Recently, I had the arduous task of visiting the Museum of Sex in New York (not arduous at all!). When you arrive at the main entrance, you naturally find yourself smack in the middle of the gift shop, and on the right side of the space is a wall of condoms. It’s quite a well-designed wall of condoms, with circular bins you can reach into and grab away to your heart’s delight. With various colors and shapes, it’s visually stimulating in and of itself.
It got me wondering: How do people choose condoms? What do they look for? Sure, sometimes you’re not so picky about your choice of rubbers. You don’t give it much thought all the time. Maybe you’re in the throes of carnal pleasures and you reach for the nightstand drawer to find it void of rain slickers and you have to pull your knickers on quick before you lose the bones zone and run to the nearest bodega to grab the first thing you see. Probably Trojans, right? They always seem to be front and center. But when people take the time to think about what they want and what might please their partner, what do they go for? What matters?
First, some stats:
In the United States at least 75% of American men buy this kind of prophylactic. Are you a man?
You may boast about your myriad conquests, but according to Planned Parenthood, condoms have been around way longer than you’ve even been alive. We’re talking 12,000 to 15,000 years. If you are reading this, you are not that old. Other statistics from Planned Parenthood? Ninety-three percent of women in the US, between the ages of 15–44, have used condoms. Furthermore, condoms are one of the most readily available and inexpensive forms of birth control.
Leslie Kantor, VP of Education at Planned Parenthood says, “Using a condom is always safer than not using a condom, and with the variety of condoms widely available today, everyone can find the fit and feel that’s right for them.” Can’t really argue with that. And with the options available, why would you?
But for men and women, gay or straight, not all condoms are created equal. So let’s go through the motions (so to speak).
Latex condoms are considered the most durable and effective condoms you can buy in terms of protecting partners from STDS and pregnancy. Only problem is, about 7% of people are allergic to latex. A latex allergy won’t land you and your nether regions in the emergency room necessarily, but it can cause nasty itching and burning, and no one likes those feelings.
If you have a latex intolerance, polyurethane condoms are your next best bet. They block sperm and most viruses, as one might hope, and they have the added advantage of being made of a thinner plastic. They’re higher heat transmitters than latex. High heat transmission means hotter sex. Duh.
Then there are love gloves made out of animal membranes. Yes, you heard me. They protect against pregnancy, but watch out. They don’t prevent most STDs. Kind of a scary thought, right? Would you rather get pregnant accidentally or get Hep C (or worse)? Animal membranes have microscopic openings which are too small for sperm to swim through but big enough for some viruses like HIV to find their way in. So, I don’t know who’d buy animal membrane condies other than monogamous couples who get tested regularly. Generally, I’d say stay safe. Skip the manimals.
Speaking of animals, lambskin condoms are made from lamb intestines. Weird. These skins prevent babies being made, but, like animal membrane rubbers, they offer zero protection when it comes to HIV and other sexually transmitted yuckies. People tend to be drawn to them for their natural feel, though, and (I guess because lambs are so cute?) they’re pretty expensive.
As recently as 2008, a newer type of non-latex condom hit the market. Polyisoprene is a synthetic shaft sheath that has a similar feel and elasticity to latex, also considered just as durable. Any type of lube can be used with Polyisoprene. This is another good alternative to those with latex allergies or for people who just want to keep their exposure to unnatural ingredients to a minimum.
Nitrile is a synthetic rubber that lady condoms are made of. Originally, they were primarily made of polyurethane, but nitrile heats up in line with body temperature to create a more organic feel. Nitrile is also less expensive than polyurethane, which is good news for everyone. These female condoms are also agreeable with all kinds of lube and can usually be found wherever peen condoms are sold. Truth be told, they’re not that popular. They are often considered cumbersome and uncomfortable. I can’t speak from personal experience. Why? Because I’ve always heard they are cumbersome and uncomfortable.
There are lubricated condoms and non-lubricated condoms. Why anyone would buy non-lubricated condoms, unless they have an ample supply of multiple kinds of lube always at the ready is beyond me. Once, when I was in college, I bought non-lubed Trojans by mistake. And there was no lube on hand. I was young and the thought of buying lube never even occurred to me. I thought lube was something for weird stuff people did. I can’t tell you how bad I felt for the dude who had to try and remove the unrelenting, lube-less rubber from his dong after we fucked (and fucked badly). The wincing on both of our faces would have made for a classic Throwback Thursday on Instagram. But reportedly non-lubricated condoms are suited for those who like protective rubber between mouths and members, and also for those pesky allergies that might make people sensitive to certain lubricants.
