A few months ago, I got into a near-screaming match with a guy I met at an otherwise friendly gathering.
I didn’t start it. I was five minutes into the conversation when his roommate began berating him about his sexual behavior. Apparently, this guy brought home too many girls, too often, and his roommate missed out on valuable sleep as a result. I was terribly amused by the whole thing until his roommate let it slip that this guy was screwing around without using condoms.
“What?” I screeched, spraying spit across everyone’s face. “Why the hell would you do that?”
The guy looked at me passively. “Because the benefits outweigh the risks,” he said without pause.
“What benefits?” More spraying. “You’re risking your life!”
“Have you ever worn a condom?” he snapped back. “It feels like a goddamn raincoat.”
Actually, I had worn a condom — on my fingers, as required by my high-school sex ed. But I admittedly lack the particular anatomy to know what it felt like to wear one during sex.
I have always firmly believed in condoms. They’re cheap, they don’t involve ingesting hormones and best of all, they’re the only widely available method of preventing most sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. But according to some guys – and girls – having sex with one is akin to getting a back massage while wearing a trash bag. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, wearing a condom is often compared to “eating the candy with the wrapper on.” With a mental image like that, who the hell would want to use a condom?
Public health officials have tried since the advent of the birth control pill to convince teenagers and college students that condoms are still a good idea. So far they’ve made little progress — the pleasure card trumps any admonishments to “wrap it up.” And don’t get me started on the number of college students who have unprotected sex because their partner “seems clean” or other such bullshit. The numbers speak for themselves: HIV rates are increasing among young gay men, and STIs among college students are disturbingly high. The possibility of getting a life-threatening disease or creating an accidental pregnancy isn’t enough to scare people into using a condom.
So…what can we do to get more condoms on more guys? Maybe we should try to make wearing a condom more enjoyable. What a concept.
- Avoid awkwardness. You know what’s not enjoyable? Rummaging around for a condom in the dark. Put them in an easily accessible place. Better yet, take one out and unwrap it before you start foreplay. Then you have it on hand and don’t have to deal with the awkward “Shit, why is this so impossible to open?” pause.
- Lubricating the inside of the condom is also crucial. Water- or silicone-based lubes work best for this. Never, ever use lotion or Vaseline, because oil breaks down the condom. Lubes increase sensation and reduce the “rubbery” feel that so many men run screaming from. You can also add to the appeal of wearing a condom if you put it on while performing oral sex.
- Warm it up. After the condom is on — this is very important — wait. Why? Because the condom needs to warm up to body temperature. Lukewarm latex definitely kills the mood. So go back to square one, foreplay, until the temperature rises.
- Retrain your impulse. Some men claim that they can’t stay hard or orgasm while wearing a condom. This is probably because they’re used to having sex without one. The only thing to do is retrain the nether regions. Whether this involves wearing a condom during masturbation or amping up the foreplay, it takes persistence.
- Go for the skinny. There are also super-thin condoms that might help increase sensation. But don’t expect the miracles promised on the box: They’re still made of latex.
- Get over it. If you enter the game with the mental attitude that condoms suck, you’re never going to win. What’s that lame adage again? Oh yeah. Your brain is a sex organ too. Mind over matter, man. Mind over matter.
When it comes right down to it, sex without a condom feels better. But wearing a condom isn’t as libido-killing as, say, getting the clap. We’ll see how smug “feels like a raincoat” guy feels when it burns when he pees.