Categorized | Sex & Health

Condom Conclusions

Standing in front of the condom display at Meijer, names jump out at me. I guess Lifestyles brand seems friendly enough. Durex, hmm. Durability sounds good. Trojan always struck me as a rather gung-ho name for a condom. Sure, the horse seemed like a nice gift at first, but who wants their penis to be thought of as the enemy troops? The real kicker is the Reality brand of condoms, a product name that baffles my mind. So you thought sex was about fun and mutual love and flowers and bunnies and happy-ever-after, huh? Well, it’s about unwanted pregnancies and unsightly bumps and strings of meaningless relationships and AIDS. That’s Reality. Enjoy!
But that’s really not what sex is about, or even condoms! For those who are sexually active, condoms are the most common contraceptive used that helps prevent pregnancies and STDs. Naturally, condoms are important, but who wants to go through the bother of finding out which ones are the safest, least liable to break, and tastiest? Look no further than The Big Green to provide an almost (but not quite) entirely uninformative look at an issue that’s never dealt with lightly enough.
How the condoms were selected:
1. Cost. I care about all of your safety, of course, but within reason. I mean $26.99 for lambskin condoms? Not reasonable. And besides the fact that lambskin makes me actually think of a penis turning into a sausage, diseases can pass right through them; it even says so on the back!
2. Variety. I got your standard Trojan lubricated along with your Durex Ultimate Feeling (ribbed), your Durex Performax (shaped like a chess bishop, minus that nasty slit), your Durex Intense Sensation (has bumps in it like padded socks), Durex Tropical (you don’t even want to know), and I haven’t even gotten to the polyurethane condoms yet.
[latex2] 3. Size. The tests I conducted needed consistency, so only standard-sized condoms were used.
The Tests
1. Ease of use. It isn’t as easy as putting it on, actually. Condoms come with lots of neat instructions such as this little excerpt from Trojan, Shared Pleasure: “Keep unused condoms in their packs in a cool, dry place (not in a wallet).” My personal favorite, however, is “Never let a latex condom touch oil in any form–no petroleum jelly, no baby oil, no mineral oil, no vegetable oil–oil rots rubber.” Someone somewhere decided that vegetable oil would be a good lubricant. Also: cottonseed oil? Don’t use it. Motor oil? Don’t use it. Olive Oyl? That’s a contraceptive in itself.
The main problem, which is the problem only of the Trojan and LifeStyles brands, is that the instructions are hidden on the inside of the box. Tiny, tiny print on the top of the box tells you that yes, there are instructions. But by the time you’ve found them, you’ve taken apart the box entirely and need to find a brand new cool, dry place to store your condoms! It would be much more convenient should the box have printed instructions inside as the Durex brand does, or possibly have instructions printed on each condom individually. I would imagine the Reality brand would probably print the instructions on the condoms themselves, just to be extra-safe.
2. Durability. This is the important one, right? Right. Aesthetics and flavor aside, all that really matters is how likely the condom is to do its job. As you would expect, I’ve already been beaten to the punch by the “real” scientists. Maryann Napoli reported as far back as May 1999 in HealthFacts magazine that latex condoms are actually safer than polyurethane condoms in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Using 805 heterosexual couples (I’m seeing the need for continued research already), over six months, the pregnancy rate was 4.8 percent for the latex condoms and 6.3 percent for the polyurethane condoms. Also, the rate of slippage for the polyurethane condoms were more than five times the rate of slippage for latex condoms.
“Real” science isn’t about to stop me, though!
Using unlimited tap water from Abbot Hall over one afternoon, I conducted my own research, with three trials each. I used two latex condoms (Durex ribbed, for her pleasure, and Trojan Warm Sensations, for everyone’s pleasure, I suppose) and one polyurethane condom. Each condom was filled with water, taken down three flights of stairs, and swung in circles for thirty seconds. I don’t mess around when it comes to reliability, folks.
You’d never guess it, but latex is really, really stretchy leading to a condom that, perhaps, could never be filled. I settled for as far as the picture shows, and began my trials.
Normal latex condom: Amazing. Nothing happened! For all three trials, the condoms were consistently able to withstand thirty seconds of swinging! I made the mistake of becoming too enthusiastic with the third trial and extending it until the condom did break. At 49 seconds, everything was doused, myself included, as if it were in a gentle spring shower. Only with more lubricant.
