all things condoms

Posts Tagged ‘fit’

Surprise: Guys (and gals) have condom-fitting issues

Posted by Condomologist on February 23, 2010

It’s about damn time sexologists start researching and asking the tough questions about condom fit and guys’ perception of how condoms feel in terms of size, and then how that relates to breakage, slippage, pleasure and a number of other intercourse-related outcomes. The good folks at Kinsey did an internet-based study that found not only did almost 45% of these  vaginal intercourse-having men deem the length or width of their condoms too short, long, wide or narrow, but of those reporting ill-fitting condoms, there were much higher percentages who had erection problems, irritation issues, condom and breakage incidences, reduction in pleasure, etc. than those who reported an “OK” fit. Basically, if you don’t like how your condom fits, you’re gonna not have as safe or good time in the sack.

All this makes general sense to me, but I’m left a bit empty their conclusion: “Men and their female sex partners may benefit from public health efforts designed to promote the improved fit of condoms.” That’s all well and good, and I’d appreciate more substantial, thoughtful messages from the often simple-minded, hand-out-a-million-condoms-and-all-will-be-well public health advocates across the globe.  I fear, though, they have missed the point: There’s a mighty good chance that the fellas who reported ill-fitting jimmies wouldn’t like the fit no matter the most massive public health effort we’ve ever seen. The report failed to address the possibility that their cause and effect are all backwards. Take me for example: I don’t really like any condom I’ve ever worn, so chances are I’m not going to like the fit regardless. Or furthermore, I’ve tended to enjoy condoms more the better the sex has been, and when the sex is kinda blah (forget downright bad), I don’t think too highly of the plastic sheath rubbing against my sensitive penile skin. On a related point regarding breakage or slippage: I wonder whether, in the aftermath of a broken condom, one would then be more likely to report an ill fit than had it not broken. After all, we have to point to some reason — crappy material, improper use, no lube, and so on — so when asked the question, I may very well respond that the size wasn’t quite right either.

Seriously, I don’t mean to bash the study, and take a listen to the podcast  done by Drs. Waugh and Yarber (from Kinsey) discussing the study, and you’ll hear Yarber note rather emphatically that “public health has real, real challenges” and in particular, we’d do well to find out why it is that those who reported an “OK” condom fit felt as they did and how they differed from their ill-fitting counterparts. (You’ll also, if you have a decent sense of humour, find it laugh-out-loud-while-alone funny to hear two older distinguished gentlemen — one British for whatever it’s worth — discuss two people “going pretty hard at it” and “how vigorous the sex should be” and the “speed…of pelvic movements.” All in the context of the study, of course. Call me immature, I know this is serious stuff, and I aspire to be these dudes one day, but trust me that it will crack you up.) So clearly those behind the study know there begs further research.

There’s also the very basic issue of what guys’ idea of a good fit should be. We’re talking the difference of millimeters here, so it seems a bit of a stretch to glean too much from this study. Let’s say I reported a condom was “too narrow” or “too long.” How much wider or shorter would I want it to be? I might want a wider condom ’cause I got good girth, but I wouldn’t want it too wide — or maybe a condom doesn’t even exist that would be wide enough for my liking. And no public health effort will remedy these issues. I’m just not so sure that fit is the right topic to tackle. It’s surely an important one, but condoms still suck to use, and we have to question that a bit more before getting stuck on size. I might be wrong, and I’ll stand corrected with proper study, but let’s take the TheyFit condom, which is made to fit different penis lengths and widths. It could be the perfect size, but if the latex feels too thick, you’re going to have unhappy customers. They’ve been around for awhile, but something ain’t quite right if they haven’t become all the rage.

