Condoms. Just about everybody buys them at some point, and just about
everybody gets embarrassed, confused or frustrated by the experience.
Many men and women feel ashamed buying condoms because of our cultural
attitudes labeling sex as dirty, and certainly not something to flaunt
in public. That's a shame, because except for a few test tube babies,
sex is how each and every one of us got here! Others find themselves
confused by the variety of condoms available, or are frustrated by past
experiences that didn't go so well. So let's talk condoms and clear up
some of the confusion--it'll go a long way toward clearing up any
reluctance you might have about using one, and hopefully spruce up your
sex life as well. Sex is a good thing--and knowing your types of condoms
can be a great way to add a boost to your sex life and protect yourself and your lucky sex partner from horrible things like children and disease!
You can even turn condom use into a fun bedroom game. To learn how to
bring a sense of playfulness into your lovemaking, I suggest you check
out 100 Sex Games for Couples - with these great games you'll soon be brave enough to try anything once!
To buy condoms:
- Know why you're using a condom in the first place. The brutal truth is that sex feels better without a condom, especially for many men. There are exceptions, but by and large we're not using condoms because good old regular sex has gotten boring; we're using them to protect ourselves from unplanned pregnancies and potentially fatal or life-altering sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). While it's surprisingly easy to make condoms a fun part of your sex life without losing any of the "life" in your sex, you've got to be clear that on a very basic level, condom use is about more than having a good time. Condom use is about helping to protect yourself and your partners from situations and troubles that far eclipse the joys of sex in magnitude. (Think single father parenting.) If you're working from that understanding, once you know you've got condoms nearby, you'll be free to enjoy safe sex however you like.
- Understand the pros and cons of using a condom rather than another form of birth control or tool for safer sex. The pros of using a condom during sex (be it vaginal, anal or oral) are pretty straightforward:
- Condoms help prevent pregnancy and STDs.
- Condoms are inexpensive, lightweight, disposable, and available nearly everywhere, without a prescription.
- Condoms can help men stay erect longer and are likely to reduce premature ejaculation.
- Condoms can be used with virtually any other method of birth control: Nothing says "College fund, what college fund?" like the combination of condom use and a medical form of birth control such as the pill.
The points against condoms are probably pretty familiar because they are the main hurdles that prevent people from using condoms.
- Many men and women say that condoms dull sensation. Who can blame them? Stick a piece of latex, no matter how thin, between two parts of the human anatomy (or more, if you're creative!) that are supposed to feel blissfully good when they touch? No surprise to find out that's not a universal fave.
- Some men find that they lose some of their sexual excitement when dealing with condoms, be it from frustration, feeling self-conscious, or the overwhelming pressure to maintain the World's Hardest Erection.
Most of these reasons are psychological, which doesn't make them any less real, but does make them easier to deal with. Being genuinely comfortable with your sexual partner, not taking sex or yourselves too seriously, and lots and lots (and lots) of practice go a long way to reducing the worst of the downsides of using condoms.
- Pick a type of condom. Condoms come in three varieties: latex, plastic and animal tissue. Most types of condoms are latex, and are the most resistant to damage; on the downside, latex condoms can be weakened by oil-based lubricants, as well as some vaginal yeast infection medicines. If you're using latex condoms with lubricant, make sure it's water-based! Plastic condoms are made from polyurethane, perform nearly as well as latex condoms, and make a great alternative to latex-sensitive folks. They are, however, more expensive. Natural skin condoms are another choice for those with latex allergies. Usually made out of lamb membrane, these condoms have been around since the year 1640 and are surprisingly effective at
preventing pregnancy. However, they do not offer protection against STDs, since organic tissue is too porous to prevent bacteria and viruses from passing through. And they cost the most by far. In other words, they're not for most people. For more on this and other dating advice, don't forget to check out other online resources and dating blogs.
Don't forget the female condom. Often overlooked,
the female condom really is worth trying out. Aside from male condoms and abstinence (and let's face it, if you've made it this far, abstinence probably ain't gonna happen), female condoms are the only other form of birth control to offer solid protection from STDs. Both women and men receiving anal penetration may find the female condom performs better during sex, but that really does depend on the couple. A female condom looks like a larger version of a male condom, with two flexible rings at either end, one to be inserted into the cervix or rectum, and the other open end to stay outside the vagina or anus. It works much like a male condom, except that it's designed to fit within a body cavity instead of being outerwear for the wang. Women might find inserting a female condom uncomfortable, but they can be inserted up to eight hours before sex. Female condoms are somewhat less effective than male condoms, and like all condoms, must be removed immediately after ejaculation. Using a male condom is more of the norm, but if you want to try something new, the female condom is your next best option.
Don't get distracted by all the bonus features.
