For those of you who have always worn a condom during sex: First of all, nice work being responsible! Also, there's a chance you've tried to find an alternative for safe sex. Condoms only recently (and I suppose quite literally) reentered my life. I was in a seven-year relationship that spanned the majority of my 20s — otherwise known as the time when most people are having the most random (and therefore, hopefully also condom-heavy) sex. I may have only had one partner for an extended time, but as a result, I had sex without condoms for years. YEARS.
Then said guy and I broke up, and sex became random for the first time in almost a decade. So hello, latex!
Some women tend to form connections quickly when it comes to good sex — and there are even ways to tell when someone is a keeper just from the first time — but when you're out of the condom game for a while, you learn a lot. So much, in fact, that this warranted an entire experiment.
So that's what I did. I set off to prove to myself that safe sex doesn't mean bad sex.
Overall, when wearing condoms regularly, some things didn't surprise me at all, and some things blew my mind. But one thing is for sure: I unwrapped (pun intended!) a few findings on the me + sex + condoms quest. And although every woman is different, you can't argue with real life! Brace yourselves.
1. They Smell Weird
This is probably obvious to everyone, but as a born-again rookie, I couldn't believe how strong the smell actually is. The first time I ripped open that packet for the first time, I looked deep into my partner's eager eyes and said: "It smells like someone just coated you with a fresh coat of lacquer."
2. They're Not Exactly Seamless
This, to me, was the biggest setback. It's not always seamless. For instance, during this experiment, one time when we're ready to, um, do it, we hastily fumble to put one on, and it pops. So he reaches for another, squeezes the tip the way you're supposed to, and I'm going to be honest: I'm sitting there watching, and it all gets so methodical that I feel my mind wandering to what TV series I should start when he leaves. Sex is about being in the moment, and even a slight interruption can throw you off.
3. No One, Um, Reaches For One — And That's An Issue
Clearly, for this experiment, I was stocked with condoms. But as a little experiment within the experiment, if you will, I noted that not one guy I've slept with since my former long-term boyfriend — not one — has volunteered to wear one himself. That was a staggering discovery to me. And since no one also asked me if I was on the pill, I have one question: Do you guys think you're just completely impervious to STDs and getting a girl pregnant?
4. They Require Some Serious Focus
It should really be no surprise I'm not exactly well-versed at putting these on as of late, since the last time I wore them this regularly was in my late teens/early 20s. It wasn't exactly like riding a bike. It was more like rollerblading. You don't keep that comfort, let alone know any tricks, unless you practice them regularly. Also, I was no longer fearless.
Now that I'm older, in fact, most conversations got a little, dare I say it, mom-ish: "This is important, and I don't want to mess it up. Can you just do it? Wait, you know what you're doing, right?"
5. They Are Not Created Equal. Whatsoever.
That's an entire other story in which I rank the condoms I used for this test. You should read it. But a little preview: Certain condoms caused a high level of discomfort, or even a little post-sex irritation. Also, size matters. A lot. When we upped to Magnums, let's just say that even if the guy didn't necessarily need one, it just felt a little better.
6. It Was Harder For Me To Orgasm
When I was using condoms before, I didn't know what "good sex" was. One of the best parts about getting older is becoming more confident with your body and knowing what gets you off. The latter was a bit more difficult to achieve with condoms, but maybe it just takes some time to get used to them.
There's a myth that this is only the case for guys. But for women, it could honestly be worse. It can already be harder for women to orgasm during sex than it is for men. The friction and increased sensitivity from the skin-on-skin action increases my odds.
7. They Make This Process A Lot Cleaner
True story: I recently went to Comedy Cellar in New York City, and Aziz Ansari made a surprise appearance. One of his bits was about how condoms are promoting themselves all wrong, and really they should be playing up how they're the best for keeping things clean. They keep all the, well... juices... confined, and all you have to do is take them off and throw them away. "Sex without the mess." This is just dead on.
8. Built-In Lubricants = Awesome
You know that painful feeling you get when sex lasts too long and the skin-on-skin contact can almost cause a chafing feeling? Some of these condoms have natural lubricants that prevent that from happening. Meaning if sex starts to hurt after an extended period of time, it could very well be because of something else.
9. They Can Come Off During Sex
After one particularly acrobatic tryst which involved multiple position changes, we realized the condom had been balled up toward the top of his penis, and it could have slipped off at any second. Just saying.
Need sex tips for a smaller penis? We've got the best positions right here:
My primary fear when it came to wearing condoms again was that sex would lack a certain level of intimacy it did when I didn’t wear them. I came to realize that this wasn't the case. The lack of condoms was a result of the intimacy that was already in place. In other words, it was a symptom, not a cause.
In fact, condoms did bring a level of intimacy that I wasn’t expecting at all. When trying to determine what worked for both of us — ribbed, lubricants, etc. — it required a lot of open dialogue about pleasure. It almost forced us to communicate, although that was always initiated by me.
Condoms initially made sex more uncomfortable for me. The rumors were indeed true; they made it harder for me to reach orgasm. But like anything else in the bedroom, practice makes perfect. The more I used them and discovered which ones that worked better for me, I was able to make them work — although not nearly as effectively as not wearing one at all. That still stands.
But that wasn't the most shocking discovery. It was how condoms are completely out of men's brains. There is undoubtedly a reason pregnancies and STDs run rampant; condoms are just not at the tip of the guys' minds. They actually seem a little surprised when I reach for them.
I associated not wearing condoms with being in love, or at least being in a monogamous relationship. Since this experiment, it appears (at least in my findings) that not wearing them is rooted in lust as well. I was completely taken aback by this, and never expected people to throw so much caution into the wind as a norm. Is this a NYC thing? I suppose that’s another experiment.
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Images: Liz Newman