And lastly, I’ll continue my broken-record crusade about lube. Promoting lube with condoms will do more for condom use than all the eroticization of condoms alone could ever do. Maybe I’m just biased because my sex life couldn’t function without it, but I have worked in the field a few years and anecdotal evidence bears out my conclusion, if only a little bit. Far too many people, teens to seniors, haven’t got the slightest idea they can purchase a $10 bottle of high quality (non-KY) lube at the store, put a few drops inside the condom, outside the condom, on your partner’s vulva or ass, and have their sex lives transformed. Instead they settle for dry, irritating, painful, condom-breaking sex because no one talks about this stuff openly and honestly.

So let’s keep talking about poor condom size and its ill effects on safety and pleasure, let’s let the people know they’ve got more than just Trojans, Lifestyles and Durex, and let’s promote condom experimentation. But let’s also be realistic and recognize that well hung guys still won’t be doing backflips over Magnums and our smaller fellas are not transformed by Snugger Fit Lifestyles. And let’s ask more extensive questions next time we do such a study.


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Some guys really are too big…or too small

Posted by Condomologist on April 3, 2009

Craig Roberts, a Physician Assistant  — love PAs! — at my beloved UW-Madison, and the clinical manager of the Blue Bus Clinic at University Health Services there and a good friend of Sex Out Loud, hollered and put me on to a report entitled “Penile dimensions and men’s perceptions of condom fit and feel” in the most recent issue of Sexually Transmitted Infections. Many thanks to him, as this study highlights something I’ve been hearing on the streets for years: While many men can, more or less, find a condom that fits adequately even if the sex doesn’t feel quite as good with it on, a good many others really are too big or too small for the average condoms — or at least they report that being the case. The study authors nudge those of us in the sexual health community to better grasp these issues in our prevention messaging, and they push condom manufacturers to tailor the product more specifically to varying penis lengths and circumferences, because ignoring this issue is irresponsible given the data — and addressing it could bring in funding (NGOs) and profits (condom companies) and, most importantly, save lives. The study had some flaws, among them that it looked only at men currently using condoms, not those who may already be resistant to their use or who have less of a real or perceived risk for STI exposure and/or impregnating a woman. And since I’m such a stickler for exploring different brands/styles, it would be helpful to know if those (about 50%) who said condoms fit fine have previously tried more styles or already have more info on the general array of products available to them than those with sizing issues.

I must say, this study (albeit just one of many) helps validate my sometimes obnoxious efforts to speak out in my daily work and get people to address this issue seriously: “Perhaps…importantly, these data provide some validation to challenges faced by those implementing STI prevention interventions who have encountered men who assert that condoms do not fit or feel comfortable. While manufacturers have designed condoms that are efficacious for men regardless of penile dimensions and that come in a variety of shapes and sizes, that some men continue to hold negative perceptions about condom fit and feel continues to pose challenges to efforts to increase correct and consistent condom use.”

And this from the abstract conclusion: “Those men with the most negative perceptions of condom fit and feel may benefit from an assessment of their condom-related concerns as a component of community and clinic based STI prevention interventions in order to help them select from the variety of condoms in the marketplace that they may find to be better fitting or more comfortable.”

It’s not as simple as Magnums for bigger weiners and Snugger Fit for the small dicks. Some guys got girth, some got length, some got penises so small that everything out there is too big for them. (This study was one of the first to look at the intersection of length and circumference and detail exactly what combination of the two led to perceptions of ill-fitting condoms.) At least this keeps the discussion going, and if nothing else make me feel better about doing this whole blog thing in the first place. I started out convinced that our prevention efforts focus far too much on distribution and availability issues and neglect that many guys (and gals) don’t use condoms because they just don’t feel that good (whether due to size or comfort). And I just hope others will come around a bit to seeing this issue as at least as important as procuring them in the first place.

If interested in the full text of the report, please let me know and I’ll see what I can (ethically/legally) do. I have access through a wonderful social networking site for sexual health professionals called stdpreventiononline. For you regular people, I’ll see what I can do.

Posted in Condom Brands and Styles, Distribution and Availability, News and Current Events, Pleasure, Research and Study | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »