NSFW condom/sex question.
November 16, 2008 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Mid-20s guy needs first-time condom/penetrative intercourse advice. This will be NSFW.

I've done a lot of sexual things with the women I've been in relationships with, but never had penetrative intercourse. Long story short, I (and the people I dated) used to be pretty uptight about risk and morality. I'm less so now, and I'm in a relationship with a great woman that's heading into sexual territory. I've only once bought condoms before, and that was with a girl who had really specific requirements (and I ended up never using them, heh). Never even really looked at them in the store. It's a bit of embarrassment left over from my history, I guess. Yeah, I know I need therapy. I'm working on it. In the immediate term, how on earth do I weigh the various features/risks of condoms and pick out something that'll work well/as safely as possible? I'm not interested in gimicks like texture/studs/ribbing/etc, but even in the realm of "plain condoms" there's a lot of description that isn't very meaningful to me. I see the sampler packs referenced here, but I probably need to work out something before next weekend. That thread also has some good specific advice, but I guess I'm asking for advice for the neophyte rather than the experienced. Also: is there a "size chart" for these things anywhere?

And yes, I will talk with the lady about her own preferences, but I'd rather get educated to a point somewhere beyond "complete ignoramus" before I go and make a fool of myself.

I'm in the US.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Condom Depot posts reviews and has a ton of information including lengths and diameters for most of the condoms they sell.

Research, purchase, then play with them. Really, buy a half dozen more than you intend to and just go to town with them. Get a feel for the packaging and how it opens, get a feel for the condom and learn how to recognize the inside and outside. Roll one down a banana to get used to that, then put a few on and get used to what they feel like. Then get used to taking them off (while not tearing out some pubic hair). With a little more experimenting and some lube you can learn how to remove them "used" and not spill all over yourself.
posted by Science! at 9:10 AM on November 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


You're over thinking it.

Buy plain latex, lubricated, spermicide condoms. Trojan or Lifestyles will get you started though true connoisseurs we be along shortly with esoteric recommendations. Thin, ultrathin, or whatever... don't over think it, it's a simple purchase. You can do it!

Unlock bonus levels by buying several different types and trying them out on your own before your big night. Go with the one YOU like. Don't freak out if in your rush to get it on you completely stress and loose your erection or have other malfunctions. You'll get the hang of it.

Enjoy your new life.
posted by wfrgms at 9:12 AM on November 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


A few things to think about

- lubed or non? (if you know your lady you may know if this is useful or not, you can also do the lube thing separately)
- if lubed, do you want spermicidal lube? (downside: tastes awful & some women are sensitive to it, upside: safer)
- do you care about extra thinness or not?
- reservoir tip?

I find that standard-issue Trojans are a little thick for my tastes but perfectly okay and you can get them anywhere. Just walk into a drug store, grab the red box, go home. Lifestyles ultra-sensitive (you learn to get over the names) are also fairly normal types. Condom Depot has measurements of all of these brands and will give you an idea if you need to aim for larger sizes (Magnum) or snugger fit (Kimono) but generally speaking unless you're way out on one end of the spectrum the average condom should fit you. They also have reviews and Consumer Reports' reports.

Other things you might not know

- condoms unroll one way and you'll definitely have trouble if you put it on and try to unroll it the other way so give yourself a second to eyeball it to make sure you're doing it right
- condoms are designed to stay on during sex but it's always good to do a reality test and make sure they are doing that. Once you've gone flaccid [either because you've come or because you're on to other things] it's time to pull out and one of you should hold on to the base of the condom to make sure it doesn't stay in your partner while you don't.
- new condom for each ejaculation
- keep condoms nearby where you're going to be (nightstand, someplace) no one wants to make a dash to the bathroom or someplace when you're hot n heavy

My advice is to get something normallish that works fine for your first encounter and then talk to your partner about what she does and doesn't like and try to get something that works for both of you from that point on.
posted by jessamyn at 9:15 AM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is one of those things that experimentation solves more than advice. There are too many variables to say that X condom will be the best, and a lot of the fun is in trying new and different ones until you find what works for you and your partner. If you get a bunch of them and go through them and compare (in one session) it will also open up communication between the two of you and get you talking about likes/dislikes. It's a good place to begin.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:17 AM on November 16, 2008