When I was in high school and sex ed was being beaten over my head, Non-oxynol-9, or N-9, was the word we heard as often as the word AIDS. This was a spermicidal lube once thought to cut those spermy swimmers off at the path, but studies have shown that not enough N-9 lives on the cock-cosy to actually prevent making a baby. Furthermore, the chemical N-9 can create nasty sores that actually help transmit HIV and other STDs. Holy shit. Glad I’m not in high school anymore.
Okay, first of all, size does matter. So now that we’ve got that age-old question settled, let’s talk about the size of rubbers. If you have sex, you probably have realized that most condoms are one-size-fits-all. Sometimes the rings are tighter than others, but the average sized boner, which is anywhere from five to seven inches, are what manufacturers have in mind. But for anyone reading BaDoink Magazine, I don’t think I need to school you on size. Whatever feels right and doesn’t slip off is pretty much the way to go.
There are no studies that show one type of texture is “better” than the other. It’s a matter of personal preference. There’s Ultra-Thin, Super-Sensitive, Studded, Ribbed, High Sensation, Extra Strength, and on and on. Sexually active peeps should experiment with these. Why not? See what you like. Go nuts. (Pun intended.)
I asked the fine folks at The Museum of Sex what their best-selling peen-huggers are. In the number one slot is Sir Richard’s, a condom created by globally conscience entrepreneurs in an effort to make a more pure condom. Sir Richard is all latex, but it is also devoid of all of those unsavory chemicals like the ones found in most leading brands. What’s more, for every Sir Richard’s purchased, the company donates a boatload of condoms to communities in need. You’ll be a bona fide do-gooder when you bone with Sir Richard’s.
Second only to Sir Dick is ONE Flavor Waves. Choose your poison: Bubblegum, Mint Chocolate, Island Punch, Banana Split, Fresh Mint, and Chocolate Strawberry. And supposedly no calories! I guess this is for those who generally use rubbers before hummers. I’m not sure how popular a concept that is in reality, but perhaps this makes it more fun. Sure! If it tastes like Mint Chocolate, why not? Like Sir Richard’s, there’s a charitable plus. A portion of every purchase supports HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in Africa. In that case, even if you don’t find use for them, why not buy them as “gag gifts” for friends? Also, One Flavor Waves are made from an advanced form of latex called Sensatext™, which is softer, smoother, and more transparent than most condom materials. What’s more, things like “flavor waves” fall under the category of novelty condoms. The thing about flavored condoms is that they contain things like high fructose corn syrup and all those other things that healthy-eating websites tell you to steer clear from. When it come sex, things like corn syrup and sugar can really fuck with vaginas. It has the ability to change the inner vag’s PH, which can cause yeast infections and other problems. These types of rubber raincoats, including glow-in-the-dark condoms, are best saved for deejays and butt fucking. Novelty condoms are also not always FDA approved, which means they can lead to unplanned kids and killer STDs.
Other popular brands in the US are Lifestyles THYN condom, marketed as a “specially lubricated condom for maximum pleasure.” Trojans and Durex are old standbys, and if you live in New York, you’re no stranger to seeing NYC brand condoms in bowls at bars and restaurants, free for the taking.
Fans of Babeland love the Babeland brand condom. It’s thin, silky, heat-ready, made of latex, and pre-lubricated. A simple formula, but a popular one.
Meanwhile, according to Searah at Early to Bed, patrons are drawn to Durex Love for the “roomy head,” but Crown Skinless, Beyond Seven, and Kimono are the top sellers. “Penis havers say they feel the best,” Searah says.
Listen. Here’s another thing. If buying boner-protectors embarrasses you, change your ‘tude. Pretty much everyone has sex. And safe sex is best. So be proud that you’re taking your health, and that of your partner’s, in your own fucking hands. That said, condomania.com is always ready and willing, and there’s a plethora of sex positive sites like Adam & Eve and the aforementioned Babeland, where you can go on a sheath shopping spree from the comfort of your own home. You don’t even have to put clothes on. To that end, for the ladies, Lovability is a company that sells (online) vegan and “sustainably produced” condoms, but more importantly, Claire Courtney, Lovability’s Outreach director says, “We just want condoms to be lovelier. We try to make it so women don’t have to feel any shame.” That’s a love-glove I can get behind.