Condoms seem to be everywhere, and sold by everyone. Even the City of New York has its own brand, but condom usage seems spotty at best. Since the Age of AIDS, gays have seen our sex lives directly connected to condom usage. Now, in the Age of HIV, PrEP and Treatment as Prevention, decisions about condom usage are starting to change with the science. We have so many options but more conversations need to be had about how, when, where and why guys are choosing to use, or not use condoms.
In a National Institutes of Health-funded study of male couples in San Francisco and New York released in 2012, the researchers found that black couples were more likely to use condoms regardless of HIV status. Black couples reported that practicing safe sex was the product of unspoken agreements where it was “just understood” that condom use was non-negotiable. Most white couples, regardless of HIV status, did not use condoms. Many white couples came to that decision by discussing the risks and benefits of unprotected sex with each other. Interracial couples (black and white partners) were divided between using condoms and not using condoms. A recent study found that only 1/3 of American men (straight or gay) use condoms at all.
The following year, 2013, saw The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation start a Global Grand Challenge to find, and financially support someone, anyone, that could create “a next-generation condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure”. More than 500 applications poured into the Gates contest, which awarded winners $100,000, and up to $1 million subsequently. While some winners are still pursuing prototypes, others have given up.
As we all know, but most won’t admit, condoms are terrible! They don’t feel good on or in you, they require tons of lube, rip and tear easily and rarely fit properly. Even some of the most durable condoms are not created to address the specifics and mechanics of gay male anal sex, which can be more aggressive and longer lasting. Some guys complain about everything from them ruining the mood to the overall feeling and smell of rubbers. But, maybe what we all need are some custom condoms for our cocks. From ribbed and flavoured to fancy names and packagings, condoms have evolved, but only slightly and not much for gay male anal sex. These reasons have been a hindrance in their constant usage among our community. Decreased sensation and pleasure are major factors, but so is fit. On 12, October, 2017 the New York Times published a story about custom condoms and found that size really does matter. Most surprisingly was the fit direction many men requested; smaller.
As the custom-fit condom company, Global Protection Corp., pressed the F.D.A. and industry standards associations for changes, a key priority was smaller sizes, said the company’s president, Davin Wedel. Until recently, standard condoms had to be at least 6.69 inches long, but studies find the average erect penis is roughly an inch shorter.
“The idea was it had to be long enough to fit most men, and excess length could just be rolled,” said Debby Herbenick, a sexual health expert at Indiana University. She and her colleagues published a study of 1,661 men living throughout the United States that found that 83 percent had penile lengths shorter than standard condoms. The average length was 5.57 inches.
In studies, some men have complained that “condoms tend to slip off,” said Ron Frezieres, a vice president for research and evaluation at Essential Access Health, a nonprofit. And sometimes larger condoms actually felt tight because “shorter men had a big roll of latex at the base of the penis.”
The custom condoms, marketed under the brand name myONE Perfect Fit, come in lengths of 4.9 to 9.4 inches and circumferences of 3.5 to 5 inches. (Standard condoms are typically 6.7 to 8.3 inches long and 3.9 to 4.5 inches in circumference.)
Dr. Herbenick said condom education, along with tips like adding lubricant, are more important than access to 60 sizes. She and colleagues published a study that found custom-fit condoms less likely to break but, for some men, more likely to slip.
Some men might “prefer a condom that they think fits their penis,” she said. “But for the most part, men and their partners are fine with existing condoms.”
If you are in the market for a custom fit condom, more companies are starting to make their products available all around the world. And if your reason is for a perfect fit, or better sensation one of the agreed upon rationales is that custom condoms make guys feel better about themselves and are more likely to be used, which is good for our community.
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