Condoms have been a go-to contraceptive for safe sex for a long time now.
Not just a couple of decades, either. The first recorded condom belonged to King Minos of Crete in 3000 B.C.E. Legend has it he would place a goat’s bladder on a woman’s vagina to protect against diseases. Thankfully, condoms have come a long way since then. Today, condoms come in a variety of textures and materials, like latex, sheep skin, and polyisoprene. They’ve been proven to be effective in protecting against STDs and pregnancies.
With perfect use, condoms are 98 percent effective. Not to mention, regular condom use gives everyone the power to control their sexual and reproductive health, says Carol Queen, staff sexologist at Good Vibrations. With so much at stake during sex, condoms should be a part of your sexual regimen.
But for some men, putting on a condom is easier said than done. Reports show that condom sales decreased by 40 percent in 2022. Of course, the pandemic could’ve played a big role in sales drops, but even before we were #stayinghome, condom usage was on the decline, according to a recent study.
So why are some men ditching condoms? According to Queen, reasons for men forgoing condoms may depend on a lot of factors, such as a person’s sexual experience, and how educated they are about sexual health.
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Even if you’re feeling meh about using condoms, they’re a big part of a healthy sex life — especially when sleeping with a new or multiple partners. Below are the common complaints we hear about using condoms, and tips to help solve your woes.
The Fit Just Isn’t Right
Chris, 33, was a big condom user in his early 20s, but he struggled to find one that fit him well.
“We’ve all seen the woman putting a condom on her arm, but what no one talks about is how a penis is significantly smaller than an arm and much less likely for everyday contact than an arm. That is to say, that bit of pressure on my relatively small penis is a lot to have to work through, and frequently that pressure alone is enough to dissipate my arousal.”
Size matters a lot when using condoms. (In fact, If you’re not sure of your size, there are plenty of charts on the internet, like this one here from Good Vibrations, that you can consult, Queen says.
For people whose penis errs on the smaller side, sizing could be an issue, Queen says.
(In fact, in an Yostrive survey, a whopping 82 percent of men say they’ve sized up on condoms to impress a partner). This is because people with a smaller member are more prone to slippage.
If that’s your problem, Queen has an easy fix: Use a cock ring over the condom to keep it in place.
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Condoms Irritate Your Skin
If you’re feeling discomfort when using condoms, you may have a sensitivity or an allergy to latex, Queen says. And while it’s not a common allergy, it could be super serious; symptoms of a latex allergy include itchiness and a rash (and in very rare, serious cases anaphylactic shock).
But having a latex allergy isn’t an excuse to skip condoms altogether. There are many non-latex condoms out there made from materials such as lambskin, polyisoprene (like Skyn Lifestyles condoms), and polyurethane (like Trojan Supra), Queen says.
Sometimes it’s not even the condom that’s causing you irritation, but the lubricant. If that’s the case, try using a hypoallergenic lubricant or buying a condom that isn’t lubricated, Queen says.
You Can’t Feel Anything With a Condom
One of the most common complaints men have about wearing condoms is that they can’t feel any pleasure during sex.
“I’m not a fan of a condom because it diminishes your pleasure and the feeling of being truly close to your partner,” says Mario, 25. “It also sex is contented with passion, and it can be an inconvenience and create a barrier in the moment of intimacy.”
Queen says that losing sensation could be a sign that the condom is too tight. “The head [of the penis] is the most sensitive part, and the lack of motion of a tightly-fitting condom is what many penis-havers complain about.”
But a tight-fitting condom doesn’t necessarily mean you need to size up. This is where a good lubricant can come in handy, Queen says. Apply two or three drops of a water-based or silicone lube to the condom’s reservoir tip. “The lubed condom interior will move on the head and add to the sensation the person is experiencing.”
Condoms Often Break When You’re Using Them
While condoms are highly durable, breakage can happen. “The biggest likelihood here is either that they are storing their condoms wrong or that they are using an oil-based lubricant,” Queen says.
To prevent breakage, Queen advises against storing condoms anywhere there could be heat or pressure because heat will weaken the latex. That includes places like your wallet or spots directly in the sun. Condoms shouldn’t be stored in places surrounded by sharp objects like keys or jewelry because that may puncture the condom. Be sure to also check the expiration date with condoms, because oxygen can weaken the condom over time.
And as for lubricants, we’re not saying to avoid them altogether. In fact, a water-based or silicone-based lube can prevent a condom from breaking due to friction. But Queen advises against any oil-based lubricants as well as any petroleum-based products.
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If you’re struggling to find the right condom for you, try a bunch of different brands to see what works. You can get a lot of free condoms at health centers or even buy condoms individually, Queen suggests. One thing is for sure: Unless you’ve been tested and are in a monogamous relationship, not wearing a condom isn’t an option. It puts you and your partner’s sexual health at risk.
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