For most, however, the cons of having unprotected sex far outweigh the pleasurable pros. With most STDs showing no symptoms, a low rate of STD testing, and an increasing amount of people engaging in intercourse with multiple partners, condom-free sex is a gamble more risky than 7 slots (no pun intended...). And yet, according to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, released by the University of Indiana this month, only 1 in 4 acts of sexual intercourse are condom protected. This could be due to many factors--ranging from awareness to availability, but more often than not, negligent condom usage harkens back to the pleasure myth I outlined above. A condom adds a third sort of "skin" between partners; it dulls the friction on the shaft and head of the penis and, often, leads to drying of the vaginal walls. As one man on an OkCupid forum asking "Does sex feel better without condoms?" so crudely put it, "Fucking yes sex better without condoms, why do you think men get married?"
But the NSSHB reports that "adults using a condom for intercourse were just as likely to rate the sexual extent positively in terms of arousal, pleasure and orgasm than when having intercourse without one." Yes--sex CAN feel better without condoms, but it can feel just the same if not better with condoms, too--and it can be just as fun and sexy! (And you won't wake up the next day with that impulse to call for STD testing the next morning.)
In Babeland's How To Make Safer Sex Sexy, author Mykkah Herner, HR Officer for the Global Fund for Women, stresses knowing your products--from basic condoms to dental dams for cunninlingus. You can play with different products with your partner(s) to see what feels best for both of you. For example, do you like ribbed or studded? What about lubricated or lambskin? If you don't know for sure when you are in line at the grocery, you can get a sampler pack and try out all varieties with no extra cost. According to Condom Depot's 9th Annual Condom Awards, the best for a "non-condom" feel is the Crown Skinless Skin Condoms, awarded best condoms for all nine years. These condoms gained fame as some of the first condoms in adult film; they are the thinnest latex condom made but still completely reliable. Consumer Reports, by contrast, rates Durex Extra Sensitive condoms as the best condoms yet, with a strength and reliability rating of excellent. These condoms are also rated as the second best condom according the the 9th Annual Condom Awards.
Besides getting to know your products and experimenting with different kinds, Herner gives some additional tips for enhancing your safer sex. In #9, Herner mentions stashing your gear somewhere so you're "ready and willing." I've always found it fun to hide condoms under the pillow or in the mattress, so when the moment heats up, you can surprise your partner by putting the condom on them out of nowhere! No more rummaging and breaking the moment! In #2, Herner mentions accessorizing with your preventative products as a way to spice things up. In the same way you might hide a condom under your pillow, you can put a condom or dental dam in a garter belt, or "wear it under a skirt or dress and invite your partner to inch his or her way up your thighs to discover the prize." That way, your safer sex is fun, with your devices as a kind of treasure leading to the big act.