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if the condom fits, wear it.
experimenting with the new generation of prophylaxis.
by matt morin

As guys, there are products we love – iPods, Ducati motorcycles, Jessica Alba, and there are products we hate – scented candles, beds with 465 useless pillows, and most Penny Marshall films. But in the history of guy products, we’ve never both loved and hated any single thing quite as much as the condom. On one hand, condoms are uncomfortable, they reduce sensation during sex, it kills the moment taking the time to put one on, and when you buy a dozen and four years later you realize 11 of them are now past their expiration date, you feel like a total loser. (Um…not that that’s ever happened to me or anything. I mean not since college.)

On the plus side, we love condoms because they usually mean we’re having sex. With a partner. Hopefully not a partner named “Miss Krystall” who we had to rent for the hour.

However for a product so ubiquitous, the condom has, until recently, remained fairly simple. They were made of latex (does anyone really use lambskin?). They came in one size. And your only real choices were brand, ribbed, or the occasional Kiss of Mint flavored novelty condom. But about five years ago, things started to change. NASA-esque research and development went into discovering new materials, new designs, and news ways to make you forget you were even wearing a rubber. (Wow, does the word “rubber” sound dated now or what?) These days there are so many condom options, it makes you almost want to say forget it and spend the night with the Spice Channel and a warm washcloth. (I know, too much information. Sorry.)

So to save you the sheer agony of figuring out which condom is the best, I, along with my wonderful lab assistant, have taken it upon myself to do the exhaustive (and sometimes acrobatic) research for you.

Sweet Jesus, sometimes I really love my job.

One of the seminal breakthroughs in condom materials came (pardon the pun) almost a decade ago. Durex created the first polyurethane condom, the Avanti. The benefits of polyurethane over latex are many – no latex allergy problems, thinner but stronger, and oil-based lubricant won’t make them break. But while testing the Avanti, the best benefit I noticed was that I could feel body heat through it, although that takes a little getting used to. Since it felt like I was wearing nothing, I had to stop several times during testing to make sure the Avanti was still on. Once I got past that fear, the only other drawback is that the polyurethane makes a slight crinkly sound during use. Then again, I’m getting old. Maybe that crinkly sound was me.

Reduced sensation has always been a drawback of condoms. But many new styles aim to give you more bang for your buck. The Trojan Ultra Pleasure and the Durex Enhanced Pleasure offer a looser-is-better approach. With flared tips at the ends, both these condoms let your stuff rub against your other stuff for more sensation. In field testing, both worked as advertised. The extra room felt better and more natural, although Enhanced Pleasure was more realistically named than Ultra Pleasure. My lab assistant’s thoughts? “They both felt good, but I didn’t really notice any difference” she said.

This being America, bigger is usually better. (Yeah baby!) So several companies took the baggy design to long lengths. The Inspiral condom and Trojan’s Twisted Pleasure (who comes up with these names?) feature ultra-baggy, winding shapes that look more like something from Alien IV than something you’d want on your penis. However as ugly as these condoms looked, for me, they performed even worse. First, I didn’t notice any extra fireworks due to the looseness. But they were so loose, I was constantly checking each one to see if it was still on. And many times, they weren’t. The looseness didn’t leave much surface area to hold the condom on, and both came off repeatedly during sex. “They also made a lot of noise,” my assistant pointed out. “Weird noise.”

With a sudden complex that maybe I should try “snugger fit” condoms to stop the slippage problem, I called on They-Fit Condoms. They make custom fit condoms in more than 55 sizes. You simply download sizing chart, follow the instructions, and order the exact size for you. My assistant and I had almost as much fun doing the measuring as we did road testing them. (For the record – I’m exactly average length and quite a bit above average in width.) Other than the personal size aspect, the Vivas are your average, everyday condom, but they worked wonderfully. After the Inspiral/Twisted Pleasure fiasco, having a condom on that I knew fit perfectly and wouldn’t slip off let me concentrate on more important things. Like the Kings/Lakers game that was on TV.

Feeling a little left out, my lab assistant “took vacation” until I promised to try a few condoms meant more for her than me. Not wanting to halt my important research even for a day, I brought a few new guys to the party. Uh…I mean…no…not like that. I went and bought some textured condoms. Ribbed and studded condoms have been around for years, but only recently have manufacturers begun experimenting.

First on the list was the Trojan Her Pleasure condom. The Her Pleasure features both a bulbous head (good for me) and “prominent” ribs around the base (good for her). We ended up trying this condom by accident – I blindly grabbed for one in the dark, not knowing which type we’d used until the next morning. So, did it work? Well, let’s just say that when we picked up the wrapper and saw which one it was, we were a little shocked. “That was for my pleasure? I get more pleasure from the spin cycle on the washing machine,“ she said. Not the most ringing endorsement of the condom or my lab techniques.

With expectations flaccid, my assistant and I tried a Japanese condom – the Sagami Type E. The ultra-thin Type E goes all out with both studs and ribs covering its surface. Now I don’t know how well Types A through D worked, but for my money, the Type E was about as good a condom as I found. The super-thin design was quite sensitive. Just below the slightly-flared head, it narrowed, keeping the condom nice and snug. And unless you count the yelling “Oh my God! OH GOD!” from my assistant, I heard no complaints about the texturing.