Your local free clinic, HIV-prevention organization, and (depending on your comfort level) gay rights advocacy group will likely be giving away free condoms at their locations or events. It is not in their interest to distribute condoms that don't work or are in other ways substandard. Get some and practice with these.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:18 AM on November 16, 2008


Oh yeah, what wfrgms says is key. There's a good chance that your first condom experience may result in the loss of your erection. This is totally normal and most women have experienced this with guys from time to time so if it happens, just roll with it, do something else, and don't worry about it.
posted by jessamyn at 9:20 AM on November 16, 2008


Most women I know prefer plain lubricated condoms - NO spermicide. But ask her what she prefers; she may not be sensitive to the spermicide.
posted by All.star at 9:35 AM on November 16, 2008


all good thoughts here.

i might just add that you might want to try the un-rolling part on a banana or a cucumber first. so that you get the "feel" of how to put one on, before you're even in the position of working on maintaining an erection.

communication is the key. the spermicidal v. non-spermicidal lube thing is a perfect example: if your lady friend would like to be free to try performing oral sex on you, spermicidal lubricant should be avoided (it tastes awful).

try not to get overwhelmed by the selection -- of condoms, of lubes...all of it! if i was you, i wouldn't be worrying about self-warming lubes or flavored lubes, or ribbed/studded/etc. condoms v. plain. while i like the idea of having a bunch of options, i also think that if i was your lady friend i might be a little put-off if you came to me with a selection of dozens of condoms and lubes.

i think the suggestion of starting with the free condoms distributed at doctors' offices/family planning clinics is a great idea. have a few with you, and a small bottle of lube, just in case.

whatever you decide, i certainly hope you enjoy yourself! but even if you don't the first few times (which is not uncommon), just remember that each new day brings new experiences and new opportunities. you'll get the hang of it in no time (no pun intended!).
posted by CitizenD at 9:37 AM on November 16, 2008


My kind sir,
Seconding the 'you're overthinking it' part - whatever 'brand' you get will work - their main interest is to avoid STD's and pregnancy. Pick them up for free at the clinic as kittyprecious mentioned. I keep a couple in my manbag, a couple in my jacket, etc.

Relax. Enjoy the moment. Be excited by the prospect of the encounter. When you're finished, grab yourself by the 'roll' of the condom and promptly dispose of the evidence. I personally will take just a few seconds to wash my, uh, personal areas, with some water, then wash my hands with soap. The encounter is typically far more interesting than what condom you're using (as long as it doesn't break, of course!).
posted by chrisinseoul at 9:42 AM on November 16, 2008


Buy plain latex, lubricated, spermicide condoms.

I would strongly argue for non-spermicidal condoms -- the spermicide gives me a rash (and gee, isn't it a thrill to look down in the shower an hour after having sex and see RED BUMPS where they don't belong?) and a lot of people I know say they have had problems, too.

So if you are really sure you don't have time to rush-order some sample-packs, then I'd suggest going to the local drugstore and buying a couple of boxes. If you aren't sure even what size you are or whether you prefer thick (so you last longer) or thin (so you can feel more sensation), buy some regular ones, some that say "ultra thin" or "extra sensitive" on the box, and a box of "magnums" or "large." Don't get the huge 12-pack boxes until you know what you like -- just buy a few of the 3-pack boxes and experiment from there.

Trojan, Lifestyles, Durex, etc -- the main brands you will find at any store -- are all decent; I strongly prefer the thinner varieties (eg brands like Kimono and Beyond 7), but those are not carried in all stores.

Buying a small bottle of lube (also available in every drugstore) is a good idea -- Liquid Silk is fine, so is Astroglide, and there are lots of competitors that probably work ok. I think there have been AskMe's before on lube, so there are probably some good recommendations there.

Don't freak out if in your rush to get it on you completely stress and loose your erection or have other malfunctions. You'll get the hang of it.

