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Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012

Are Large-Size Condoms Really Necessary?

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How big should a guy be to wear or actually fit into a Magnum condom? Do normal ones really inhibit their pleasure that much?

I believe that condoms in different sizes and shapes are absolutely necessary to men's comfort and pleasure, and I think we do a disservice to men when we pretend that they're not.

In sex ed programs for teens, it's very common for instructors to tell participants that men will try to make excuses for not using condoms by saying that their penises are too large and that condoms don't fit. The instructors then inform participants that this is not true, that condoms fit everyone, and proceed to demonstrate this concept by stretching a condom to fit over their forearm or head.

While stretching a condom to fit over your head is a great party trick, this particular sex ed meme assumes that men are lying assholes who aren't interested in safer sex and refuses to address the very real problem of condoms that don't fit well.

I teach that condoms are like shoes. Different brands of shoes fit differently; some people find Converse comfortable, while others like Nike. It's important to experiment with different brands, styles and sizes of condoms to find one that works for each individual. To this end, when I put together safer sex kits for the college students I work with, I try to include a variety of different types in the kits, and at the Tool Shed our condoms are sold individually in a "condom bar" that allows you to mix and match different kinds and discover what you like.

For guys who prefer larger condoms, sometimes the problem is that the head of the condom they've been using feels too constrictive. This problem might be solved by condoms like the ONE Pleasure Plus, which has extra room at the tip. For other men, the problem might be that the base of the condom feels too tight, in which case a larger-diameter condom might help. Glyde condoms (which are also vegan, by the way—most latex contains a milk protein) come in three different widths that are labeled by diameter (49 mm, 53 mm and 56 mm).

Speaking of which, some men will find smaller-diameter condoms more comfortable. At the Tool Shed, customers regularly ask for snugger-fitting condoms and sometimes report that condoms slip off during sex. If that's an issue, a brand I recommend in addition to Glyde is Beyond Seven, which is on the slimmer side.

If you have a male partner who says that condoms are uncomfortable, I recommend trying a few different brands and styles to see if you can find one that suits you both. If Magnums are his favorite brand, great! Whatever works. Size isn't the most important thing here, but comfort is.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.


Laura Anne Stuart has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side.
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