Condoms are notoriously the worst: 83 percent of dicks aren’t even long enough to fit in a standard one, according to a 2014 study out of Indiana University. The sad truth is, while they’re (literal) lifesavers, condoms generally result in lackluster sex for all parties — so lackluster, in fact, that nearly half the women surveyed during recent research admit to seduction, deception and/or sabotage to avoid using a condom altogether. (Men, of course, are even more likely to attempt at least one of these three tactics.)
In attempt to disrupt the prophylactic business, some condom manufacturers are stepping up their game by releasing condoms with supposed state-of-the-art technology to convince a wary public that, hey, putting on a raincoat before stepping into the shower doesn’t have to be terrible. To find out what works and what doesn’t (and because February is national condom month and today is Valentine’s Day), we ran through the specs of five highly-touted “high-tech” condoms with Melissa White, the founder and CEO of Lucky Bloke, a company whose mission is to better educate people about their condom options.
Let’s unroll what we learned.
The Condom: i.Con Smart Condom
Price: $80.99 for a single i.Con
The Whiz-Bang: While this isn’t, technically, a condom — it’s a ring that fits over a standard condom — it’s without a doubt the most “high-tech” condom accessory in the history of condom accessories. During sex, the i.Con measures different variables — including calories burnt, speed of thrusts, total number of thrusts, average velocity of thrusts and even different positions performed — which can then be viewed on the i.Con app. (The smart condom can be paired with your device via Bluetooth.) It also provides users with the bizarre option to share their recent data with friends (or the entire world).
The Expert Analysis: “Would any of these things — like the number of thrusts, or speed of your thrusts — actually improve your lovemaking?” White wonders. “Sex is about reading your partner, not trying to win an award. This is my gut feeling: It just adds one more layer of pressure that people don’t need in the bedroom.”
The Condom: LELO HEX
Price: $27.92 for a 36-pack
The Whiz-Bang: The LELO HEX has a novel hexagonal structure, the selling point of which is to increase both the grip of the condom and its resistance to tearing. In an attempt to prove this, LELO (alongside oddly-chosen spokesperson Charlie Sheen) performed a pin test — where they purposefully puncture the HEX with a pin to show how it breaks — the results of which imply that the hexagonal structure allows the condom to tear in one area without completely bursting. The idea is that the slightly torn condom continues to provide some protection against sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.
The Expert Analysis: “The LELO HEX is very dangerous,” White warns. “A pin can break one of the hexagonal quadrants, and the rest of the condom won’t break. That’s horrifying: You could be using this condom and not have any idea that it’s structurally broken. That seems so irresponsible. I’m not entirely sure how this was ever allowed to be produced.”
The Condom: ONE Pleasure Plus
Price: $12 for a 12-pack
The Whiz-Bang: The Pleasure Plus features a “roomy pouch” (which looks more like a massive bulb) containing superfine internal ribs. During sex, the pouch is meant to move back and forth, providing extra stimulation for both partners.
The Expert Analysis: “The pouch is on one side of the condom, so you have put it on correctly, and that’s complicated for a lot of people to do,” White says. “There’s also polarity surrounding this condom, because it’s different — some people like it, some people don’t. It can be too thick (because it needs to be thicker to provide the pouch), or it can be uncomfortable. As a result, whether or not a person likes this condom has a lot to do with the two bodies that are at play.”
The Condom: Unique Pull
Price: $7.99 for a 3-pack
The Whiz-Bang: The Unique Pull is made from polyethylene resin, which, according to the manufacture, is up to three times stronger and up to one-third less thick than latex (it’s also safe to use for those with latex allergies). These condoms also feature a pull strip, which supposedly helps with the application process — the strips allow you to tug the condom toward your body, which rolls the condom on in one swift motion.
The Expert Analysis: “The Unique Pull is very particular to the fit, because it’s made from a resin that people often equate to Saran wrap — it’s a lot thicker than that, but it has that same kind of feel to it,” White explains. “You need to be slightly girthier or larger than standard, because when the penis is inserted, the Unique Pull kind of molds and fits to the penis. But if your penis isn’t wide enough, the condom becomes wrinkly, which will be uncomfortable for you and your partner. It’s also non-latex, which transmits heat better. And it’s so thin! You really feel your partner more.”
The Condom: Naked Luxury
Price: $12.90 for a 6-pack
The Whiz-Bang: The Naked Luxury features a patented “Pleasure Fit Technology” that supposedly provides users with the optimal balance of thinness and sensitivity. These condoms also come in a wide variety of widths — 49, 52, 54 and 57 millimeters — to ensure they fit securely at the base of the penis (and don’t wrinkle). According to Naked, the lubricant used on these condoms is also “the finest in the world” — that’s because it’s derived from “a silicon-based reserve made in Germany” (why that makes this lubricant the finest remains unclear, but hey, it sounds both fancy and efficient). Additionally, they claim to have spent more than three years just on the packaging, so they’re clearly pretty detail-oriented.
The Expert Analysis: “I love this condom, because they offer four sizes — most people are going to be able to fit into one of these,” White says. “The ‘Pleasure Fit Technology’ means that, from the base to the tip, the condom continues to become wider. Because of this, a man who would technically not wear a 57-millimeter condom — maybe he’d be more comfortable in a 60- or 64-millimeter condom — can actually wear the Naked Luxury comfortably. The lubricant is also very luxurious, and the latex itself is very high-end — there’s no smell, and it’s very smooth and soft. It really is a luxury condom.”
All in all, there are some good upgrades here (the Naked Luxury) and some bad (the LELO HEX). But, says White, fancy technology (like the i.Con) isn’t necessarily the redeeming quality of a good condom. “The most interesting thing about any kind of condom is fit,” she emphasizes. “If your condom isn’t fitting — no matter how technologically-advanced it is or what it’s made out of — you’re not going to have a good experience.”
Basically, an excellent condom is like an excellent sex partner: Despite all the bells and whistles they may have, all that really matters is whether or not they’re a perfect fit.