Yup, totally normal, and so is the occasional "wilting" mid-sex. It happens once in a while, and every woman I've been with took it just as much in stride as you will vagina farts and hair in your teeth.
posted by Forktine at 10:00 AM on November 16, 2008


Any brand carried in your local pharmacy or grocer is fine (ex: nothing that says novelty on it). The testing of these things is very through; Trojan Lifestyles and Durex are (as I understand it) perfectly equivalent from the point of their main function. You don't need a size chart; the point of latex is that it's very stretchy and will accommodate almost everyone comfortably.

Do a "dry run" when you feel like masturbating some time.

If you start to roll one on and find that you'd placed it the wrong orientation, just toss it and grab another.

Lots of virgins find it awkward and nonfunctional the first time. It gets better.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:29 AM on November 16, 2008


Another voice chiming in to say lubricated but no spermicide is probably your best bet. I, and pretty much everyone woman I know, reacts poorly to it and I know a few guys who have had problems with it, too. Your lucky lady will surely have a preference, so it's good you're going to talk to her. Have fun!
posted by katemcd at 10:34 AM on November 16, 2008


Nthing the "you're overthinking this." In the experience of my partners, the only thing that made a big deal for them was size -- if you're somewhat, er, "thicker in circumference," the bigger-sizes really do make a difference (the regular-sized ones were a little on the uncomfortable side for them, they said). But as for the bells-and-whistles of ribbed, not ribbed, nubbed, mint flavored, etc,. etc, etc., they honestly didn't notice a whole hell of a lot, so you could honestly just flip a coin and be done with it.

Ostensibly the bells-and-whistles are meant to be more for the woman's pleasure anyway, and while every woman is different in this regard, I honestly didn't notice a difference either.

Really, the only big factors are size, whether or not they're lubed, and whether said lube has a spermicide. The only reasons why these matter are a) your comfort (for the size), b) whether you'd need lube of your own, and c) whether the spermidice causes a mild allergic reaction in either of you or is just plain icky tasting or smelling. And those are all things you wouldn't know unless you tried something. Everything aside from that is pretty much just bells and whistles that I suspect someone in a marketing department came up with.

Consider this, too -- condoms are not very expensive, and are only used once, so what is the absolute worst thing that could happen if you try one and don't like it? ...The worst thing is that you had only one less-than-perfect sexual encounter. You're only out a few bucks, and you just know that you should get something else instead that's NOT that. As far as dilemmas go, this is a very mild one, so no matter what you choose you will not irretrievably mess anything up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:37 AM on November 16, 2008


If you buy lube, you'll want to stick with a water- or silicone-based one. Oil-based lubes can break down latex condoms and make them less effective.

And I'll add my voice to the "you're overthinking it" crowd. It really doesn't matter what you buy, so long as it keeps you both safe. You can branch out later if you want, but don't freak out trying to find the perfect condom for the first go-round. Do you spend hours worrying what kind of tissues to buy? Then don't panic about what kind of condom to buy.
posted by lilac girl at 11:06 AM on November 16, 2008


Buy plain latex, lubricated, spermicide condoms. Trojan or Lifestyles will get you started though true connoisseurs we be along shortly with esoteric recommendations. Thin, ultrathin, or whatever... don't over think it, it's a simple purchase. You can do it!

Nthing what everyone said about no spermicide. Just buy an extra thing of spermicide if you want the extra protection; that way, it's an option, and if you or your SO react poorly to it, you still have a package of perfectly good condoms to use.

As for brands, in my experience (female perspective), LifeStyles Good Lovin' were pretty good--as well as a brand I once got from a pharmacy in a metal box, whose brand name completely escapes me. Trojan twisted pleasure was ok, too (interesting sensation), but they're a little thicker than what me or my partner considered ideal.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:40 AM on November 16, 2008


Also, my SO is very thick, and we never used biggie sized condoms, and also never had any problems. YMMV, of course.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:41 AM on November 16, 2008


Two things for you to consider:

1) Are you uncircumcised? If so, keep in mind that putting on a condom can be a little trickier than the old slipping-it-down-a-banana health class demo. Some dry run practice isn't a bad thing. More info can be found here.

2) Are you significantly over 8 inches long? The vast majority of condoms, even the "XL" "XXL" "Magnum" "OMG HORSE" ones, are only a little over 8 inches in length. So if you're extra gifted in the length department, you'll have [N-8] inches of bare skin at the base.

