Monday, October 3, 2011

Review: Does Luxury Latex Deliver?

Ever since 2007 when I worked for Trojan and discovered Kimono Textured (neé Type E) I’ve kept up with developments in the condom world. This year several new brands have joined the latex market and I felt it was time to review what's out there and fill the gaps left by Consumer Reports’ rankings, the most recent of which came out in 2009 and includes no, um, "field testing."

This multi-part series will review a wide selection of condoms available right now--some luxury brands and others late night, drugstore stand-bys. This first post will focus on specialty brands, some of which are fashion-forward and others focused on ethical sex.

The original fashion condom, of course, was Proper Attire, which features wrappers by famous designers like Alexander Wang and benefits Planned Parenthood. Other companies have packaged their condoms in gorgeously creative boxes, like OOO Boutique, which has a variety of inspirational packaging, like the “Try Me” and “Kung Fu Sutra” collections featuring condoms with suggested positions to try. The website even has animated gifs of each position, in case you need a little inspiration (see above). Top that, Cosmo Kama Sutra.

But two brands have emerged lately that combine luxury brand positioning with a charitable mission. This first review will focus on two such brands, Sir Richards and French Letter, each of which donate a portion of purchases to charity. Sir Richards has a TOMS-esque mission and donates one condom to Partners in Health for every one sold. French Letter, which is the world’s first fair trade, carbon-neutral condom, works with Cecily’s Fund to educate Zambian children orphaned by AIDS.

The condoms are do-gooders, yes, but how good are they to actually, you know, do it? Our testers compared them to two standbys--Crown and Kimono Textured.

Criteria: our testers used each condom featured (some more than once) and rated them on:
  • lube: was extra lube required?
  • sex-feel: did it feel like they were using a condom or not?
  • reliability: did it break?
  • special features, where applicable: were the ribs/studs even noticeable?
  • other: did the condom smell like latex? cause irritation? was the package hard to open?
Sir Richards Pleasure Dots
She says: The raised dot pattern is definitely intense, but I didn't feel it because the dots started several inches up the shaft of the condom, which is too far to really stimulate the most sensitive outer inch of the vaj. Well-lubricated but they had a rubbery smell. Bonus: I love the magenta geometric pattern on the package.
He says: They aren’t too lubricated, but they don’t dry easily, and they aren’t too thick either. The pleasure dots protrude more than any other condom I’ve used, which doesn’t affect me but is a nice feature.
Overall score: 3.5

French Letter

French Letter offers three varieties--Sheer Caress, Linger Lust, and Stimulating Massage. Our testers tried all three but are reviewing the Sheer Caress.
She says: The Sheer Caress was thin, but not as thin as Crown. And all of a sudden we had an "OMG, we need lube!" moment, which is never good. The round packages are pretty but kind of hard to open, especially in the dark after some adult beverages.
He says: French Letter does a great job of disguising the quality of the product (or lack thereof) with attractive packaging. In short, it’s as dry as Lubbock prior to 2009.
Overall score: 3.0

Kimono Textured
This Japanese condom is super thin, textured in the right places, and shaped to feel like the guy's wearing nothing at all.
She says: I love this condom, but it absolutely requires extra lube from the get-go. And it seems like they're shorter than other condoms, so I'm sometimes worried they're going to come off. They haven't, but it's just an anxiety.
He says: Kimono condoms have a more “intimate” feel, which is difficult to find in a condom. However, the downside is it tends to strangle my dick. For me, it’s just a little too tight, but on the plus side they will make you feel like you’re raw-dogging it.
Overall score: 4.0

Crown is another Japanese condom that is hard to find in stores but has gained popularity among pornstars and the sexerati--the thinnest condom available anywhere but larger than standard size condoms, Crown is the best of both worlds.
She says: As much as it pains me to give up on Kimono Textured, Crown has earned the top spot on my bedside table. They're so thin that I really don't notice them at all, and while I needed extra lube after a while, it wasn't a Texas Drought kind of situation.
He says: Crown is all about sensitivity, and the reliability can’t be overstated. It’s not uncommon to look down to double check that the condom is still on…and it always has been. Minor critique in that it tends to get dry after awhile—nothing a little lube can’t fix.
Overall rating: 4.5

If you need lube, and the more high-end the condom you're using the more likely you will, I recommend Sliquid Organics Silk, which is silicone-based and lasts forever.

Coming soon in the series: Lifestyles, Durex, and Trojan, or: We try Fire & Ice so you don't have to.

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