It's easy to gripe about condoms, how they're inconvenient or they dull sensitivity, but the reality is they can be much more pleasurable than most people think. Here's your guide to finding the condom that's right for you.
Illustration by Angelica Alzona/Lifehacker.
Let's get started with a quick primer. Condoms are used to prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections. There are two main types of condoms: Latex and polyurethane. There are also condoms made out of animal skin (typically lamb), but those don't protect against sexually transmitted infections. Condoms come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and textures. They can be lubricated or non-lubricated. Some condoms also contain spermicide.
How to Put One On
If you're new to condom usage or have never been very comfortable with them, I highly recommend practising putting them on on your own first, so you get a sense of how they work. Keep repeating the process until it feels second nature. It may feel like a waste of condoms, but not having anxiety in the moment when you're with a partner will make it all worth it.
First, take the condom out of the wrapper. One of the biggest mistakes people make is putting a condom on upside down, then realising that it won't actually unroll.
Play with the rim a bit to make sure you know which direction it goes.
Put a few drops of water- or silicone-based lube inside the tip of the condom, which will make condom usage feel much, much better. (Never use oil-based lubes with condoms!)
Pinch the tip to leave a bit of extra space, then put the condom over your penis or toy. If you're uncircumcised, you may want to gently push your foreskin back a bit, then put the condom on. (This will help your foreskin move around inside the condom.) Holding the tip of the condom with one hand, and roll the condom all the way down to the base of your penis or toy with the other.
Find Your Size
Condoms are not one size fits all. The idea that all condoms are alike is the biggest condom myth, and a huge reason why so many people don't like using them. For that reason, I was so excited to stumble across the company Lucky Bloke a few years ago. They have made it their mission to help people find the right condom for their body.
Lucky Bloke has a simple toilet paper roll strategy for sizing. Put your erect penis or your sex toy into an empty toilet paper roll. If there's extra space, circumference-wise, look for condoms in the tight-fit category. Lucky Bloke says about 35 per cent of guys fit into this category. If the toilet paper roll fits just right, look for medium or standard size condoms. This category comprises 50 per cent of men. If it's snug, you're looking at large condoms. That's about 15 per cent of guys. Or you can purchase their "Not Sure What Size To Buy" sampler pack, which comes with small, medium and large sizes. If you have a sense that you're probably on the smaller side or the larger side, you can also check out their Perfect Fit Finder sampler packs (use the same link as above), which are available in small to medium or medium to large.
Keep in mind that condom sizing is like clothing sizing -- it's tempting to want to grab the size you want to be or think you should be. But you're going to be so much more comfortable getting the size that actually fits your body.
Experiment With Extras
Condoms also come ribbed or studded for extra stimulation. You can buy ultrathin condoms, which promise more sensation than the standard thickness. Contrary to myth, thinner condoms are also less likely to break. There are also "pleasure fit" condoms, which have more room around the head. (Some men find that the extra space increases sensitivity.) I highly recommend taking a lot of different options for a test drive. You can buy themed sampler packs in brick and mortar sex shops, or online in places such as Condom Depot. Going through so many different options can make condom usage feel more fun, and you're more likely to find a particular brand or style that you really like.
But Avoid Desensitising, Arousing or Flavoured Condoms
You can also find condoms that are made with desensitising gels. Alternately, some condoms claim to have "arousing" characteristics, such as warming or cooling sensations. And of course, there are flavoured condoms, which are typically used for blowjobs. In general, I'm not a huge proponent of these types of condoms, as they can contain chemicals that I'd rather not have around the most sensitive parts of my body. They can cause adverse reactions, including skin irritations. If you want to try one of these out, make sure your partner agrees to try it too.
Use Condoms on Toys
Using condoms on toys makes for faster and easier clean-up. You can also quickly swap out condoms in a given sex session, to safely use the toy on a different person. You wouldn't think to worry about sizing when using a toy, but it isn't a bad idea. You'll be less likely to experience slippage if you have a condom that fits your toy properly.
A female condom looks similar to a male condom, but it has two soft, flexible rings. You squeeze the inner ring in order to insert the condom into the vagina. The inner ring pops up around the cervix, holding the condom in place. The outer ring stays at the outer edge of the labia. Female condoms can also be used anally. You just have to remove the inner ring before insertion.
One cool thing about the female condom is that it can be inserted up to four hours before sex. It might feel a little weird making small talk on your dinner date with a condom hopefully perched in your vagina, but at least you don't have to worry about fumbling with a wrapper in the moment.
One of the most readily available is the FC2 Female Condom. They are more expensive than male condoms.
Men who have performance anxiety or generally don't like wearing condoms may particularly enjoy having sex with a woman who is wearing a female condom. You won't have those anxiety-filled moments of trying to put on a condom while praying that your erection doesn't go away. Nor do you have to worry about the condom falling off if you lose your erection part-way through. Some men enjoy not having the restrictive tightness of a male condom, and think the female condom feels more pleasurable.
Here are some other tips for getting the most out of your condom:
- Condoms do expire, so always make sure to check the expiration date before usage. If it's expired, there's a higher likelihood of breakage.
- Don't store them in your wallet. They will get too hot, and can be more likely to break. It's fine to throw a condom in your wallet or pocket before a date, but don't leave them there for more than a day.
- Always use lube. This is a step that so many people skip, but it can greatly improve the experience. It feels much slicker and closer to condom-free sex. Lube can also prevent condoms from breaking.
- When you're finished using your condom, make sure to hold onto the base of the condom as you pull out! Otherwise it can slip off and stay inside your partner. (If that happens, you'll need to discuss taking Plan B and getting tested for STIs.) You can tie it in a knot if you want to prevent spillage, then dispose in a bin. Never in the toilet, please!