I’ll be the first person to say that I used to dislike condoms. I would dry up really quickly and then often be sore for days. I spoke to my gynecologist about it and he confirmed with a pair of latex gloves, that I was not in fact allergic to latex – that I was probably allergic to the different types of lubes in condoms. Great.
Andy and I met and after some STI testing and hopping back on the birth control pill, we decided to become fluid bonded. We both disliked the condoms and it just made the most sense for us.
Then, I decided that I wanted to have an IUD because I absolutely hate taking a pill every day (it was weighing heavily on my mental health). The IUD happened and well… you can read about how horrendous it was in my IUD Diary #3. Out came the IUD and we both decided to stop all hormonal contraceptives. I say ‘both’ because it had to be a decision that we discussed. Ultimately, it is my body and my health, but not being on the pill meant we had to go back to using condoms. I needed Andy on board and thankfully we both agreed at the first mention of it.
So… what now? Andy never really liked the condoms we had used in the past because they felt too tight on him (he has larger-than-average girth). So we decided to go through trial and error with a variety of condoms, graciously sent to us from Top Condoms Canada.
But, I’m not going to tell you about our personal trial and errors – I want to tell you more about the different types of condoms available, because we honestly didn’t have a clue. Don’t worry though because I’ll end this article with our personal recommendations.
(Material information modified from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6403a1.htm)
Latex: Latex is the most popular type of material and when it is used consistently, it is highly effective in preventing pregnancy and transmission of STIs. If you want to add lubricant, you need to stick to water-based lubes as oils can weaken latex.
Synthetic: There are several different materials used for synthetic condoms, including polyurethane and nitrile polymer. Polyurethane provides similar protection as latex ones in terms of pregnancy and STI transmission. If you want to add lubricant, you are free to use water or silicone-based lubes. The popular FC2 “Female condom” is made from nitrile polymer, protects from pregnancy and STI transmission and can also be used with water or silicone-based lubes. These are great for people with latex allergies, or people who just generally dislike latex (like us).
Natural Membranes: Natural membrane condoms are commonly made from lambskin. They are great for preventing pregnancy but they actually don’t protect from STI transmission. The pores are small enough to stop sperm but not small enough to stop certain STIs. These are definitely not for vegans. They feel pretty normal but there is a unique smell to them – not necessarily bad, just different.
There are three major categories for size: Snugger Fit, Regular, Large/Magnum. However, these sizes aren’t standardized between companies. You should be able to find out the dimensions pretty easily. Although condoms are able to stretch over most penis’, that doesn’t mean it is comfortable. The best way to measure your size is to get a flexible ruler (like the free ones from Ikea) and measure your circumference while you’re at your hardest. It doesn’t have to be embarrassing – Andy and I have done it together.
Regular, thin, microthin, etc. The good news is – that all condoms in USA/Canada will be tested to make sure that they are safe. Thinner typically means that it feels more ‘natural’ because there is less of a barrier, but this doesn’t mean it is any less safe. (Please note that the one exception to this is Lelo Hex, which is NOT a safe condom because the abnormal design means it can break without anyone noticing).
Most condoms are lubricated. However, there are latex condoms that do not come with lubricant. This is perfect for someone (like me) who is ultra-sensitive to lubes but not allergic to latex. However, adding your own lubricant all of the inside and outside of a condom can be rather… messy. It takes a lot of practice. If anyone finds any non-latex, non-lubricated condoms, please let us know – we have a friend that is looking!
Ribbed, ‘For Her’:
These condoms often have some kind of texture on the external portion in order to give extra sensation to the person being penetrated. I’ve personally never felt a difference enough to be like ‘yes I like textured condoms’ and tend to avoid them. However, a quick twitter poll showed that I am not alone, but that some people do feel the difference. Also, anything that ‘guarantees orgasms’ is just flat out bad marketing and unfortunately will cause more damage than good when it doesn’t actually guarantee an orgasm. It is okay if these don’t work for you. They don’t work for me, either.
Climax control condoms or ‘lasting’ condoms contain a numbing agent inside of the condom, which will ultimately numb the penis. This means that it will delay orgasm, which can often be the goal. [This doesn’t have to be a goal because mainstream media has made it a goal]. If it is legitimately an issue and you need something to help, then this is a possibility. I have heard of many people NOT enjoying these condoms at all and ending up being ‘too numb’ to stay hard. It really depends on the person. Always read the ingredients to see what has been added. And NEVER take off the condom and then penetrate someone – the cream will cause the other person to go numb, which is NOT fun (and dangerous if it causes your anus to go numb).
If you check out the designs on the boxes or the info on websites, there will often be a drawing of what the condom actually looks like. Often, but not always, there is extra space at the tip of the condom. This is intended to collect sperm to reduce the risk of breakage. You always need to leave a little bit of air/space at the tip of the condom for the sperm to fill up, and these condoms help you do that. It has been noted that some uncircumcised individuals prefer to have more space at the tip.
The only problem we have with these condoms is the gendered language that is used. I know a few men who can use these condoms as well. Besides that, these are a GREAT alternative to the standard condoms. They are more expensive, but we use them as a special treat. I used a period cup for a really long time so I became really used to inserting it inside of me. I use a similar technique to insert the ‘female’ condom. It then just kind of hangs out of you, and there is plenty of room for a penis to move around while still being safe. As a side note, there has been no testing done to assess the safety of anal sex with these condoms.
We received a mixed bag of condoms from Top Condoms Canada and have used quite a few of them to test out what we like and don’t like. We highly recommend to do the same – order a sample bag online and experiment. Even if you experiment alone in your room, you will at least figure out what you like and not waste money on buying whole packs of ill-fitted condoms.
Our two favourites are:
1. SKYN Lifestyle Large (non-latex, lubricated)
2. FC2 (“female” condom)
Always keep your condoms in a safe place that can’t be poked, ripped, frozen or roasted in the sun. Always check the expiry date, and if something doesn’t look right – throw it out.
If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments or by sending us an email.
Thank you to Top Condoms Canada for sponsoring this post by sending us a boatload of condoms!