In my most recent column, I focused on non-hormonal forms of birth control. In that column I said rather glibly that while some folks feel that condoms reduce sensation during sex, they should just be adults and deal with it. Or something close to that.
That comment has led to several conversations with folks about condoms, and about their feelings about condoms. Feelings about condoms seem to center around the authenticity of the experience. Common complaints are that it doesn’t feel as good, or as “real” as bareback sex. People also lament that they have to interrupt the action to put on the condom, saying that it “ruins” the mood. I’ve heard that it’s “just not sexy,” that condoms “smell funny” and “taste weird,” and that they “never seem to fit right.” The good news is that there are solutions to almost all of these problems.
It’s true that sex with a condom doesn’t feel identical to sex without one, at least for the person wearing the condom. (Many folks on the receiving end report that there’s no noticeable change in sensation with condom usage.) It makes sense—there’s literally a barrier between you and your partner. A beautiful barrier, one that prevents pregnancy and STI transmission. But it’s a barrier nonetheless. You can increase sensation for the wearer by adding a silicone or water-based lube. Condoms are typically only lubricated on the outside, and the amount of lube used is minimal. If you add some of your favorite lube, both inside and outside, you’ll get a lot more glide and a lot less drag during sex. You also reduce the (already minuscule) risk of the condom breaking.
When we worry that putting on a condom will be an interruption that “ruins” sex, we’re really not giving ourselves enough credit. This is SEX we’re talking about S – E – X! Are our attention spans really so short that a 30-second pause to ensure our mutual safety is enough to completely derail sex it? To “ruin” it? Have you ever stopped, put on a condom, and then thought, “Wait! What were we just doing? I can’t even remember?” I didn’t think so. Besides, it’s my firm belief that it’s pretty hard to ruin consensual sex if there’s decent communication. Using a condom just isn’t going to do it.
There are lots of ideas out there about making condom use sexier (have your partner put on the condom, have them put on the condom with their mouth, make it part of your foreplay, etc.) that are definitely worth a try. But I think the real secret to making condoms sexy is consistent use. If you always use a condom, you and your partner(s) will develop a strong association between the condom and the amazing sex that’s about to happen.
Most condoms are made of latex, which does indeed have its own unique smell and flavor. If this is a problem for you, there are a couple of things you can try. Flavored condoms are a perennial favorite with people who use condoms for oral sex. The flavors also mask the latex scent to some degree. If that doesn’t work for you, you can try non-latex condoms, too. Polyisoprene and polyurethane condoms are a little more expensive, but are great for people with latex allergies and anyone who doesn’t care for the smell/taste of latex. Sheepskin condoms are still available, but they only protect against pregnancy, not against STIs.
And finally, let’s talk about condom fit. We’ve all seen the pictures of someone wearing a condom over their foot or arm or head, with text that says something like, “Don’t believe a guy when he says condoms are too small for him.” Yes, condoms are very stretchy and will fit over feet and hands and all sorts of things. But how well they remain intact, and in place, is really more of the issue. Additionally, it’s pretty important that condoms fit comfortably or no one will want to use them. Lo and behold! There is a pretty thorough and accurate condom fit guide out there to help us make good condom choices. For folks with much smaller or larger than average penises, internal condoms (formerly known as Female Condoms) are a great choice, too.
(April is STI awareness month. Minimize the risk of STI transmission with regular condom use. Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the metro area are offering free STI testing throughout the month. Make your appointment today.)
Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get back to you with an answer.