[ribbed2] Ribbed latex condom: These were slightly less spectacular since the second trial also concluded with a splash of spermicidal lube, but that trial still lasted 23 seconds. The lesson I learned from these trials is that latex condoms would make awful water balloons.
Polyurethane condom: The polyurethane condoms would also make a bad water balloon for entirely different reasons. Trial one ended before it started with a slight mess on the stairwell on the way downstairs. Trial two made it down all the way outside and then broke immediately. Trial three…ah, trial three. Just when I thought I had escaped the trials relatively mess free, the third polyurethane broke on the way down the stairs, also. This time, however, the water splashed backwards and made a mess all over the front of my pants. Who says physics doesn’t have a sense of humor?
For those of you questioning “real” science and totally willing to take some weird college student off the Internet seriously, let it be known that I agree with the experts. My (unscientific) conclusion is that polyurethane condoms should only be used for those with latex allergies, a mere 7 percent of the population.
3. Flavor: My first instinct upon seeing flavored varieties of condoms was to congratulate the person who felt that they needed to come pre-lubricated. Since the only possible reason for flavoring them is oral sex, I felt that perhaps the creator of flavored condoms forgot about saliva.
Actually, it is the lubrication itself that is flavored, which I suppose is to maintain the integrity of the latex. At least the flavoring is an innovative reminder to some that oral sex is, indeed, sex; unwanted pregnancy has never been the only consequence of not being protected, as any sexually active gay person can tell you. Condoms, unlike anything else barring abstinence, are one of the most important protections people have from getting something embarrassing, inconvenient, or life-threatening. And, uh, that’s Reality.
In order to test which of the condoms were the very tastiest, I randomly sampled MSU’s student population to test three flavors. None of the male and female respondents knew which flavors were which, and each was asked to guess the flavor of all three condoms and comment on which they would recommend based on their flavor.
The first condom presented was the yellow Durex “Tropical” condom. Of the five respondents (hey, there’s only so much condom to go around) four believed the taste was banana and one thought it had no taste. I belonged to a separate camp entirely and thought it tasted like a kind of banana-pineapple fusion. Only one person recommended “Tropical,” and I tend to agree. It’s a bit Freudian, really, to make a penis taste like a banana.
[lick2]Second up came the red LifeStyles “Strawberry” flavor. Four people recognized it as strawberry while one thought it was “sugary and cherryish.” On flavor alone, four people recommended the LifeStyles strawberry, and I have to admit, that is the tastiest condom I’ve ever tried. The only downside, however, is that I could not find these condoms on their own; there was only one in a pack of three, and that pack clearly has a strawberry, a banana, and something that looks similar to a clove of garlic on it.
Finally, to see if everyone was paying attention, I used the green LifeStyles flavorless condom. Three people believed it tasted like rubber, one thought it had no flavor, and one, grasping at straws, wrote “mint, maybe?” To no one’s surprise, nobody could really recommend the rubber tire on taste alone. It reminded me of an old flavorless mouthwash I used once.
Everyone’s seen those awful Trojan Man commercials that have thankfully gotten less frequent over the years. It’s thankful not because of the message, but because they were hideously unfunny. Little Johnny and Suzy are out getting hot and heavy and then a weird guy on a horse and his flank of chorus singers sweep in talking about wrapping his dink in rubber. And it’s done like a radio spot! Dumb!
Haven’t we all groaned, though, about the Allegra and Lunestra commercials that talk vaguely about symptoms over images of people doing Tai Chi in a park at sunset and green butterflies landing on the cheeks of people who smile even in their sleep? Those commercials have no sense of humor, nothing but strange, happy people.
Condoms have a sense of humor about them because sex is a funny thing. Most people that use them have heard sordid tales about them: buying them, unfurling them the wrong way, getting them caught in various piercings and others. They also deal with a specific, significant issue that many people are uncomfortable talking about: casual sex. The only serious side effect they have (morals aside) is that they make casual sex safer. Because unwanted pregnancies and gonorrhea are not funny.
Now, I’m off to find a cool, dry place.

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