The scene plays out the same in the movies and TV shows we’ve all watched—a young guy is finally presented with the opportunity to have sex and then gets called out for having carried around the same condom in his wallet for some inordinate number of years. He’s teased, or his partner deems this condom unacceptable due to old age, or both just say a little prayer that it hasn’t expired and roll the dice.
In this scenario, it’s doubtful that Young Guy purchased the condom himself, or really put any thought into it at all; he just acquired it at some point along the way and optimistically held onto it for a later date. And that may be a fairly accurate depiction of how people get their first condoms, according to Melissa White, the founder and CEO of Lucky Bloke, a fit-focused purveyor of condoms that offers everything from Caution Ware’s Iron Grip for a snugger fit to Okamoto’s Mega Big Boy XXL.
Though people are told they should use condoms, nobody is really teaching them how to choose the right condom. Since they believe that any will do, White assumes that many get their first condom for free from a clinic or concert or bar, which means it’s likely a cheap variety of standard fit condom. And they probably haven’t graduated to a better option since.
“A standard fit condom only fits 50 percent of men, so right away you have 50 percent of the men who are going to find it either too big or too small, and then that experience informs them to think condoms are all too loose, condoms are all too tight,” says White. “Right out of the gate, most people’s first experience with condoms is mediocre, and they don’t have access to the information that a condom should be pleasurable.”
Beyond size, condoms are really only referenced in relation to safer sex. They’ve been around for over 11,000 years and remain the best way to protect ourselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. However, condom use has been on the decline in recent years, and it’s highly possible that has a lot to do with a perceived sacrifice of pleasure and insufficient sex education.
White hopes that Lucky Bloke’s arm of research, including large-scale testing and international condom reviews, will help prove that the right condom can change your whole sexual experience simply by allowing both partners to focus on the condom a whole lot less. With that in mind, here are some things to think about before making your next condom purchase.
When it comes to finding the right fit, focus on girth over length. White recommends the toilet paper roll test. While it’s definitely not scientific, it’s an easy and admittedly funny way to gauge what size you may be.
Just take any old empty roll of toilet paper and slide it around an erect penis. If there’s extra space, you may want to look into a slimmer fit. If it fits about right, standard is a safe bet. If it’s way too tight, that’s when you venture into larger territory. These are some solid options if you fall into that particular category.
Leave Your Ego Out of It
We know, everyone wants to be a magnum. And while it may be tempting to pretend, the reality is that choosing the right size is not only essential for the condom to work properly, but also so it feels better for both parties.
Kimberly Ardwell, the CEO of Glyde America, estimates that 30 to 35 percent of men should actually be wearing slimmer fit condoms, so don’t be too proud to get what works. Not all brands carry them and you may not see them at your local bodega, but you can snag them all online, like these.
Test Out Multiple Options
Once you determine the correct size, you shouldn’t necessarily pick one brand at random. There are more variables than size alone. Some are flavored, textured, colored, warming, or even glow-in-the-dark. But aside from those fun perks, there are other components that can actually affect how a condom fits and feels. “The lube can be different, the shape can be different, the way the latex is processed can be different,” says White, so it’s important to do some trial runs before you commit.
That’s why Lucky Bloke offers single condom purchases and sampler packs, in which you get a variety of individually packaged condoms in your size. ONE is another condom company touting 60 sizes to choose from—and your very own measuring kit—to help you find the absolute perfect fit. Test some out, see what works, and then you can buy a full pack of your favorite brand.
Consider Your Partner
Since female pleasure is finally working its way into heterosexual conversation, get crazy and try talking about it with your partner. Sometimes the condom variety that works best with one partner won’t be the ideal option with another, so it could be worth it to reevaluate a handful of brands with someone new and ask what feels the best for them. Seriously. Ask.
Vaginas are also sensitive and easily thrown out of whack. If your partner is experiencing potential condom-induced irritation, Ardwell recommends trying out Glyde condoms as a solution. It’s the only brand that has been certified as vegan by the Vegan Society. (Many other condoms include an ingredient called casein, a protein derived from cow’s or goat’s milk used to soften the latex. That’s generally what excludes them from the vegan classification. That, or brands may be testing their product on animals.)
Female customers have apparently reported less irritation from Glyde condoms due to the quality of the product and the ingredients. There are other natural variations on the market, too, but most don’t carry multiple sizes.
Look Beyond Drugstore Brands
Most people probably can’t name more than one or two condom brands. Trojan and Durex tend to dominate the market, but neither actually carry the full spectrum of sizes. Durex focuses more on offering different options for “speeding her up and slowing him down” and less on sizing, and Trojan’s sizing only really caters to those who are above average.
All this means is that you may not be able to find the best fit at the drugstore. It’ll probably be more efficient to do some research, or invest in a sampler pack and order online. Most of us already buy everything else that way, so why not add condoms to the virtual shopping list? It could also help you feel more comfortable going for an appropriate size, or just buying condoms at all, since non-procreative sex unfortunately still feels like a taboo to acknowledge in some parts.
White is also excited about the line of Playboy condoms that just hit U.S. markets this past year. She likes that Playboy has pivoted to become more of a sexual wellness brand, and will soon offer five different condom size varieties. So that’s something to look out for.