Even the standard latex condom presents a variety of choices. Some are lubricated, some dry. Most come with the famous "reservoir tip" to hold the gallons and gallons of masculinity you or your partner will produce; some are form-fitted and flush; others flare at the tip to accommodate men who don't like to cramp their German helmets. And then there's texture! Ribbed or bumpy or frilly, these textured condoms may increase sensation for both partners--or they may do absolutely nothing for either one of you. There's no surefire way to tell which you and your partner prefer other than trial and error--another great excuse to have more sex! Also, don't forget colors. Condoms come in a rainbow of colors and even flavors, and as long as they've been tested and approved, there's no real difference. If you're using them for oral sex, you may want to try flavored condoms. Some people love colored condoms for adding a sense of whimsy to lovemaking. Others think a lime green dick is a turn-off. (Unless it's St. Patrick's day, I'm inclined to agree.)
Avoid condoms coated with spermicide. When picking a condom, there's one variable that is more of a safety concern: Condoms that come coated with the spermicide, nonoxynol-9. You may be wondering why you wouldn't buy spermicidal condoms. While spermicide does kill sperm (surprise!), it can also irritate the tissue of the vagina, anus or mouth and actually increase susceptibility to STDs. Even if your only concern is preventing unplanned pregnancies, you might not want to try out these babies--pun intended--since they don't actually offer extra contraceptive protection and have been dropped by many condom makers. If you do use them, be aware that your or your partner might find the spermicidal chemical uncomfortable or irritating during or after sex.
Pay attention to thickness. The major factor for most men in condom preference is thickness--the thinner the condom, the better it will feel. Ultrathin latex condoms perform as well as their thicker brothers, so there's not much reason to go thicker unless you prefer it that way or are trying to prevent premature ejaculation. When in doubt, go for the thinnest condom you can find that matches your preference for lubrication, tip shape, and so forth. Look for names like "Micro-Thin" or "Ultralite." With a few exceptions, your choices here depend on preference and practicality. About 1%-2% of the population are allergic to latex, the material from which most condoms are made; plastic condoms are easily available as an alternative, as are lambskin condoms (which, while very reliable as a method of birth control, are not reliable as a means of STD prevention).
Don't stress over size. Magnum XL condoms aren't there just to make you feel hideously inferior. Condom sizes are pretty generic. There's no real standard here, but the basic-size condom for most brands will fit most men. Some are more snug, some are wider, and some are longer. This isn't a contest. If you're uncertain, buy a few of each. But trust me, try the smaller one first: "Let me get a bigger condom" is just about always a fantastic thing to hear! Conversely, whipping out the XXL and having it slip off your buddy like an overstretched gym sock is hardly ever a crowd-pleaser. You want a condom that fits snugly enough that it won't slip out during sex anyway, so upsizing only really matters if you find standard-sized condoms uncomfortably tight or too difficult to get on. (In which case, call me.)
Never buy or use a condom past its expiration date, and never reuse a condom. Condoms expire: That's why they come with expiration dates. So if you've been keeping a rubber in your wallet or nightstand hoping you'll get lucky, make sure to refresh your stock regularly. And take that condom out of your wallet--that's an easy way to put the relatively delicate condom through a lot of unnecessary handling. For that matter, check free condoms (which often sit in their bowls for extended periods of time) and novelty condoms to make sure they're still good and will do their jobs. An expired or roughed-up condom is not what you want!
Make your choice...or make three! All condoms work by the same principle: They collect semen before, during and after ejaculation. If used properly, they'll keep a man's junk away from places it could do harm by either impregnating a woman or transmitting STDs such as HIV and hepatitis to men or women. So if you keep in mind the safety basics above, condom choice ultimately becomes a matter of personal preference. Just don't forget that there are two people involved (at least), so make a decision that will please you both. Finally, an easy tip: When in doubt, go basic. If you're uncertain, find a well-known brand that you recognize, like Trojan, Lifestyles or Durex.
Belly up to the counter and buy the dammed things. Buying condoms makes just about everybody a little nervous. Be proud! Buying condoms means, first and foremost, that you're getting laid. More often than not, this makes other people jealous, not judgmental. Just as many women buy condoms as do men, so ladies: Buying condoms doesn't make you look cheap; it makes you look like a woman who respects herself and takes direct control over her health. And guys: Buying condoms doesn't make you look creepy; it makes you look like the kinda guy who cares about his sexual partners and wants to behave as responsibly as possible. Whatever you do, don't let embarrassment become a health risk!
Take your condoms home and enjoy using them! Man (or lady), this is one part I can't help you with--using condoms. Finding the right person with whom to use your brand new condoms is all you. But there's still a lot to learn, so stay tuned for our How To Use A Condom article with handy tips.
Happy shopping and take care of yourselves, ladies and gents: It's a great big world out there and you can enjoy it aplenty if you come prepared.