Rubber Sold. Or, what’s up with condoms?

So I’ve had occasion, recently, to revisit the condom. Being the mother of three small children I’m not having enough sex to warrant taking a pill every day, and therefore a trip down memory lane was in order. Naively I had assumed that in the ten years or so since I’d last bought them, condoms had remained essentially in stasis. After all, there’s very little there to play with, if you’ll pardon the phrase. I mean, correct me if I’m minimizing, but it’s a rubber sock with a hoop at one end, right? They’re probably still talking about the reservoir tip discovery, over there in condom manufacturing circles.

Anyway, it turns out I was completely wrong. The humble condom has undergone a revolution in both technology and artistry. You can get all kinds of colors, including neon and glow-in-dark (so you can see what’s coming?), and several choices in ‘luscious’ flavors. Banana was a favorite, men being the simple souls they are, and strawberry. Why strawberry, I wondered. It’s so…cream teas and Wimbledon. Who wants to put their todger on a scone? (Don’t answer that.) Presumably the challenge is finding flavors that seem good to lick or suck, but which don’t go so far as to suggest actual biting. Peanut-brittle would be bad, I expect. Or corn on the cob, although the visual is strangely appealing.

Surprisingly, you can still get condoms that are ‘ribbed for her pleasure’, which proves that despite their own success there is still one born every minute. You can now even get studs. Indeed, the studded pack I examined claimed “now with improved studs”. What could possibly have been wrong with the old studs? Did they come off? Did people get stuck? Or catch fire from the friction? (There’s a 911 call you never want to make.)

You can also get a range of ‘user settings’, which were perplexing to me. There’s High Pleasure and Extra Pleasure, or Natural Feeling and Ultimate Feeling, or even High Sensation and Intense Sensation. Tell me this, who on earth is going to pick Natural over Ultimate? Or High over Intense? This is still sex we’re talking about, right? I can see it now, some pimply youth mulling it over, wondering if he should restrain himself to just the high sensation setting, as maybe it would allow him to be more sensitive to his partner. “Intense Sensation might be too much for me”, he thinks, scratching his balls, “making me lose control and ruin the erotic majesty of the moment. And while that might be momentarily more satisfying, it wouldn’t be the right choice for the relationship in the long term.” Very likely. Or maybe the truth is that women actually buy more condoms than men, and the wilier among them think they might improve their chances of climax if they rein in their stallion, metaphorically speaking. Fortunately for them you can now actually go one better, picking Durex Maintain (dream tagline: Just hold it!), or a brand that boasted of Climax Control Lubricant (surely an oxymoron?). Shit, why not just superglue the poor bastard’s balls to his thigh? That should limit his freedom of movement.

My personal favorite was Pleasure Mesh. Now, let’s think about this for a moment. Doesn’t mesh, by its very nature, have holes? And aren’t holes the sworn enemy of condoms? How did this name get past the committee? I think it must have been one of those situations where the ad agency had simply had too long a lunch and thought it would be a good joke. The client, of course, thinking of strippers in tight string vests, stockings, and the personally arousing sight of tangerines clustered in a netting bag (don’t ask) approved it on the spot. I love it, he cried, it’s…different. I guess PinPricks™ could have been misinterpreted.

So, after standing there with my mouth open for ten minutes, much to the amusement of the newborn working behind the counter, I plumped for the Classic Collection, a selection of condoms from my youth. I had hoped they would come packaged with a sampler of 80s music, but no such luck.

Now all I have to do is find time to use them.

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