A Girl's Guide To Condoms

by Mimi Coucher

WARNING: Boys cannot read this. If you are a boy and are reading this, stop immediately. The following article is chock-full of highly intimate girl secrets that will be 10 times more embarrassing than any TV commercial for feminine-hygiene products you've ever seen. So quit it. I mean it. You'll be sorry.

Condoms Demystified

There are basically three kinds of condoms: unlubricated latex, lubricated latex, and lambskin. The lambskins are no good because they haven't been proven to be a barrier to infection. Anyway, they're really made of lambies and that makes us sad, especially around Easter time. (The real reason we don't like them is that they actually smell like lamb. One is tempted to lubricate them with mint jelly.)

There are variations on the basic latex condoms. Some condoms are prelubricated, with spermicidal jelly, even. Others are not. Strictly B.Y.O.K.Y.

The strangest variation by far is the ribbed latex condom. Why are these condoms ribbed? This is supposed to be stimulating? Should one attempt to play washboard tunes on it? This is just part of a big problem with condoms. Condoms were, and are, designed by men.

If Girls Designed Condoms...

What a wonderful world it would be. Skip the ribbing, skip the lube. If women designed condoms there is no question that they would be padded.

"But size doesn't matter!" comes a chorus of voices. (The loudest voices come from boys who are peeking. Stop that right now. Turn to the sports page immediately.) Sure *length* doesn't matter. But give any girl a small dose of truth serum and ask her about width.

Admit it. If padded condoms were placed on the market, hordes of screaming women would storm their local druggists and dash out with tote bags full. Unfortunately, it wouldn't work. After all, there is that ticklish issue of boy sensitivity, which we can't overlook, even if we occasionally want to. Padded condoms would rob boys of the skin-to-skin senstion they already claim condoms rob them of. And we can't have that.

No, we modern women, being kind and sensitive lovers, would design whisper-soft condoms, completely transparent and microscopically thin. The paisley, rainbow, and floral-print condoms we designed would be strictly novelty items, kept for special occasions only. Ditto the condoms with cute sayings: "Hang in there, baby, Friday's coming"; "My girlfriend went to Florida and all I got was this lousy condom"; and the classic "I'm with stupid" (arrow pointing back toward the boy). Other specialty items would include the male-ego condom, which, like black olives, come in three sizes: jumbo, colossal, and humongous. Naughty subversives would enjoy the Karen Finley assortment, colorful, decorative condoms that turn ordinary penises into bananas, hotdogs, yams, and more.

But I digress. The best place to buy condoms is your local massive drugstore that has them on display, self-serve, just like corn pads or athlete's foot spray.

So go shopping. Dress cool, hold your head high, read labels, make your selection. Be assured that most popular brands come with little instruction booklets much like the ones found in boxes of Tampax (uh oh --don't mix them up!). While at the drugstore, be sure to purchase at least one of the following items: Tickle anti-perspirant, Ban Roll-on, or any of the Calvin Klein line of men's grooming aids. You'll need these for important condom experiments at home.

At home, be alone. Light candles. Play inspiring music; any record by Rick James will do. Remove one of the condoms from its packet. Examine it carefully. Then put it to work. Experiment with your slippery new friends; whip those sons-of-gummi-worms into shape. Recruit those deodorant bottles and practice, practice, practice.

And how about some new nicknames for the old standbys? Love skins. Slicks. Wet suits. Silk stockings. Eight-by-two glossies.

Soon enough, you'll be happy and relaxed, perfectly in control of those silly little slips o' sin. But wait. Something's missing. Oh yes, the hard part. I mean the good part. I mean, both.

The Condomed Man

It is far, far easier to start them on condoms when the relationship is young. In fact, the condom is a terrific tool of seduction when you're ready to make the leap between the sheets. Call that someone on the phone and say to him, casual-like, "I just bought a new kind of condom and I'm dying to try it out... want to come over?" Or when out on the town with your paramour, and the clock on the clubhouse wall says thump thump thump, push that hunk against the wall and growl, "Listen, buddy. I've got a condom in my pocket and I'm not afraid to use it. We're going home."

