Did you know that up to 80 per cent of men could be wearing the wrong-sized condom? The Sex Detective punctures the one-size-fits-all myth.
If you casually peruse the condom aisle of your local Shoppers Drug Mart (and, let’s face it, everyone perusing condom aisles tries to look casual), you get the sense that condom manufacturers took their high-school sex-ed teachers seriously when they trotted out the platitude about all erect penises being roughly the same size. When it comes to condoms, a one-size-fits-all mentality reigns. Only, apparently, one size doesn’t fit all—not even in the land of stretchable latex.
According to a 2004 study by a German condom manufacturer, up to 80 per cent of men could be wearing the wrong-sized condom. About a third of those studied had garbage-bag syndrome and were trying to use condoms that were too big, while half were trying to squeeze into condoms that were too small. Six years later, a survey in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections found that 44 per cent of men reported using ill-fitting condoms. Using something suspiciously called “event-specific analysis,” the authors determined that dodgy fit increased the risk of condom breakage, made it harder to orgasm, and irritated the vaginas and penises involved. If they weren’t scientists, they’d have just called it a buzz kill.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that there is currently a surge of new players selling international brands of condoms, each promising the wearer a better fit and better sex. In Toronto, sex stores like Come As You Are or the Condom Shack are where you’d go to find higher-end condoms, like ultra-thin Japanese lines. But space is at a premium in brick-and-mortar stores, so it’s in online-only retail where penis diversity is really being reflected in condoms. A recent entrant into the market in online condom sales is Oregon-based LuckyBloke.com, which carries 70 types of condoms. It deals with the size issue upfront. As in, you have to choose your condom size from a sliding scale on the homepage before you can start your order.
Melissa White, CEO of LuckyBloke.com, believes that the privacy afforded by online ordering allows customers to be completely honest about the size they actually need. “We get a lot of men and women coming to us looking for the more tailored condom,” she says. White points out that fit and pleasure go hand-in-hand, since it’s hard to have good sex and worry about condoms slipping off at the same time.
LuckyBloke.com offers new customers a selection pack of different brands and styles to help them find ones they like the best. White, who is also running an 800-person “international condom review panel,” says that many people don’t really know what they’re looking for in a condom. “Due to our review, we’ve seen that a lot of people have thought, ‘Oh, I really thought I’d like the ribbed and studded condoms and I found it so exciting, but I actually found out I like the super-micro-thin Japanese condoms,’” she says. “Your head does not always match the final experience.”
But if you want to see almost religious fervour in bespoke condoms, then you have to look across the Atlantic to Britain. There, online retailer TheyFit.co.uk manufactures condoms in a startling 95 different sizes, which vary in length from 8 to 24 cm and in width from 4.1 to 6.9 cm. The company’s founder, Joe Nelson, points out that guys expect shoes and clothes to come in a range of sizes, so why not condoms? “Condoms were invented as custom fit nearly 500 years ago,” he says. “It was only the latex revolution in the 1930s that decided on making one or two sizes only, because that made them quick and easy to manufacture.”
Nelson’s 95 sizes of condoms are currently only available in Europe, but he is working on getting government approval to deliver them to North America, too. (Though if you really want to order some, there is a handy hint about using the British postal service’s redirection system on his website.)
Of course, there’s one problem faced by anyone wanting to order correctly sized condoms online: How do you measure the dimensions of a penis? Well, you have two options. You can download a size guide from the websites of many condom retailers, which is essentially some sort of measuring tape and a few diagrams showing where to measure. Or, you can go the route suggested on LuckyBloke.com: Take the cardboard tube inside a toilet-paper roll and slot it over the erect penis you wish to measure. If it won’t fit, consider that a large one; a comfortable fit shows it’s a medium, and a loose fit is indicative of a smaller penis. So, to the bathroom, gentlemen.
Come As You Are, 493 Queen St. W., 416-504-7934, comeasyouare.com. The Condom Shack, 231 Queen St. W., 416-596-7515, condomshack.com.