i Looking for the perfect prophylactic? The chic-est sheath? The E funniest F renchy? The List asked six couples to test an assortment of

There’s an ever-increasing number of condoms on the market, as new and improved versions are made available. The recently published Good Condom Guide lists 71 from all over the world and Condomania, mail order condom specialists, can supply a staggering 91 varieties. Despite so much choice, condoms have a shorter point of purchase time than any other product in the UK: people are still bashful about being seen buying them.

To help you make that obviously embarrassing decision, we asked six couples to rate a selection of condoms for sensitivity, confidence that they would stay on and attractiveness of packaging. The grades awarded have been interpreted into marks out of five.


Every country sets different standards for condoms. In the UK, they must measure up to the British Standard 3704 to earn the well-known Kitemark. We tested the complete Durex and Mates ranges, all of which carry this mark. The four NVSH brands tested is imported from the

The condoms tested:


Straight sided, pinkish with ASL. Claimed to be the thinnest sensitol.

Packaging: Flared, translucent with nonoxynol

EXTRA THIN 9- , , Comments: A favourite standby, If a

Confidence: " Packaging: Straight sided, translucent with

weird and wonderful condoms in the privacy of their own homes. Thom Dibdin asks, ‘How was it for you, darling?’

Netherlands by Condomania, and conform to the equivalent Dutch standards. The Tastee brand is manufactured to BS 3704, but does not carry the Kitemark.


The testing couples are all in stable, but differing, relationships. Three couples always use condoms, two couples only use them during the fertile part of her month and the final couple no longer use them as they would be quite happy to have a child. One couple is married and live together, three live together and the other two see each other as much as possible. One couple are gay, and five are heterosexual. All enjoyed taking part in the survey.


Most condoms are parallel sided with a teat at the end. Some come without the teat. Flared condoms have a wider head, said to increase sensitivity. Contoured condoms have a wider head with a slight tapering below it, to help them stay on. One couple who had not used a ribbed condom before


I Durex Fetherllte bit rubbery. one male. The UK’s top selling Sensitivity: I Durex Gossamer condom. Confidence: Sensitivity: I Mates Ultra Sale

Sensitivity: " Confidence: " Packaging:

Flared, coral coloured with ASL. Comments: ‘Feels light-weight but stays firmly in place,’ according to

were surprised to find they had to hold them under a light before they could see the ridges which run around the shaft, leaving the head smooth. LUBRICANTS Nonoxynol 9 is a proven spermicidal lubricant which has been shown to inactivate the HIV virus. However, some women find it causes irritation. Durex has developed ASL, or Advanced Spermicidal Lubricant, which it claims is ‘ultra gentle‘, has ‘improved lubricity’ and that ‘brands with ASL are odour free’. Our testers said it did not make them itchy, they could not tell if it was runnier but they definitely did not agree that it was odour free. Sensitol is a non-spermicidal lubricant. Do not, whatever you do, use an oil-based lubricant such as Vaseline or baby oil, as these will weaken the latex. Use a water-based lubricant such as KY Jelly instead. SCORE DRAW So which was best? Well, it really depends on what you want from your condom. If you require sheer, silken sensitivity then go for the Durex Fetherllte. Ifyou want a little more stimulation, then try Arousal with its attractive reddish colour. Mates’ Mlnty Fragrance is our recommendation on the flavour stakes, although Tuttl Fruttl strawberry makes a refreshing change. Most flavours are colour-coded if you want a bit of local colouration. but easily the sexiest colour is Play Sale black. Gay Sale is clearly the best of the extra strength ones. Why not try out an assortment for the weekend? But remember, don’t be put off by any packaging: it’s the least sensitive part of the condom. And finally, when you’ve finished your own private testing, don’t put the condom down the toilet, out ofthe car window or in the bushes: put it in the bin.

I Play Mates Coloured

Sensitivity: " "

Confidence: "


Contoured, translucent blue, red, green and yellow, with nonoxynol 9. Comments: The colours received very negative responses: ‘Like putting fluffy dice on’ (red) and ‘cow sick’ (green).

kite-marked condom available. Comments: Very good sensitivity, one male said it ‘almost felt like you

weren’t wearing one.’ I Durex Ellte Sensitivity: Confidence: Packaging: "

Straight sided, translucent yellow

with extra ASL.

Comments: Not as sensitive as Fetherlite, with slightly off-putting


I Mates Natural Sensitivity: " Confidence: "

Comments: No nonsense, value for money condom. ‘The next best thing to skin,’ remarked one woman, although she hated the ‘soap opera

l packaging’.

I NVSH Euro Gllder

l Sensitivity: "‘

Confidence: "

3 Packaging: * "

: Straight sided, translucent and lubricated.

Comments: ‘Something for the summit, Sir?’ Excellent packaging on a workaday condom.

I Durex Extra Sale


Confidence: " '

Contoured, creamy with nonoxynol 9.

Comments: High confidence factor, but not so sensitive despite the contour-hugging shape.

I Durex Gold Sensitivity: " " Confidence: "

' Packaging: *

coloured with ASL.


; Comments: Not gold coloured at all, several testers found the lack of teat

I Durex Sale Play Black Sensitivity: " Confidence: Packaging: "

Straight sided, opaque black with


Comments: The opaque black conjured up images of leather and whips! All testers agreed that this ‘solid’ look would be good for those who want their sex sultry but safe.

very attractive, although one pair 1 thought them ‘rubbery’.

i I Durex Assure


; Sensitivity: g Confidence: " "

l Packaging: "

: Straight sided, coral coloured with l

i : Straight sided, teatless, gold i



I Stone Age standups Prehistoric prophylactics can be traced back to the ancient cave paintings in Combarellaas, France. An image of a man having sex appears to show a covering over his penis.

I Soft leather The Romans used bladders from animals to protect themselves from venereal disease. The Chinese used

Bled silk paper, the

Japanese used soft leather and the ancient Egyptians used fine linen.

I Flrst desertptlon In 1564, Gabriel Falloppius, the Italian anatomist after whom the fallopian tubes are named, wrote the first known description of a condom. Linen sheaths prepared with herbs and salts were used to prevent the spread of disease. These were not very

12 The List 20 November 3 December l‘)92

popular, and people began experimenting with the guts of animals such as sheep, goats and fish.

I Noble edltlce Boswell records in his London Journal that on 10 May, 1663, he picked ‘up a strong, young, jolly damsell. led her to Westminster Bridge and there, in armour

complete , did en joy her upon this very noble edifice‘.

I Colonel Cundum In 1665, one Colonel Cundum of the Guards is reputed to have devised a safety sheath to stop his men catching or spreading nasty diseases. In 1667, according to the Penguin Dictionary of Historic Slang, ‘those three aristocratic courtiers, wits and poets Rochester, Roscommon and Dorset issued a Panegyric upon Cundum’.

I Etymology The origin of the word condom is obscure. Some books say

it comes from the name of the small town of Condom in Gascony, France. Others point out that konda is Persian for storage vessel or that condus is Latin for recepticle. The folk-myth that the word comes from one Dr Condom, whose sheep’s gut condoms so delighted the philanden'ng Charles II that he awarded him a knighthood was refuted when no doctor of that name could be traced. I All tled up In Cupid’s Metamorphoses (1728) , W. Pattison quotes one W. Kennett as saying ‘happy the man, who in his

Pocket keeps, whether green or scarlet ribband bound, a well made Condom'.

I Plnky Casanova, the world’s most notorious philanderer, preferred to secure his condoms with a pink ribbon. In his Memoirs he frankly demonstrates the use of pig’s bladder or sheep gut