Technically, most condoms are male condoms, designed to fit over a man’s penis. A ring at the open end of the condom, when rolled on, forms a gentle fit around the base of the penis to help prevent the condom from slipping off during use. By contrast, a female condom, which looks very much like its male counterpart, is designed to fit within the vagina and has a ring that fits just outside the labia (vagina lips) to prevent the condom from being pushed entirely inside the vagina. In both cases, condoms are a “barrier method” of pregnancy and STI control, to avoid direct contact that could cause either.
The Modern Condom
If you are sexually active and want to take positive steps to make sex pleasurable, safer and just plain fun, consider the condom. They’ve changed a lot, even just in recent years, to provide some features that weren’t available before. For one thing, they’re more sensitive than ever, to provide greater pleasure for both men and women. It’s not just that they’re thinner (without compromising strength – typically a latex condom can be safely stretched 800%!) but they also transfer body heat more readily, giving that “right there” feeling. The old objections that many men had to using a condom, especially the lack of the full sexual sensation, are no longer the case.
Thin but Durable
With a barrier so thin, though, care is taken to ensure that the condoms are still strong and durable. During the manufacturing process, each latex condom is made and tested according to the international standard ISO 4074 – there is an international standard for manufacturing something this important – which requires that every latex condom made is tested for holes or imperfections with a special electrical current system. A percentage of every batch is also subjected to special water leakage and air burst tests to assure their quality.
Using Lubricants with a Condom
Several different brands and styles of ultra-thin latex condoms are available, and many also have lubrication supplied to provide an extra smooth sensation. These water-based lubricants are safe to use with latex condoms, so they do not weaken the strength of the material. Lubricated condoms can make sex particularly pleasurable when a woman has difficulty producing her own vaginal lubrication or during anal sex, and when a separate source of appropriate lubrication is not available. Always remember that certain sources of lubrication can react with latex condoms and cause them to break, including petroleum jelly, baby oil and cold cream. If in doubt, make sure that a lubricant is specifically approved for use with latex condoms.
To add an extra dimension of pleasure, some latex condoms are provided with ribs and other textured surfaces. Many women find that the extra sensation provides additional pleasure during intercourse. Of course, so much pleasure can bring a faster conclusion than either partner may want. There’s a way to help prolong a man’s erection and provide a longer sex act. Some condoms have a special solution included, formulated with a small amount – 4% or 5% – of benzocaine to mildly desensitize the penis and prolong the enjoyment. It doesn’t reduce his pleasure, but it helps prolong both partners’ enjoyment.
Considering Condom Size
Just as people are made in all sizes, there is also a range of penis sizes. It’s just a matter of fact and hardly worth mentioning, except how it affects condom use. If a condom is too small for a man’s size, it can be uncomfortable to wear; if it is too large, it may slip off during use and create a leak. That is why condoms come in different sizes, to make using one comfortable and effective. If a man is having difficulty with a condom size, there are alternative sizes available.
With so many choices of styles, how can you select what’s right for you? Why not try a variety pack? There are many available, allowing partners to experiment – or to see what matches the particular mood for each time. You can also just mix them up and draw one at random, to see what happens. Do you feel lucky?
While latex condoms are the choice for many, sometimes one (or both) of the partners have a sensitivity to latex or are allergic to the material. For those individuals, non-latex condoms
made with polyisoprene or natural lamb condoms are available.
Use Correctly and Consistently
Condoms help contribute to safer sex with a reduced chance of pregnancy, but they cannot be completely effective. Used according to instruction, latex condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy, but studies have shown that, according to how people actually use latex condoms, they are 85% effective. The major cause of the difference is occasional lack of use; condoms only have the chance to work if they are used every time. Read the instructions for best use practices, avoid conditions that can cause breakage or leakage and, most of all, enjoy!
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