Article Thumbnail

Bad Condoms Are So American

Why you’ve got to think globally — and shop online — to find good condoms

TROJAN and LifeStyles seem to be about the only brand of condoms available wherever rubbers are sold, like the Coke and Pepsi of safe sex. Regardless of how they feel (or whether or not we like them), we gravitate toward these major brands because they’re the only condoms we know — or can manage to find. These American brands have spent a considerable amount of time literally attached to our bodies and served as the very thing that prevented us from becoming 16 and pregnant, making them feel all-too-familiar.

Melissa White, however, believes that such trust and allegiance should come from something more than just familiarity. As founder and CEO of Lucky Bloke, White is dedicated to better educating people about their condom options. While she commends some of the products TROJAN and LifeStyles offer, such as LifeStyles’ newer “SKYN” line, White wants her customers to enjoy the variety and innovation found in products from lesser-known condom brands from around the world — e.g., Okamoto, Japan’s leading condom company, and Billy Boy Condoms, Germany’s take on MAGNUMs.

According to White, many of her customers prefer the products these companies make to their big-brand American counterparts. She reports that many are far better in quality than the condoms most of us have used, meaning they actually smell and feel good. Or at least, these condoms feel good and don’t smell so bad.

What’s the biggest complaint about condoms that you hear?
A lot of men say they can’t feel anything while wearing one. This usually means one of two things: Either he’s wearing a condom that’s too big, or he’s wearing a condom that’s too thick.

Many men assume these types of poor experiences with condoms are the only types of condom experiences. If a guy’s condom slips and slides, he will think all condoms slip and slide. If his condom is too tight, he will think all condoms are too tight. But if he’s willing to entertain the notion that using condoms doesn’t have to be mediocre, he can have a better experience with them.

Are most men wearing the correct size condom?
Typically, no. A standard-size condom only will fit about 50 percent of guys. Thirty-five percent of guys need smaller condoms than what they’ll find at conventional retail stores. Only 15 percent of men need condoms that are larger than standard. And too many men think a TROJAN MAGNUM is good for all penis sizes, which absolutely isn’t true.

So too many men think they should wear MAGNUMs?
Based on Lucky Bloke’s international condom survey and global penis size statistics, 85 percent of men need a condom smaller than a MAGNUM. In fact, it’s unsafe for them and their partners to use them. When a condom is too big, it’s likely to slide around and become less effective. You don’t want to use a baggy condom.

But MAGNUMs are made by TROJAN. Isn’t TROJAN the King of Condoms?
A lot of people who dislike condoms are TROJAN users, which is funny because TROJAN does have the lion’s share of condom sales in the U.S. They also have the most shelf space in stores. Most guys see the TROJAN name, consider it trustworthy and buy a box. Unfortunately, these guys often report poor experiences. Also, many women report that TROJANs give them some kind of irritation. But most stores don’t want to lose those TROJAN sales, so it’s a self-fulfilling cycle.

Can a better fit be achieved by breaking out a ruler and measuring how long your penis is?
We like the Toilet Paper Roll Test better, because true condom fit is more about girth than length. To conduct the test, you take an empty toilet paper roll and insert your erect penis into it. If you have space around your penis, then you should start with a smaller condom. If it basically fits you, you should wear a standard-size condom. If it’s too tight or you can’t get your penis in at all, you should wear a larger condom.

Then what?
Go online. The condoms found in conventional retail stores are a tiny slice of what’s available. Online, you get a more anonymous experience, and you’re able to do more trial and error. Lucky Bloke allows customers to buy single condoms rather than entire boxes, which was a novel approach when we began more than three years ago.

We also have 10 fantastic samplers with different sizes and attributes — whether they’re ribbed or flavored. It’s a great way to try a bunch of condoms without having to buy 12 boxes. What surprised us is that customers like to switch it up; they keep buying the variety packs instead of choosing to buy just one type of condom.

Can condoms ever make sex better?
There’s a whole line of delay condoms to help guys with premature ejaculation. They have numbing lubricant inside of them so that a man won’t cum as quickly. Since some men absolutely need that, it’s a wonderful option.

Have you ever pulled a condom from your store because your customers didn’t like it?
Some of the arousal condoms, such as the TROJAN Charged condom, can be polarizing. They have arousal lubricant on them that some women equate to putting Vicks VapoRub on their vaginal lips. Arousal lubricant includes ingredients such as ginger and maca intended for extreme mutual pleasure. We’ve pulled other arousal condoms because they were too intense for most of our customers.

How important is lube while having sex with a condom?
If you’re putting latex or any foreign substance in your body, the typical reaction is going to be some sort of dryness. Lube combats that. People know even less about lube than they do about condoms. There’s a lot of myths about lube out there. Things like, “If I use lube, my partner’s going to think I’m not turned on by him,” and “Lube is for old people.”

So men should drop lube into their condoms before putting them on?
Lube always adds more pleasure. Men can put a couple of drops of lube inside a condom and then some on the outside. This makes sex more pleasurable for both partners and also helps prevent condoms from breaking. As I like to say, it’s an important condiment.

How do you track customer satisfaction? Do they really like condoms more than they did before shopping at Lucky Bloke?
At the beginning of our global condom survey, about 70 percent of the male participants were wearing the wrong condom size. And when we started, 84 percent of men and women disliked or felt completely neutral about condoms. By the end of their review of our condoms, we found that 96 percent of reviewers had found one or more condom they actually loved.

Tierney Finster is an Editor at MEL. She previously wrote about men who fetishize women who smoke.

For more MEL, follow us on Medium or subscribe to the newsletter.