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Heather Corinna replies:
My boyfriend and I have sex often, and when we do we use a condom as often as possible. But when we go to get condoms there are so many to choose from! There are ribbed ones, spermicidal, ones that are specified for "her" pleasure and vice versa, ultra thin..and more. What is the difference in all of these? Do any of them really give more pleasure or feel any better than a plain lubricated condom?
There sure are a lot of choices in condom styles now, so it's understandable that the array can leave folks mighty confused!
Here are some of the most common "styles" of condoms out and about these days, and what the what is with each of them:
If you and/or your partner are feeling like you're "not feeling anything," with condoms on, your best bet is to first make sure you're using one of the thinner brands. If you and/or your partner is feeling like MORE friction is better, then the thinner condoms may not be the best choice.
Some brands of thinner condoms are Kimono brand condoms, Durex Ultimate Feeling, Love or Extra Sensitive, Trojan Ultra Thin, Lifestyles Sheer Pleasure, Crown and Beyond Seven.
Plenty of people do enjoy these condoms, and do find it increases some aspects of sensation for them, but it should be noted that for women, since most of our sensory nerve endings are just in the first inch or two of our vaginas -- and the most sensitive part of our vulva is our internal and external clitoris, not our vaginas at all -- if you don't feel any difference yourself, it's likely because most of the condom is inside a place on your body where you just don't feel specific sensations. So, more often than not, it's the male wearers who will feel more difference with these condoms. Overall, if you're not feeling as much sensation with intercourse as you'd like, it's not about the condom, but about your and yours needing to add other sexual activities to the intercourse so that your most sensitive bits are really getting airtime, something vaginal intercourse all by itself more often than not does not provide.
Textured condoms are a good pick, too, if more friction is desired, rather than less. If you like extra sensation around your g-spot, a textured condom may provide a bit more of that. If your partner (or you, if you're the male wearer), likes more sensation around the head of the penis, one of the countoured or pouched condoms may be good for you.
Some brands of textured condoms are the Inspiral, Pleasure Plus, Trojan Intense Ribbed, Her Pleasure or Twisted Pleasure, Lifestyles Dual Pleasure, Kimono Maxx or Type E, Durex Pleasuremax or High Sensation, Crown Studded, Birds N'Bees, Profil or Studded One.
For men with less wide penises, standard condoms may slip off, so they need a smaller ring. For men with wider penises, the ring of a standard condom may pinch painfully, so they need a larger ring. So, if you ever have a partner with whom condoms either slip off or slide up a lot, or one who just looks like he's in agony when he's got a condom on, having condoms of varying sizes can be helpful. But for the most part, most standard condoms really will fit most men.
Some brands of smaller-ringed condoms are Beyond Seven, Lifestyles Snugger, Mamba and Crown. Examples of some larger-ringed condoms are Trojan Magnum, Durex XXL or Avanti, Lifestyles King Size XL, Kimono MicroThin Large and Vivid Large.
If you and/or your partner are latex sensitive or allergic, you'll want to use nonlatex condoms. You or he may also prefer them if you like the condom to move around a bit more on the shaft of the penis, and/ir you want to feel more body heat.
Some brands of nonlatex (polyurethane) condoms are Durex Avanti and Trojan Supra, and the new polyisoprene Lifestyles SKYN condoms (which are about half the cost of other nonlatex condoms, so a big yay on that!).
If you prefer nonlatex condoms, the FC may be a good choice for you. Same goes if you want to be able to put the condom in well before intercourse, if your male partner wants a looser feel with the condom, or if the female wearer wants to be more in charge with condoms.
Some brands of vegan, cruelty-free condoms are Condomi and Glyde condoms.
Some brands of warming condoms are Durex Pleasuremax warming, Lifestyles Warming Pleasure, Trojan Warm sensations or Rough Rider Warming Pleasure. Some common "numbing" condoms are Durex Peformax or Trojan Extended Pleasure.
You'll know if a condom is lubed or unlubed because it will say so on the package.
Also, do the spermicidal condoms have a greater risk of giving the girl a UTI? I have heard that before and I would like to know if it is true because I have gotten a UTI before after using a condom that has spermicide.
Spermicides have been shown to increase the risk of some sexually transmitted infections -- because they irritate the genitals, making them more susceptible to infection -- so usually, we'll advise people to ditch these, and just use condoms without spermicide correctly -- including the use of extra lubricant. That may also include infections like UTIs which aren't technically sexually transmitted, but which are often due to sex. Even without any extra STI risks, we never want to add agents which might make our genitals feel raw or irritated when we don't have to. If you ever have a condom break on you, you can get and use emergency contraception, which is much more effective in preventing pregnancy than a drop or two of spermicide.
You'll know when a condom is spermicidally-lubricated because it will say so on the box.
If you do not find spermicides to be irritating to you, and if you just have no way to get emergency contraception and pregnancy prevention is key, that even that little extra help spermicidal lube provides may be of use to you.
• Consumer Reports 2009 lists the results of their tests and reveals seven perfect condoms they found.
If you're interested in condoms that have been my personal favorites or those of my partners, all the Kimono styles, Durex Love and the Avantis, Beyond Seven and Glyde vegan condoms have tended to be the choice picks in my bedroom.
As I've mentioned here, condoms are really only half of the story. You'll also always want to have a good, latex-safe lube to use -- a drop or two inside the condom for your partner before he puts it on, plenty on the outside to make things feel good for you, and to keep condoms from breaking, and then more whenever you need it. My personal favorite lubricants these days are Liquid Silk, Pink and Astroglide, but other reputable lubes out and about are Sliquid, the KY Liquids, Wet, Eros Bodyglide, Emerita, O'My and Hydrasmooth.
Remember that where you buy condoms does matter: getting them from gas stations or vending machines is often a bad idea because condoms in those places both tend to hang around there a long time, and often the conditions they're kept in can degrade them. Better places to get condoms are through pharmacies or drugstores, large chain stores, sex supply stores, online vendors of condoms and safer sex supplies, or through your local sexual health clinic. Just always be sure and check the expiration date on your box or singles when you get them: you'll only want to use condoms, to be safe, that are at least six months away from expiring.
Just one thing that caught my eye in your question? You said you used condoms as "often as possible." Does that mean EVERY time?
Because every time is when it is possible, and if condoms are your only birth control method, and/or if you both haven't been monogamous and practicing safer sex (including testing) for at least six months, then EVERY time is when you need to be using those condoms, okay?
It's always a fine idea to get a decent array of condoms to try when you're first starting to use them, so when you stock up that first time, keep extra condoms around thereafter so that there really won't ever be a time when a condom is not there for your use. In trying a few different kinds, most will be workable, even if you or yours wind up strongly preferring one kind -- but those second-choice extras are great to keep handy. And if and when those times do still happen, those are the times to just do another sexual activity -- like manual sex or mutual masturbation -- where a condom really isn't required for either pregnancy prevention or STI transmission.
And just in case...