Aside from the possible anatomical limitations of your girlfriend's plumbing, you should try not to thrust in past the end of the condom if this is the case. Not only would the uncovered skin be less protected against HPV/herpes/etc., but it's possible* that, in the midst of activities, her muscles clamp down below the condom's ring and cause the condom to scooch upwards on your out-thrusts.

If you're not significantly over 8 inches, then you have two main concerns as far as sizing goes: being girthier than average (as others have already addressed), and having a relatively large knob compared to the shaft. For the latter case there's sort of bulb-shaped condoms with more "headroom", that would otherwise fall into your "gimicks" category.

*I don't know how likely that is with vaginal intercourse, but I've seen it happen with anal.
posted by CKmtl at 11:54 AM on November 16, 2008


i'm the kind of person who deals with uncertainty by learning everything about the issue. so here is a lot of information, in case it helps. background: i used to be something like a sex educator for college students.

nthing the practice first advice. struggling for the first time can be a little too much for the moment.

Don't freak out if in your rush to get it on you completely stress and loose your erection or have other malfunctions. You'll get the hang of it.
this is totally true, so the best thing is to not stress. it can be easy to get frustrated, or feel a performance pressure, but a confident attitude with humor will keep the mood from going sour, and probably win you some points with your partner. the same goes for any other situation where things go "wrong"; try to roll with it.

i recommend lubed condoms. durex extra sensitive are easy to get at the drugstore, and decent. you could also get a sample pack -- Babeland's condom sampler* is great. How to choose the right condom guide. flavored condoms and penetrative sex = no.

there is a right way to put condoms on, so having some light will help. someone once told me, "the right way will look like a hat." maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but it always goes through my mind. there is a reservoir tip which should point away from you. pinch the tip as you roll, getting rid of trapped air.

on lube --
-- oil-based are a definite no (no vaseline), as they will break down the latex, as lilac mentioned.
-- water-based lubes are oral-friendly. Sometimes they have a bad habit of drying out or getting tacky, also some of them contain glycerin which can encourage yeast infections in women. Astroglide now makes a glycerin-free version, so if you're buying from the drugstore, check the label. There is a Babeland's lube sampler* if you want to try out the good brands.
-- Silicone lube is good because it doesn't dry out easily. It's more pricey, but goes a long way. But if there's going to be any post-lube mouth action, it's to be avoided. It is more difficult to wash off than water-based.
-- spermicide can cause bad reactions, so i recommend against it.

haha, well there's that. if you have any more questions, feel free to PM me.

* footnote: I like Babeland in general because the store is classy, female-friendly, and very knowledgeable, and their samplers are going to have good picks.
posted by vaguelyweird at 12:15 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


a boyfriend once taught me that there's this guy thing that when you buy condoms, make sure you have two or three other things with you to put on the counter. it will help you look more casual about your purchase.

also, if you're worried about the in-store embarrassment factor, just remember: you're getting laid, and anyone looking at you funny probably isn't. dude. strut out of that store.

if you're in a city or near a city that has a babeland, by all means, check it out in person. even the straightest most vanilla guy i know feels comfortable in that store and the people are SUPER helpful.
posted by micawber at 12:23 PM on November 16, 2008


Best condoms I've found: Crown or Kimono. Both are high-quality, and don't smell or taste strongly of latex.

Best lube (by a mile): Sliquid H2O. No smell, no taste, completely non-irritating, and lasts a long time. Eventually you'll probably want to try lots of lubes and see what she likes best, but this one's a much better starter than Astroglide (which can sting) or KY.

In the short-term, though, anything basic should work; any of the standard drugstore brands of condoms or (non-oil-based) lubes will work.

