Al Green gently wafted over the speakers, the lights were dimmed, and that special moment was approaching. She asked me, “Do you have one?”
“Why, of course I do my dear.” I respond, doing my best to hide my growing anxiety.
Now, being a responsible partner, I would always bring condoms with me. But, as a 20-year-old boy, I would also jump at any opportunity not to use one. To be perfectly honest, condoms scared me. In my experience, they scare most men at the start. Despite all the proclamations that they are “ribbed for pleasure” or “twice the ecstasy”, I felt mostly dread. They felt awkward, almost a physical manifestation of my own insecurities, a reminder that I probably didn’t know what I was doing. So I would scurry away to a darkened part of the room, quickly tear the condom out of the foil, repeating the mantra “stay hard, stay hard” as I tried to act sexy, trying to hide the anxiety that was welling up inside of me. At this age, sex was more a puzzle to be figured out than something I did for the pleasure of the act. I hadn’t discovered the kinks I was into, and how to listen and respond to my partner.
As the years progressed, I matured in age and gained some valuable experience in bed, but my fear of condoms remained. I had been able to circumvent it for a time while I was in a long-term monogamous relationship, and my partner had been on the pill. But soon after my 23rd birthday, I found myself single and horny again, and I knew that I had to readdress my relationship with my latex friends.
I started looking around the Internet, the bastion of all good information. The advice I found ranged from a very medicalized “sit on your knees with your erection in one hand, bend forward 30 degrees and apply the device” to the asinine “just have sex standing up; gravity will stop impregnation,” but none seemed to address my insecurities. So I began search in earnest (again while horny) when I finally came upon some actual good advice: Practise with the condom! No partners, no expectations, no anxiety about performance. Just me, my right hand and a Trojan.
This simple revelation opened up a whole new world for me. I began to test out different brands and styles of condoms; shockingly, there is a reason for the different price points and styles other than just sheer marketing. I also learned the value of a good lubricant, and how to apply it properly. Removed from the immediacy of a partnered situation, I was free to experiment and to learn about myself. Sure, the self-manipulation wasn’t as pleasurable at first, but I knew this was a relationship I had to improve for both my safety and that of my partners’.
The years continue to pass, and I am proud of the progress I’ve made in my relationships with condoms. I still experiment; I’ve moved from rubbery latex to synthetic materials, and I still enjoy the occasional evening with my partner without one, using substitute birth control methods. Mostly, though, I am excited for the future. With cash incentives from organizations like the Gates Foundation, entirely new models of condoms such as those from Origami or Rapidom are mere months away from product testing in Canada. I can’t wait to try these new designs, see how they work for my partners and for me. If the WHO numbers are to be believed, there are more men out there who dread putting on a condom, so if I may, I will leave you with this simple advice: take some time out of your day, and have some fun with a condom on.