The Condom Conundrum

Morning, morning, morning, (said like the stewardess, waiting at the front of the plane to greet you.)
Here’s yesterday’s Sunday Times Column, hope you enjoy it.


It’s astonishing how far the condom has come. Just 400 years ago chaps were using everything from animal horns to linen or even animal skins, bladders and intestines, dipped into scary-sounding chemicals such as sulphur and lye, and tying them to their thingies with a ribbon. (I can’t help imagining that they looked a little like a gift, all wrapped up and tied with a bow.)

At one point they were even made out of rubber by Mr Goodyear himself, and were about as thick as the inner tube of a bicycle tire. I’m not quite sure how that worked.

Fortunately there have been some incredible advances and the humble condom has gone from being made out of ridiculous materials and being outlawed and internationally banned to finally being commonly accepted, absolutely necessary and freely available just about everywhere and in every way. Extra-large, extra-small, ribbed, studded, fruit-flavoured and lubricated for your enjoyment, there are no shortage of options. They even make a condom for women these days.

But while we have come very far, there are still some areas of condom usage and etiquette where we are seriously lacking.

The first question we’re still not so clear on is who should be responsible for supplying the condom — the guy or the girl? On the one hand, pulling a condom out of your pocket, wallet or bedside drawer shows that you’re a responsible, thoughtful and safe adult, but on the other hand, nobody wants to come across as easy, over-eager, promiscuous, or even worse, presumptuous.

A girlfriend of mine went on a first date recently. Everything was going well, the conversation flowed and she said she felt like they were getting along really nicely. When the time came to pay the bill, she did the requisite reach for her purse, and then they did the mandatory “allow me, no allow me, no really, allow me” dance, wherein the woman offers to pay and the man gallantly insists that he wants to pay. Finally she conceded, thanked him for his generosity, and sat back to finish her wine while he did the necessary. But when he opened his wallet to take out his cash, a condom fell out onto the restaurant bill. An awkward silence ensued, followed by the guy’s desperate attempt to rescue himself. But he only managed to dig himself deeper into a sexless hole in the process.

The irony is that, over dessert, my friend had actually decided that she might consider sleeping with him because they were having such a good time. But when the condom fell out, it all just became too awkward and pre-planned.

You can hardly blame the guy. It was an unfortunate accident. Nobody wants to be caught unprepared when the opportunity to have sex arises, but on the other hand, you don’t want to come across as so absolutely sure of your devastating charm and good looks that you know for a fact you’re going to get laid before you’ve even met the girl.

Then there are the other questions of condom etiquette that raise their ugly heads during the course of a single person’s life. Another friend of mine recently found herself in a relationship with a gentleman who required a larger sized condom. When that relationship ended she was in possession of the remainder of a box of (imaginatively named) Mr Big’s Condoms. An awkward position to be in, because she didn’t want to throw out three perfectly good condoms, but was concerned that perhaps the next guy she found herself with might be slightly less well-endowed, and she didn’t want to embarrass him by offering him a raincoat four sizes too big. In the end she decided to hold onto the big guys. Rather safe than sorry, right?

Shame, there’s really no winning. One of the guys I work with says he doesn’t carry a condom because he’s worried it might jinx him. Maybe he’s got a point. You can carry a condom in your wallet for years and never get laid. But Sod’s Law, leave it at home for one night and the entire touring Swedish women’s beach-volleyball team will be queuing up for a shag.

7 responses to “The Condom Conundrum”

  1. LadyRaven says:

    Luckily even Woolies carries condoms these days so a quick stop for “milk” can save the evening

  2. Paige says:

    No way! I didn’t know that! I wish I had, it would have been great to add that into the piece somewhere. I’ll have to look out for the Johnnies at Woolies!

  3. Paige says:

    Are they in the ‘get lucky’ aisle? Together with the whipped cream and the strawberries?


  4. I love your last sentence – because its true!!! Great post that made me giggle.

  5. david says:

    I think the greatest advance in condom technology was disposable condoms. As environmentally friendly as they may be, re-usable condoms just don’t work for me 😉

  6. The Swedes have a beach volleyball team? or am I missing something? 🙂

  7. paige says:

    Well @anton marshal – if the Swedes don’t have a beach volleyball team they should certainly get right on that. it would be a shame not to have one.

    @david – gross man, wish i’d thought to add that into column, would have made a great para!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.