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This time of year, when everything is shopping and shopping guides and guides to shopping guides anyway, why not a shopping guide? I think we've already determined that if you're dating you're using condoms, but which kinds, and why? 

What makes a good condom? Do any of those claims have any validity, anyway? Is anything in this world, ultimately, truly ribbed for your pleasure?

Most of us, faced with a tricky consumer-good decision, turn to something like Consumer Reports, and why should condom shoppers do any differently? CS regularly rates condoms, although the most recent rundown I can find on their public site dates from 2005. 

You can find the ratings are here, but with the exception of the breakage stats for the very worst condoms (marketed by Planned Parenthood, of all people) and an admonition not to buy XXL condoms unless he really is an XXL (in width, especially), I don't find Consumer Reports' ratings all that illuminating.

Consumer Reports often rates based on the presence or absence of features I'd find unnecessary if not actively annoying: Do I care if it my coffee-maker can be programmed to make weaker coffee on alternate Wednesdays? I don't and I wish it wouldn't. So if Consumer Reports has its uses but often seems oddly ill-focused to me, who does know exactly what women are looking for in a sex-aide, be it the oscillating, alternating-current kind or merely a simple rubber safety device?

Sex-device specialists like the clean, well-lighted women-owned-and-operated ones I regularly tout in my columns, that's who. I called Mae, a marketing manager at Babeland formerly (and cleverly) Toys In Babeland, for shopping advice.

What sells best to women?," I asked her. "Male condoms!," she answered promptly. Apparently, nobody's interested in the Reality (TM) female condom, at least not at Babeland, which comes as no surprise to me. It looks like a sat-upon jellyfish and sounds like an old lady wrestling with a packet of starlight mints in the row behind you at the movies; few people find either attribute especially erotic.

So what do women want? Well, when it comes to condoms you can't be too strong or too thin, apparently. Thin, thin, thin. Strong, strong, strong. The ideal condom, it seems, has a sort of a Sarah Connor vibe going on. Except not really. The Mamba, for instance, is a "snug," extremely silky, bright yellow and not at all scary-looking condom which sells well based on its extremely stringent testing ("Tested in Switzerland, like a watch!" except it turns out to actually be from Sweden, but no matter).

"Women do like cute," says Mae, referring to well-packaged eurocondoms like the Mamba and Birds'n'Bees." They like their products not so medical-looking." Well, some women might. I like my shoes decidedly non-orthopedic, for instance, and am a sucker for candy-colored consumer electronics, but don't care so much about the styling of my jimmy-hats as long as they don't spring any leaks.

Babeland customers also (and oddly, to me) turn out to be huge fans of the Trojan vibrating ring, which is disposable and comes with the condom. "You don't think that's a silly product? Big carbon footprint?" "We-e-e-ll," hems the loyal marketing manager, "There are certainly better vibrators out there. It's good for trying out the idea of a sex toy, anyway." "Good stocking stuffer?" I prompt.

"Perfect stocking stuffer!" I'd agree, provided you have that sort of stocking-stuffing relationship with your friend-girls, which frankly, not everyone does. You might be better off stuffing your own stocking, you should pardon the expression, or your boyfriend's, if you're going to buy things even small, inexpensive things, which vibrate.


Click the following for Part 2 of A Ladies Guide to Condoms

Click the following to return to the directory for Sex and Dating Post Divorce

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