recommend trying 2-3 condoms per session. (You don’t have to ejaculate 2-3 times, but you can take the condoms off mid-session and swap in a new one). This way, instead of forgetting which condoms you liked or didn’t like, you’ll at least remember the best of the three.

#3 Size
Although you can go to this website and get custom sized condoms (at least until the end of March, as it looks like they may be discontinuing production), condoms generally come in three sizes.

Now before I begin this, I need to iterate that buying condoms should NOT be about you or your partners’ ego. Whether you walk out of the store with Slims or XLs, I feel like you should be damn proud of yourself for being smart, regardless of what those condoms say about the size of the penis they’re going to be put on.

The first size range you’ll find is for folks with penises on the smaller side. If you look for words like “Slim” or “Snug Fit,” those should totally help you get the job done.

The second size range is ‘standard.’ This is for folks with average sized penises. How big is an average sized penis? 5 – 6 inches long. Most condoms that are ‘one size’ or have no sort of markings to show they are different sizes are ‘standard.’

The third: XL, XXL, Xtra Wide, Large, etc. These are for penises that are generally wider than the average penis. Now, I have no stats on penis width, so I will say this. If the ring at the bottom of the condom is really uncomfortable or even painful at the base of your penis, you may need to shop for a larger condom. Although they can be, many XL condoms aren’t much longer than standard condoms.

#4 Thickness
So, the thicker a condom, the less sensation passes through that condom. Although using lube can help to increase the sensitivity, if your condom is 8 inches thick … it’s not going to feel good.

Now … I don’t know how thick every condom is, but something that is true is condoms made by US manufacturers tend toward the thicker side.

Your best bet, if you really want to avoid thick condoms is to go for a Japanese brand (Like Kimono) OR just look for the words “thin” on the package.

#5 Shape/Texture
Now, let’s talks bumps, ridges, nubs, etc. Do these do anything? Not for everyone. Some folks can feel the nubs or ridges because their bodies are super sensitive. Other folks can’t feel things like that at all.

One’s best bet in terms of finding condoms that may feel different is looking into condoms with non-traditional designs. For example, the Pleasure Plus condom essentially has extra space in the head of the condom. This extra space allows for the head of the penis to ‘breathe’ a bit more. There are condoms that have extra room in the head, spiral shapes … all kinds of stuff.

#7 Lubed Up or Not
So, some condoms come with lube already added, some are non-lubricated, and some are spermicidally lubricated. So which do you choose?

Most condoms that read ‘lubricated’ will have a silicone based lubricant already applied (some may be water based). If you’re into more lube, this may not be enough, but at least it’s there.

Non-lubricated condoms are … well … not lubricated. They’re usually covered in a white powder (so the latex doesn’t fuse together) and they are BONE DRY. You should buy these if you are a lube snob and only have a specific kind of lube you like. OR, if perhaps you or your partners have sensitive tissues that require that you only use a certain kind of lubricant.

Spermicidally Lubricated Condoms. As an educator … I don’t advocate for these personally. Although the idea of spermicide is cool, the chemical agent used in spermicide (nonoxynol – 9) can be irritating to tissues. When tissues are irritated, they are more likely to let STIs in.

Also, just because we’re on the topic … adding 1-3 drops of lube on the inside of a condom can make it feel better for the person wearing it. But remember … only 1-3 drops. If you put anymore lube than that on the inside of a condom … it could slip off. Whoops!

And! Using flavored condoms for intercourse is a poor choice. They break a lot easier AND the lube on those can burn for the person on the receiving end. No fun.

#8 Some last things to keep in mind.
Sharing sex toys has the potential to spread STIs as well. If you are sharing sex toys, throw a condom over it, and then change the condoms between partners.

In terms of condom use, remember to check your expiration dates, pinch that tip as you roll the condom down, change your condom any time you lose wood AND when you’re pulling out, make sure you hold on to that bottom ring so the condom doesn’t slip out inside your partner.

Keep your condoms in a cool, dry, sharp-object free place. That means no wallets, no pockets (for long periods of time), and don’t keep a condom free-floating in a purse or backpack.

Altoids Tins make great condom cases.

I feel like this is a no-brainer at this point … but just in case … remember … DO NOT put oil on condoms. Things like lotions, massage oils, chap-stick (word), Vaseline, etc will pop your condom. (If you want to do something fun, you can blow up a condom and rub baby oil on it for a bit. That’ll teach you what oil does to condoms real quick.)

If you are planning on fucking (or even if you’re not) … prep by packing a condom. Condoms are everyone’s responsibility. And hey, you never know when a friend might need to borrow one.

Have fun Condom Shopping. Have more fun condom sampling.

Keep Thinking!



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