Condoms 101: Learning about Latex

Acknowledgement: “Encyclopedia of Men’s Health” Edited by Neil Wertheimer

No glove, no love. Wrap that rascal. If you care, you’ll wear.

Sound familiar? You’ve heard this stuff before, but sorry fella, catchy slogans won’t help prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Common sense will.

Wearing a condom is common sense and while condoms cut your chances of getting an STD better than a Ginsu knife slices through a tin can, they don’t guarantee a safe passage to promiscuity.

“We refer to condoms as ‘safer sex’ because there is no 100 percent guaranteed ‘safe ‘sex,” says condom connoisseur Stuart Schlaffman, owner of Condom retail store in Philadelphia.

Nevertheless, there’s no excuse not to wear a condom unless you’re monogamous with a healthy partner-which means being monogamous for six months and then being retested before “going bare”- or for some perverse reason you have a strong desire to catch a disease.

Men have traditionally complained that condoms reduce sexual sensation, but technology has rendered that excuse obsolete. Today, you can choose among a variety of ultrathins (such as Trojan Very Thin)-condoms so thin you’ll hardly know they’re there.

“It feels like silky latex. It’s not rubbery like a tire, and it also doesn’t smell as bad as a normal condom,” Schlaffman says.

There’s no excuse to be caught without a reserve of rubber, either. Condoms are affordable and easily obtained. At Condom Kingdom, for example, condoms range from $1.50 to $4.25 for a three-pack. You can also get condoms free from most health clinics.

Buy condoms just a short while before you plan to use them, and check the expiration date to be sure you have fresh condoms. Older condoms are more likely to break, and spermicides lose their potency over time. The proper way to store a condom is in a cool, dark place, like a dresser drawer. You’re not in high school anymore, so don’t pack them in your wallet. The car’s glove box is no good either because the temperature extremes inside a car can cause the rubber to break down. Think where you’re most likely to use them, and keep them in a place that will be convenient, such as a bedside table or a jacket pocket.

You might be curious about novelty condom such as flavored or glow-in-the -dark models. But while these can be entertaining, they can’t be relied on to protect you from STDs.