When it comes to condoms (& really anything else in the realm of sexual health) we’ve been incredibly under-informed. Condoms, just like anything else, require information & education to discover what works best for YOU & your partner(s). Learning how to find the material/brand that works best for us is definitely something I never learned in sex ed! & let me tell ya, there are so many—no wonder it feels overwhelming! I’m a BIG advocate for condoms. As someone who is very sensitive to hormonal birth control, condoms are my go-to birth control method; Plus, they are the safest choice when having casual hookups because they can protect against both STI transmission and pregnancy.
Who doesn’t love having safe sex that leaves you feeling satisfied & worry-free??
What are condoms made of anyway?
First things first, let’s talk about what condoms are made of & why you might not like the texture, experience irritation, & why they may affect that skin-to-skin sensation you desire. The most common type of condom is latex. Latex is perfectly fine for a lot of people, but if condoms turn you off because you “don’t like the feel,” there’s a good chance you only tried cheap latex!
Cheap latex condoms will get the job done, but normally they have a bit of an odor (think, balloons). Cheap latex can also cause skin irritation (they do for me!), & don’t feel comfy for the user + the person they are being used in.
Most cheap latex condoms don’t really create that skin-to-skin sensation that many other condom materials (or nicer vegan latex condoms, like Royal’s) are better at creating (there are a few new, better quality brands that do & I’ll mention them later).
Polyisoprene (natural rubber) condoms are GREAT for people who have latex allergies. They also happen to have a thinner feel than latex. Polyisoprene condoms can help create that skin-to-skin closeness feel. A brand example of polyisoprene condoms is SKYN (one of my & my partner’s faves).
Polyurethane (a thin, clear plastic) condoms are also great for skin sensitivity! The upsides of this type include less of an odor, can be used with oil-based lube (more on this later), has a looser fit, & has a longer shelf life! Trojan SUPRA is an example of a polyurethane condom. Thankfully, because the conversation around sex is becoming more normalized, amazing people are starting to create even BETTER condom options.
Royal, a sex hygiene & body care company, has a vegan & cruelty-free latex condom option that is amazing. It’s no surprise at this point that a lot of generic companies don’t care about what they are making their products out of & how they will affect your body. But Royal does! Their condoms are organic, odor-free, spermicide-free, & FDA-approved while still offering that ultra-thin feel & strong durability. If you are someone who hasn’t had much luck finding a condom that feels comfy and at ease about what you’re putting on / in your body, I highly recommend trying Royal!
Now that you’ve learned about some of the most common types of condoms, let’s talk about a very common misconception surrounding them.
I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Well, I’ve tried condoms before & I just don’t like how they feel. They don’t fit right & it’s more enjoyable without.” I hear you—AND—condoms are like anything else we shop for.
Do you buy the first pair of shoes you try on? No, it’s probably taken a while to find your favorite place to buy jeans or underwear. You might even have a favorite blanket or sweatshirt because you’ve TRIED other things & have come to a conclusion that you have a favorite! Condoms are no different!
If our first experience using a product is bad, we often attribute it to the product & not the TYPE of product.
This week, in preparation for writing this blog, I asked a few of my guy friends what their favorite condoms were. ALL of them had different answers! & that’s the point! The same thing isn’t going to work for everyone & it might take some digging to figure out what feels best for YOU!
Now, let’s talk about condom safety & sizing.
First, you MUST get the right size condom. Size actually does matter in this situation because fit has so much to do with a condom’s effectiveness. If you’re having penetrative vaginal sex & wearing a condom that is too large, it can lead to unwanted pregnancy and sometimes even fall off inside your partner. & that definitely isn’t what you want! A condom should fit snuggly but not feel suffocating. A nice middle ground is what you’re looking for. Royal condoms are one of the only vegan & organic condom options that offer a regular & a large size. This is exciting because it means better quality options for even more body types — yay! When used correctly, condoms are the safest (& easiest!) for protecting yourself & your partner(s) against infections.
There’s no shame around getting an STI, but one of the best ways to stop the spread is to wrap that bread (I don’t really know, go with it)! PS: If you are having casual sex, get tested regularly & be honest with your partners! It’s the best thing we can do for each other.
It might seem more intimate & exciting to not use a condom, but infections & unwanted pregnancies aren’t worth the risk—especially if you’re sleeping with multiple people!
Now, here’s my theory about why condoms get a bad wrap. (BTW: this is a very heteronormative way of viewing this topic. Most stigmas around sex & sexuality stem from heteronormative views that we are trying to break down. I believe this is one of them!)
Back in the day, when birth control came about, condoms were put on the back burner because there was this *new* method that allowed for “even more enjoyable sex.”
I have many thoughts about THAT.
Firstly, if you’re in committed partnership(s) with people & you KNOW their sexual history, this may work wonderfully for you! But for many of us who are partaking in casual hookups, this shouldn’t be an expectation. Condoms should be a rule of thumb when it comes to penetrative sex! The amount of pleasure that may be affected by using a condom isn’t going to be THAT MUCH (if hardly any). Safety is always more important & can truly lead to more fun, carefree sex!
Let’s talk about lubes + condoms & how they work together.
Sure, most condoms have SOME lube on them, but it’s definitely not enough to ensure maximum comfort for the receiver & giver. Lube is a MUST with or without condoms! BUT not all condoms pair with all lubes, so let’s learn about what works best with what!
Most condoms pair nicely with silicone & water-based lubes (such as basic Trojan condoms, LOLA, SKYN, & Royal). There are other condoms, like the polyurethane condoms I mentioned earlier, that pair nicely with oil-based lubes. Just make sure to do your research about which lubes pair best with your favorite condoms. Take time finding your fave lube, too! Lube is one of those things that everyone may have a different preference about. (Check out this article for everything you want to know about lubes.)
All our bodies work a little bit differently, so they are going to like different things & that’s okay!
I have super sensitive skin EVERYWHERE, so I require more natural/organic lubes. Some companies I like are GoLoveCBD, Cake, Royal, Dame, JO, & Good Clean Love. They all have aloe- and water-based lubes that pair nicely with any condom & never upset my skin. Plus, they are fragrance-free for the most part & don’t have a weird sticky feeling that a lot of lubes may have.
Silicone lubes, just for a general rule of thumb, tend to last a bit longer during sexual activities than other lubes., but you can’t use them with silicone toys. There is nothing wrong with having to reapply throughout your sexual experiences—I do ALL the time! Our bodies, especially vulva owners, are literally changing every day (if you experience a menstrual cycle). At certain times of the month, our body’s natural fluids will range in what we can produce, but no matter what stage you are in, USE LUBE. It can help prevent tearing & make your sexual experiences (masturbation included) FAR more enjoyable.
The common theme in this blog is to do what works best for you & your partner(s) bodies AND be as safe as possible. Part of the sexual education movement is normalizing sexual safety & how to make the most of our sexual experiences. It’s about unlearning, relearning, taking responsibility, & obviously, having FUN. Condoms are just one of the easy ways to ensure sexual safety for penetrative sex! Do your research & try different products! Getting to know your body more intimately, in any capacity, is SO exciting.