Condoms, like people, come in all sizes and colors. The condom movement has become mainstream in the prevention of STDs as well as a way to reduce your risk for pregnancy. As I started my research on this topic I was surprised by the history of condoms … for some odd reason I thought condoms were a fairly recent invention. Boy, was I wrong.
The earliest use of male condoms have been traced back to around 1000 BC, when the ancient Egyptians used a linen sheath to protect against disease. A wide variety of penis coverings have been used over the ages; animal bladders, intestines, tortoise shell, leather loin cloths and rubber, with the more recent invention of latex.
In 1873 the New York Times ran the first ever advertisement for “Dr. Power’s French Preventatives.” The “French disease” was another name for syphilis. During the following decade it became illegal to advertise any type of birth control or to send them mail order.
Until the 1920s, condoms were made by hand dipping from rubber cement. These condoms aged quickly and the quality was poor. In 1919, latex entered the scene and condoms grew thinner, odorless and had a much longer shelf life.
Public health education programs strongly advocate that consistent condom use does minimize the spread of sexually transmitted disease such as HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea; as well as reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy. It is estimated that by 2015 the worldwide need will exceed 18 billion condoms a year.
With women and girls accounting for just over half of all people living with HIV worldwide, female HIV prevention mechanisms are still desperately needed. The newest female condom, FC2, received FDA approval in March 2009. Made of nitrile (a type of rubber or polyurethane) material, it is a 6.5-inch-long sheath or pouch with a flexible ring at both ends. They have a silicone-based lubricant inside but do not contain spermicide. Unlike the latex versions, this one can be used with either water or oil-based lubricants. In addition, nitrile conducts heat well, so sensation is preserved. The downside is they are not easy to insert, can be noisy, and the ring on the outside is visible. There is also a higher rate of pregnancy prevention failure.
There are several other types that have not been FDA approved. The World Health Organization will review a new latex condom following 2011 clinical trials.
FYI: The female condom should never be used with a male condom, as the friction between the two may cause breakage.
Mass production of rubber and latex condoms were initially developed with the average penis size in mind (penis size average, erect, is 5-7 inches long with a girth of 4.5-5 inches). This poses a problem for the men who fall outside of these averages. Too tight and a guy will be miserable. Too loose and well, at the very least, he might be called Daddy!
Condom fit can range from a feeling of strangulation to slipping right off while doing the deed. The proper fit is imperative to receive comfort as well as the benefits of protection. Having a condom break or slip off during sex greatly increases your risk for disease or pregnancy. Take the time to know what size you need and purchase the correct ones. The condom should fit snugly (no wrinkles), cover the entire erect penis and leave a small space at the tip. You will find an attachment you can print out to custom size your condoms and order them through a discreet website such as THEYFIT condoms.
Go to Condomania for online guidance for condom sizing and purchasing. There are hundreds of styles and brands; sizes, shapes, with and without spermicide, flavors, colors. ribbed varieties, etc.
Most people don’t realize the variety of companies and sizes those companies make. You need to do some research because not all “standard fit” are the same between companies. If there is no wording like XL, Magnum, or Snugger, you can be pretty certain they are the average fit size. But that, too, can vary. The best solution if you are a frequent flyer is to do the condom fit guide and get the right ones for you.
This brings me to the age old question; Who should bring the condom to the party?
I know that women oftentimes will carry condoms just in case they find themselves in an amorous situation and the guy is unprepared. Most sexually active people theses days are not going to play unwrapped. After learning about all the varieties now available, how in the world do you know what size to carry? Do you carry a variety pack? OMG, this could get really awkward. Do you carry the size chart, too? That could spoil the moment for sure. It seems to me that MEN need to take this one on themselves; unless of course they want us whipping out our trusty little measuring device to see which of the variety travel pack we need to open up.
Sex can be complicated enough without having to worry about a condom falling off and having to find it later. So my advice to you men is be a good scout and make sure you are always prepared!
In discussing this column with friends and family, many questions popped up regarding condom use. Why don’t men like to use them? How should a woman bring the topic up and ask a man to use a condom? What are the barriers to having condoms accessible? Should we provide teens with condoms to reduce their exposure risk? Should you use a condom for oral sex? And many more. I will do a follow up column “The In’s and Out’s of Condom Use” to answer your burning questions and post your answers to the questions here.
Nancy Sutton Pierce RN, Health Educator is the Founding director of Nancy Sutton’s House of Yoga and Radio Talk Show Host on The Conscious Living Show LIVE every Saturday 11a-12noon on KCNR 1460am You can reach Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comment or questions.
As You Desire is proudly sponsored by Body Logic MD; helping both men and women restore their libido and vitality through hormone therapy, fitness and nutrition counseling. www.bodylogicmd.com