Over the last two lessons, we have discussed the science of nitrosamines and their suspected link to types of cancer, dispelled myths around nitrosamine levels in condoms and their link to reproductive cancers, and ran down how we got to the point of having this discussion.
So, now let’s look at condoms in a better light: Condoms—what to do with them and what they are doing for you. Note: in this discussion, the terms internal and external condoms are used rather than “male” or “female” condoms.
Condoms: Some Basics
There are two main types of condoms, internal and external. Internal condoms are the latex sheath for use over a penis or sex toy that people tend to envision when they use the term. Internal condoms are inserted into an orifice prior to penetration. Condoms are made from a host of materials, including latex (most common), polyurethane, lambskin, polyisoprene, and nitrile.
Generally, condoms and other barrier methods are recommended as the most effective method to avoid STIs if you are choosing to have genital contact with another person. They prevent the transfer of fluid based STIs (such as HIV and Syphillis) and reduce risk of contracting STIs that spread via surface contact (like Herpes and HPV).
Condoms: What you can do with them
For oral/genital contact, flavored condoms can be an added sexy treat. If going over a penis, adding silicone lube to the inside of the condom can keep the sensation slick, but the act safer. To make safer sex even sexier, one can put the condom on using their mouth. Flavored condoms, on a penis or cut open and spread over a vulva, can add a sweet bonus to going down.
When penetrating an anus, condoms can keep things clean. For people who are squeamish about poop, darker colored condoms will camouflage and fecal residue that might appear. Internal condoms can be used for anal intercourse by removing the insertion device (e.g. the ring in the FC2) and will offer both the security of a built in flange for the condoms and additional stimulation to the nerve endings in the anus and surrounding area. And, like a gift that keeps on giving, the ring removed from the tip of the FC2 can double as a cockring.
If you are planning on only having sex with yourself, condoms are great for easy cleanup. Slide a condom on the penis or over a sex toy, and you aren’t scrambling for a sock/tissue/towel or a potentially awkward walk to a communal bathroom to wash your dildos in the sink. If premature ejaculation is a concern, condoms can help by changing the sensation of intercourse slightly.
On the size front, the old safer-sex educator trick of fitting a condom over the head, up the arm, or onto a summer squash (or maybe that one is just a fun party trick) gives the message that no one is too big to wear a condom. So why make them in them different sizes?
Well, you can buy a suit off the rack and look incredibly dashing, dapper and nail a job interview, or you can decide to go with a bespoke suit and feel like James Bond or Tilda Swinton every time you put it on. Condom sizes are like that—they will function pretty great if you aren’t using the perfect size, but finding a condom with the optimum fit will make it feel even better.
What are condoms doing for you?
Many condoms companies—both distributors and retailers, participate in social responsibility campaigns. For example, Sustain, fear campaign aside, launched 10%4Women, in which the company contributes 10 percent of their pretax profits to women who lack access to reproductive health care.
Currently, ONE is running its #LustforLife campaign, in which the company partnered with NYC street artists to bring awareness to and raise money for Lifebeat, a NPO that provides HIV education in urban areas, through social media and an auction of original art pieces.
Glyde, aside from being a vegan, sustainable B-Corp, runs the Red Ribbon Campaign, which distributes condoms to sex workers in Southeast Asia as well as providing HIV prevention education abroad and at home in New Zealand.
Sir Richard’s Condoms employs Buy One, Give One. Global Protection (parent company of ONE Condoms) donates a significant number of condoms to reproductive health clinics and providers around the US. Durex, Trojan, Lifestyles…all of them have run significant awareness campaigns that, combined with the condoms they donate, make sure people are having safer sex.
Aside from reducing your personal risk of STIs and unintended pregnancy, it’s safe to say that when you strap on a condom, you are giving back to the world at large.