Finally, wanting to go out with a bang, we decided to try for the hottest sex in the world. And how better to do that than with condoms from the hottest band in the world – Kiss Kondom’s Studded Paul. (We couldn’t quite bring ourselves to try the all red, “tongue lubricated” Gene Simmons condoms.) My assistant immediately noticed the studs. “Oooh! Feel the bumps!” she said. In actual use, the studs seemed to work for me, too. It was an added little sensation that I hadn’t expected. And if the pounding on the walls from the complaining neighbors was any indication, the Kiss Kondom certainly rocked my lab assistant’s world.

With the experiment finished, I decided to summarize my results. However, I feel as though my research is incomplete. There are still dozens of styles of condoms out there. I mean, I haven’t tried the Hot Rod condom with the speed strip applicator, the female condom, or the condoms with desensitizing cream. Ok, on second thought, maybe I’ll skip that last one.


Matt would love to be George Plimpton...welll, except for the being dead part. He supplies the doing and the writing. All he asks of you is the reading.

more about matt morin


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juli mccarthy
3.17.04 @ 12:14a

I admire your self-sacrifice for journalistic integrity.

Please ask your lab partner for me if any of the condoms you tested did NOT have an unpleasant, plasticky odor. Little things mean a lot.

matt morin
3.17.04 @ 12:21a

Welll, the Avanti doesn't have that Latex odor, although it does have a different plasticky odor because it's made of polyurethane.

If you can't stand the scent of Latex, give that one a try.

robert melos
3.17.04 @ 12:55a

Woohoo! Matt's having sex with a partner. Oh, wait. That wasn't the point of this article.

Avanti kind of popped up on the scene, and seems to be one of the best out there for all styles of sex. However, for brand name recognition Trojan is still the most widely recognized on the market. Also they have those clever ads and a mascot. Most other companies lack the mascot and the clever ad campaigns.

Enjoy your research.

erik myers
3.17.04 @ 8:02a

And how better to do that than with condoms from the hottest band in the world – Kiss Kondom’s Studded Paul.

You had sex with Paul Stanley on your penis.

I bet you're not the only man that can say that.

margot lester
3.17.04 @ 9:00a

way to go, matt. our own dan savage. try the crown-- the official condom of bed-tested (my old sex education company). simple, but delightful for all parties *ahem*.



matt morin
3.17.04 @ 10:19a

Margot, I love how you can buy the Crowns in packages of 144. They may as well call that the "Porn Pack."

dan gonzalez
3.17.04 @ 12:35p

One of the seminal breakthroughs in condom materials came (pardon the pun)

Nice, I pardon any pun that's nested with multiple others...

matt morin
3.17.04 @ 12:39p

I'm curious if anyone has actually tried the condoms with desensitizing cream.

That seems to totally defeat the purpose.

rachel levine
3.17.04 @ 12:48p

This column seems so complimentary to the gallery one about lying to get laid... you should just tell girls that you're testing condoms for an article on intrepid media and see if that works.

adam kraemer
3.17.04 @ 12:48p

Not if you have a problem with premature ejaculation, which, I understand is what they're made for.

So to answer your question, no, I've never tried the condoms with desensitizing cream.

matt morin
3.17.04 @ 1:03p

Da Ha! True! I guess not many guys would admit to using condoms with desensitizing cream.

In my research, I also found a company that makes an "erectile sleeve" - it's like an underwire bra for men who can't keep it up.

Sounds so strange, I was tempted to get one and try it.

I was also tempted to try the female condom. But that's another one that's just a bit too strange.

jen bell
3.17.04 @ 1:46p

I dig the colored condoms. I can't help but think "surgery glove" when I see a Trojan one, and that's not the thought I want right then.

david damsker
3.17.04 @ 1:51p

Matt, your column made my day.

Great stuff.

matt morin
3.17.04 @ 2:05p

Jen, one condom I tried that I didn't use in this column was a black condom. It was really weird and somewhat disassociating to see my whiter-than-white body with a black penis.

sarah ficke
3.17.04 @ 3:23p

I bet that's a hit with the goth kids.

adam kraemer
3.17.04 @ 5:31p

I think Pauly Shore once commented, "You've got the red socks, the green condom, you look like a circus clown. Might as well get the nose and go the distance. 'Look, honey, it's Bozo!'"

robert melos
3.17.04 @ 10:19p

I also enjoy the glow in the dark ones. They can make playing ring toss challenging and fun.

adam kraemer
3.18.04 @ 3:19p

The only problem with the glow-in-the-dark ones is that every time I think of them, I picture John Ritter.

sandra thompson
3.18.04 @ 7:47p

Hot damn! To think of all the fun I missed all those years before AIDS when I kept faith with my faithful diaphragm. My partners would prolly say I haven't missed a thing, no doubt, since I've never met a man who would wear one of those things without putting up at least a token argument. Maybe it's an age thing.

robert melos
3.18.04 @ 9:49p

Adam, that works for me.

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