I was 14 years old the first time I encountered a condom. (Yes, it was as awkward as you imagine.) Picture a classroom full of teenagers, paired up and stationed in front of wooden penises. Nope, no bananas for us—we got as close to the real deal as was possibly appropriate. Out of a shoebox filled with prophylactics, my friend and I chose a “warm sensations” condom and got to work.
I’ve learned a whole lot more about condoms since that fateful day in health class, and I’m here today to share some of that knowledge with you. (Yes, you!) To save you the trouble, I’ve raided some of the HRM’s most popular adult specialty shops to see exactly what’s on offer in terms of barriers.
First, it’s important to know that all hope is not lost for those who have latex allergies. Venus Envy (1598 Barrington St.) carries both regular and large sized polyisoprene condoms that are suitable for those who are sensitive or allergic to latex. Unlike other non-latex materials, polyisoprene doesn’t feel or look much different from your run-of-the-mill condom. I’ve used the condoms in question, and I like them. For condom-connoisseurs who are sensitive or allergic to lubricants used on condoms, Venus Envy offers non-lubricated options. Ever the comprehensive boutique, Venus Envy also carries female condoms (as well as dental dams, and non-latex gloves for digital protection). The female condoms aren’t cheap at nearly five bucks a pop, but for those with specific concerns, they could be worth it.
Because I’d never seen—let alone used—one of these before, I took it upon myself to test one out. As are most condoms, this female condom came lubricated, but it was much, much larger than the typical male condom. It has a ring at the top (similar to a NuvaRing) to aid in inserting and keeping the condom in place, and the bottom is wide enough to cover much of the vulva as it “hangs out.” (My partner referred to it as an ‘apron’, I thought of it more as a ‘skirt’.)
Neither my partner or myself liked the look of this ‘skirt’, and it made manual stimulation awkward—but for those worried about STIs such as herpes or genital warts, it offers much more protection than a male condom. After all was said and done, I strongly prefer male condoms; the female condom dulled much of the sensation for me. My partner, on the other hand, didn’t have a strong opinion either way—he felt it was neither better nor worse than a male condom. The only real advantage, he said, was that the female condom created more friction, as the penis itself isn’t sheathed. Still it’s no substitution for the friction of going bare—the penis in question very much knows it’s fucking latex rather than vagina.
Venus Envy also offers a wider range of sizes than can be found at your typical drug store. Sir Richard’s Extra Large condoms offer a wider condom than the Trojan Magnum and other large-size condoms, so they could be a good choice for someone particularly girthy. (Sir Richard’s condoms are also vegan and PETA-approved.)
For someone who needs a slimmer fitting condom, there are plenty of options as well, particularly in the form of Kimono condoms, some of the thinnest condoms on the market. Unfortunately, their large-size condom is smaller than other large condoms, so not everyone can enjoy the thinness of Kimono. Venus Envy also offers Glyde Slimfit condoms for those who need them. (Glyde condoms are also certified vegan.)
My next stop was Night Magic Fashions (5268 Sackville St.), where the condom offerings were a bit sparser, but more of the novelty variety. Here you can get blue (or red, or green) condoms, banana (or mint, or chocolate, or cola) flavoured condoms, tribal pattern ridged condoms and when it’s not so soon after Valentine’s Day, glow-in-the-dark condoms. They also carry a number of single ONE brand condoms, which are great for trying new varieties if you don’t want to commit to the whole box you can buy in drug stores. Unfortunately for those who have special sizing needs or sensitivities, Night Magic probably won’t have you covered.
Pleasures N’ Treasures (6260 Quinpool Rd.), despite its impressive variety of pornographic films and lubricants (among other things), doesn’t carry many condoms. In fact, they don’t carry anything that can’t be found at a drugstore in the city.
Speaking of drugstores, they’re still your best bet in terms of variety if you don’t have any extra-special condom needs. It’s also worth mentioning that some novelty condoms may lack the protective qualities of “regular” condoms. If you’re worried about pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections, make sure the condom you’re about to use is meant to prevent them.