I was 19 when I first rolled into Condom World on Newbury Street in Boston. Not only was it my first foray into "adult entertainment" stores, as I believe they were called then, but it was my first introduction to a lot of things — condoms in particular. Although the store carried sex toys too, since this was over 15 years ago, they definitely didn't carry the type of sex toys I imagine they carry today. I mean, the women behind some of the most brilliant sex toys on the market today were probably only 10 at the time, if that, so the sex toy revolution was still a ways off.
Although I did buy my first sex toy that day — a generic phallic-shaped, bright blue vibrator that needed new batteries once a week — it was still the condoms that blew my mind. The only condoms I knew up until that point were the plain and simple Trojan condoms, and although the local CVS carried a "ribbed for her pleasure" option, I had zero idea what that meant at the time. So to find myself face-to-face with condoms of multiple sizes, colors, flavors, shapes, and even a few that looked like something out of an alien movie — the French Tickler — wasn't just intense, but eye-opening. Of course, I wouldn't learn until later why variation is key when it comes to condoms — and I've yet to try a French Tickler.
But while there's no denying that latex condoms of different sizes and shapes, as long as they fit and stay put, aren't bad for you, there's still a question that needs to be asked about flavored condoms. Are flavored condoms bad for you?
"People often ask us if we will offer flavored condoms," Lovability co-founder and CEO, Tiffany Gaines, tells Bustle. "The answer is no. At Lovability Inc., we urge our customers to choose both unflavored and unscented condoms with as few additives as possible. That's because these 'flavors' are generally derived from chemicals, and these chemicals are often harmful and irritating to vaginas. When the vaginal wall is irritated, it actually becomes more susceptible to STIs. Also, it's important to note that most types of sugar, whether natural or chemically formulated, can disrupt the pH of the vagina. pH imbalances can lead to yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis." But, if you're about to have sex and that's all you have on hand, it is better than nothing.
"Despite the health repercussions that a 'wild cherry' flavored condom can have on your vaj, it's very important to note that flavored condoms are still absolutely safer than no condom at all," says Gaines. "However, the best way to avoid defaulting to chemical-laced-condoms is to carry your own natural condoms. At Lovability Inc. we like to say 'don't let anything or anyone toxic near your vagina'."
Using Flavored Condoms During Oral Sex
Although there's no denying that you can get an contract an STI while giving or receiving oral sex, a 2017 YouGov survey found that just over a third, at 34 percent, of Americans never use protection during oral sex. That means a whole boatload of blow jobs and cunnilingus is being had without some layer of latex in between to protect both partners. But it's here where flavored condoms are actually quite safe, as long as you know what's in them.
“Flavored condoms can be safe and a great option for oral sex," says Gaines. "However, vegans should be aware that many flavored condoms can include an ingredient called casein, which is made from dairy." But if you do use one during oral, make sure to take care before moving onto other sex acts.
"If you transition from using a flavored condom during oral sex to other sex acts that don’t involve condoms, it would be beneficial to rinse your mouth and any genitals that got in contact with that condom," she says. "This way whatever chemicals or sugars that may be in your saliva or on the penis will not end up anywhere near your vagina walls.”
As long as you keep flavored condoms faraway from your vagina, you're doing things the right way. If you do opt for using flavored condoms while giving a blow job, you definitely want to be aware of what that condom is made of and do your best to keep those flavor-inducing chemicals away from your vagina. Ultimately, flavored condoms are only bad for you if you use them the wrong way. So, do yourself and your vagina a favor, and don't use them the wrong way.