Welcome To The Safety Patrol

Before you know it, you'll be a veritable connoisseur of condoms. You'll allow them to drop casually out of your purse in front of attractive men at cocktail parties. You'll dispense them to friends, give lessons, perhaps even roll your own. "Oh, handsome boyfriend," you'll soon sigh, "I've always wanted to see you in rubber."

And he won't mind one bit.


We've Come A Long Way...

We thought we were pretty darn smart, all right. In the '60s we became liberated and bravely marched into our neighborhood women's-health collective, had our blood tested and our bodies examined, and marched out armed with a pink carousel of little tablets and a new attitude. We related to our sex partners, we discovered the joys of uninhibited physical thrills, we took our pills regularly. In the '70s we were sorry for it and went en masse to our gynecologists to be fitted for diaphragms. We carried them everywhere, became geniuses of delicate timing. We tried IUDs, flirted with cervical caps worn at jaunty angles. We researched and discussed the issues with candor and aplomb; ask any high-spirited modern girl and she'll tell you all about the G-spot, male menopaus, the Hite report, impotence, arousal, pregnancy, the Kama Sutra, birth control.

Ready for the '80s? Hell, we thought we were ready for anything. Anything but this. No woman, not even the most avid reader of sex manuals or sophisticated connoisseur of amour, is prepared for the experience of walking to the corner drugstore and asking the freckle-faced adolescent behind the counter for a package of... condoms.

OLD FACT: Condoms aren't sexy. Neither are rubbers, sheaths, prophylactics, Coney Island white fish, raincoats, skins, safes, rubber booties, socks. The package says, "Sold for the prevention of venereal disease." The boys say, "Sold for the prevention of love". Oft compared to taking a bath with socks on, the condom ritual was the classic bane to the romantic advances of bumbling '50s teens.

NEW FACT: Unless you can account for all the blood transfusions, intravenous activities, and sexual escapades of your partner and your partner's partners, you'd best get used to the idea, right now. "Say," you blink innocently, "shouldn't the boy be taking some responsibility for this dangerous transaction?" Yes, of course. But I wouldn't count on it. You know how they are. And here's a horrifying thought: not only are you protecting yourself against your partner, you're protecting your partner against *you*.

Oh, cheer up. It beats abstinence.

Buy Now, Lay Later

Don't even pretend for one minute that you're never going to do "it" again. You will. So brace yourself for the new shopping experience of the '80s.

First take: you enter a quiet, out-of-the-way drugstore that has a display of walkers and bedpans in the window. Confident that no one you know will ever spot you here, you stride over to the kindly old pharmacist at the back of the store. "Excuse me," you venture a little shakily. "Where are your rubbers?" You are gently guided to a Totes display in Aisle Three. To save face, you buy a pair of men's size 11s and ditch them in a corner trash can, determined to do better next time.

Second take: the next store you choose is a little larger, and crowded. But you can't find the condoms anywhere. There is a line at the cash register. You stand in it, patiently, rehearsing your lines. You arrive. "Excuse me," you politely whisper to the surly loud-mouthed Iranian behind the counter, "where are your prophylactics?" "Right here," he shouts. "What kind ya want?" "Uh, Trojans, I guess." "Lubricated or nonlubricated?" he bellows. "Ya want ribs? We got the ribs kinds." By this time, the entire store is involved in the drama, the crowd behind you is silently hanging on your every word, and you're sure that that's your third-grade teacher who just walked in. "Oh, uh, skip it, thanks. I'll just tell my little brother that he'll have to buy his own."

Don't be discouraged. Buying condoms is a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. And here's a heartening fact that I bet even *you* didn't know, Ms. Modern: marketing tests prove that women buy more condoms than men do, and have for years. That's why, ever since the late '70s, condom packages have featured air-brushed photos of couples holding hands at sunset. They thought we'd like that. We don't, but it will have to do till pictures of Mick Jagger, Mel Gibson, or beautiful shoes come along.

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Pete Bevin, pete@petebevin.com