Condoms. You know you should use them to protect against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, but somehow the thought of possibly reducing pleasure for that protection may stop a lot of people from using condoms as often as they should.
Originally made from animal skins or intestines, condoms have been used for centuries. Not much about them has changed for hundreds of years. The old one-size-rubber-fits-all mentality, however, is a thing of the past. The sheer variety of new condoms on the market can take your sexual enjoyment to a new level, while still keeping you protected.
Condoms can be flavored, colored, or textured. They can glow in the dark or vibrate, or be vegan or custom fitted. Above all, they protect against STDs and pregnancies.
Condoms now come in an assortment of styles, sizes, flavors, colors, and textures. They can be lubricated or non-lubricated and even made to custom fit. Whatever your pleasure, there is probably a condom for you and your partner that will protect your health and enhance your experience. What to choose? Let’s look at some of the options available today.
Most condoms are made of latex. These are probably the least expensive and they also protect really well against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy. For those with an allergy to latex, there are polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms. Avanti is a brand of polyurethane condoms that are more expensive than latex. They also fit more loosely and may be more likely to slip off or break, so are recommended only for those with a latex allergy. Polyisoprene condoms, such as SKYN, are chemically similar to latex but do not contain the natural proteins that cause most latex allergies. FDA-approved since 2008, they protect against pregnancy and STDs and are cheaper than polyurethane. They are more form-fitting and stretchy, so they can more easily conform to the user’s body.
Some condoms are processed using casein, a protein derived from milk, but if you’re avoiding animal products, don’t worry: Vegan condoms are available too. Glyde and RSFU are certified by vegan organizations and can usually be bought online. Durex Avanti Ultima is a condom that is formulated as vegan, but not certified by vegan organizations.
On the other side of the spectrum are lambskin condoms, also known as sheepskin condoms. Most lambskin condoms are less widely available now since they do not protect against STDs such as HIV. For partners hoping to reduce disease risk, lambskin condoms are not recommended.
Condoms can be lubricated to make them easier to handle and put on. The lubricants can be water or silicone based or may even be a spermicide. Even with an already lubricated condom, using extra water or silicone-based lubricant can be more comfortable and pleasurable for vaginal or anal sex. Non-lubricated condoms are better for oral sex because you may not have undesirable flavors to taste, or better yet, you can add your preference of flavored lubricant. Beware of condoms lubricated with the spermicide nonoxynol-9: It can taste nasty and leave your mouth numb during oral sex. If used in vaginal or anal sex, it can irritate the sensitive tissues and increase the chance of spreading diseases. Really, only monogamous couples more worried about preventing pregnancy than anything else should consider using a spermicide for a lubricant.
Female condoms, also known as internal condoms, are not designed well to use as dental dams for oral sex. Nor are they recommended by the FDA for anal sex. But they are under a woman’s control, and once you get the hang of using them, they are another option.
Other more adventurous and fun features of condoms can include colors, flavors, and textures. For all condoms that come in any of these variations, you need to read the labels carefully to make sure they are not just novelty items, but are actually approved for pregnancy prevention and STD protection.
- Colored condoms can be chosen to match clothing, and condoms can be patterned or even glow in the dark! These condoms may come lubricated or non-lubricated.
- Flavored condoms can be used for oral sex or intercourse. If you want to use a flavored condom for intercourse, be sure to check the label to make sure that the ingredients are OK for vaginal sex. Some flavors can irritate the vaginal tissues, and if the ingredients contain too much sugar, they may increase the risk of a yeast infection. If the label says your flavored condom is not for vaginal sex, it should probably not be used for anal sex either.
- Textured condoms can be made of latex or polyurethane and can be studded, ribbed, or vibrating. Be sure they are approved for STD protection and are not just novelty items.
Introducing a sense of adventure and play with condoms can enhance your sexual pleasure while keeping you safe. And, if you’re worried about condoms taking you out of the moment, make it part of your foreplay! There is even a new condom, Sensis, developed to put on easily, even in the dark, to keep alive the momentum of your lovemaking.
Now, about size! Most condoms, in order to be comfortable and effective, should be snug-fitting around the base and shaft of the penis but looser at the tip. If a condom does not fit well, a person may be less likely to use it or enjoy the experience. There are several websites to explain how to measure for the best fit. Even though the range of sizes does not vary hugely, a few millimeters may make a difference in comfort. There are even some companies that will provide you with custom-fit condoms.
Still not sure which condoms might be right for you and your partner? You can purchase variety packs on some websites to try different types of condoms to see which ones you prefer. You can also purchase condoms off the shelves in stores, and if you need help, a pharmacist can discreetly offer advice on choosing a good condom to fit your needs. Your Planned Parenthood health care provider is also a good source of information about contraception choices.
It may take some experimentation to find the condom that gives you and your partner the best enjoyment and protection. But, with the variety of condoms and lubricants available today, sex with a condom can be a fun and sexy adventure for you and your partner.
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