DEFINITELY have lube handy. Condom sex without lube hurts for a lot of girls, but if you don't end up needing it, what, you're out five or ten bucks. Lubricated condoms do not count as lube. Oh, and for chrissakes, no spermicide.
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:08 PM on November 16, 2008


Another with the non-spermicide thing - for a while, I was pretty sensitive to it. Although, my bf cured that by wiping it off after he'd put the condom on, then used a lube of our choice.
posted by damnjezebel at 1:11 PM on November 16, 2008


It can be tricky to unwrap and roll on a condom if you have any lube on your fingers. Put the condom on first then go nuts lubing up...anything you want.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:47 PM on November 16, 2008


No spermicide; it causes irritation/micro abrasions to the vagina, which makes the transmission of disease more likely. Get unlubed or lubed without spermicide, then get a bottle of water-based lubricant.

Beyond that, get condoms that fit; I find the larger sized ones are more comfortable.

Oh, and avoid the sheep-gut or anything that's not latex; those things don't protect from disease.

micawber writes "a boyfriend once taught me that there's this guy thing that when you buy condoms, make sure you have two or three other things with you to put on the counter. it will help you look more casual about your purchase."

Duct tape, fishhooks, adult diapers, and a feather duster if you want to leave an impression.
posted by orthogonality at 1:50 PM on November 16, 2008


All I can say is that my sex life improved immensely when I switched to Durex condoms. I'm really fond of the red package.

Liquid Silk is pretty easy to find and sweet.

oh yeah and very important...put a DROP of lube on the head of mister winkie before you put on the condom. It feels great AND I think it helps reduce friction on the condom. Remember, a drop.

I tend to keep the condom putting on activities to myself, because I'm pretty careful about it.

Oh yeah, and if you are wet, I'd be careful about not getting that moisture on the other side of the condom. Probably over thinking things but I don't want to get that stuff inside her.
posted by sully75 at 1:54 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Um, all this talk of bananas and cucumbers is hilarious. My country was invaded by criminals.... yours was invaded by Puritans... it shows.

Try the damn things on your own penis! Get yourself a lovely big Anonymous erection, and play with the condoms. If you're a little bit anxious about your first time having penetrative sex, this will really help.

Try several times with several different condoms, try masturbating with one on. Put them on with the lights on, then the lights off... put them on standing up, lying on your side one handed (most likely how you'll end up in the bedroom, I reckon) and sitting.

Ok, so it will cost you an extra box of condoms.... but surely it's worth it to overcome your anxieties.

I used to work in young person sexual health... and we had pretend penises for demonstration purposes... but the best thing we ever did was give them a handful of condoms and tell them to practice at home before they "went public".

Good luck possum, penetrative sex is lots of fun and condoms make sure it stays that way.
posted by taff at 2:47 PM on November 16, 2008


Avoid lambskin condoms. They'll do the job for avoiding pregnancy but do not protect you against STDs. Also, they smell disgusting.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:07 PM on November 16, 2008


as well as a brand I once got from a pharmacy in a metal box, whose brand name completely escapes me

Sounds like Global Protection's Pleasure Plus model. They're terrific.

posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:11 AM on November 17, 2008


oh you should get an altoids can to keep them in. I had this can of mints I kept mine in. It got kind of rusty and I threw it out.
posted by sully75 at 3:16 PM on November 17, 2008


Practice. practice. practice.

get used to them during your special alone time.

This serves to make you comfortable with the process of putting it on so there aren't any problems (and being confident that there won't be problems is 90% of the battle)
posted by Megafly at 5:28 PM on November 17, 2008


Also: if you get external lube, get water-based lube: oil-based lube breaks down latex. Some people with latex allergies get polyurethane condoms. And avoid those crown and kimono condoms if you're on the thick side of average (or even the average side of average): imo, they tend to be tight.
posted by paultopia at 11:47 PM on November 17, 2008


Looks like someone has posted the perfect project for you.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:40 PM on November 18, 2008


Um, all this talk of bananas and cucumbers is hilarious.

You all haven't lived till you've gone, as an inhibited fifteen-year-old girl, to a new school orientation where one of the activities was a rolling-condoms-onto-bananas competition. True story. It was a Jesuit school, even. In Montreal.

This isn't really a derail. From the perspective of many years later I think the banana exercise was in fact useful, in that it's really helpful to have a sense of the ridiculous when you undertake this sort of thing. Condoms are destined to make me laugh for the entire rest of my life, and maybe now that you know this story they'll make you laugh too.
posted by tangerine at 2:07 PM on November 18, 2008


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