Rubber Up!

Chapter 3

Choosing The Right Brands


Which brand?

There are now more extra strong condom brands on the market in Britain than ever before. At the time of writing you can choose between the following:

You may also come across several brands that are marketed in other countries, but imported into Britain by AIDS organisations, clinics or mail order firms. The following extra strong brands are currently sold in Europe:

All of the above condom brands performed well in independent laboratory testing commissioned by Rubberstuffers. If you’re following the advice to use extra strong condom brands for anal sex, any of the above can be considered a good choice.

Two other European condoms brands which are marketed to gay men in their countries of origin, but are standard strength condoms rather than extra strong ones, are:

American strong condoms such as Trojan Extra Strength, Ramses Extra or Lifestyles Extra aren't sold in Europe, although some mail order firms stock them.

Is there a single strong brand which is clearly better than the others? Not really. When it comes to stronger condoms most will do the job admirably. It’s a very subjective question, rather like asking which is the best restaurant. Once you get into a particular category they are all ‘the best’ in their own way.

Let’s look at the strong brands one by one.

 

DUREX ULTRA STRONG

In Rubberstuffers’ tests, Durex Ultra Strong came out on top as the best extra strong brand. Its manufacturer, the London International Group, introduced this brand in place of Durex Extra Strong in 1994, after tests suggested that the existing condom might not pass the more stringent requirements for strong condoms which were planned in the new pan-European condom standard.

Durex Ultra Strong are plain-ended condoms, do not come not lubricated with Nonoxynol-9, and carry the Kitemark sign of quality. Although many high-street outlets stock Durex condoms, the Ultra Strong variety can be hard to find in shops, although clinics usually have supplies.

MATES SUPER STRONG

The manufacturer of Mates condoms, Ansell, upgraded its Super Strong brand in 1994/5 to ensure that it would pass the pan-European condom standard’s specifications. It’s a plain-ended condom that is not spermicidally lubricated.

This is probably the most widely available extra strong condom, stocked by most branches of Boots The Chemist. It carries the Kitemark.

 

SAFEGUARD FORTE

Safeguard Forte condoms were launched in 1995 by Safex Supplies Ltd. It is the only Kitemarked condom brand that specifically targets the gay market.

The research commissioned by Rubberstuffers found that Safeguard Forte condoms were slightly thinner than the other extra strong condoms tested, but nevertheless they performed about as well as thicker condoms such as the Durex and Mates brands. Safex claims that they are made from premium latex, which allows them to be made thinner without sacrificing strength.

Safeguard Forte condoms have a teat, and are not spermicidally lubricated.

 

BOYS’ OWN

Boys’ Own condoms were introduced in 1995 and are marketed by Leeds Trading Company. They were the first condom to be specifically targeted at the gay market.

Unlike the other three British extra strong brands, Boys’ Own condoms have not been submitted for the Kitemark. This means that they are not subject to the British Standards Institution’s regular independent spot-checks of the manufacturing process and the quality of the product. However, the Boys’ Own condoms tested by Rubberstuffers performed perfectly respectably (and they come in sexy black packaging).

 

HT SPECIAL

HT Special condoms are marketed in Germany by MAPA GmbH. For several years they have been imported into Britain by some AIDS organisations, drugs services and clinics, and they are also available in vending machines in some gay pubs and clubs.Because they are not marketed directly in the UK, they haven’t been submitted for Kitemarking.

These are teated condoms which are not spermicidally lubricated. Ignore the package insert that says that they do not need additional lubricant – while that could conceivably be true for vaginal sex, they certainly don’t have enough lube for anal fucking.

 

MONDOS YANTRA

Mondos is a Dutch company that produces a range of condoms, including an extra strong brand called Mondos Yantra. A few organisations import them, or they can be ordered by mail order or over the World Wide Web.

This is another teated brand without added spermicide. It's also faintly perfumed – it has a vague lemony smell.

 

DUO

Duo condoms were designed by the London International Group, makers of Durex brand condoms, specifically for the gay market in Holland. The manufacturer conducted tests in which 17 gay couples experimented with a range of condoms of different thicknesses and with different water-based lubricants to discover which were the safest and most acceptable to the users. Duo was the result.

Unlike most brands, Duo condoms are unlubricated inside their foil wrappers. When bought in packs, they come with a small vial of water-based lubricant which has to be added after you’ve put on the condom.

 

GAY SAFE

Gay Safe condoms are marketed to the gay community in Holland, and are sometimes imported into Britain by AIDS organisations and clinics. In case there was any doubt over their target market they even have a large pink triangle on the condom wrapper.

As mentioned earlier, in some countries AIDS organisations don’t advise gay men to use extra strong condoms rather than standard strength ones. Although most Dutch AIDS groups do recommend strong condoms for gay sex, Gay Safe condoms are actually no thicker than standard condoms. In the Rubberstuffers testing of brands recommended to gay men, Gay Safe condoms were the least strong. While they may be fine compared with other standard strength condoms, they shouldn’t be regarded as extra strong.

Like Duo condoms, Gay Safe are unlubricated and teatless.

 

HOT RUBBER

The Hot Rubber Company was set up in Switzerland in response to AIDS. They are closely linked to Swiss AIDS organisations, and donate their profits to AIDS charities.

The Hot Rubber Company maintains that standard strength condoms are perfectly adequate for anal sex, so they do not make an extra strong brand. Their condoms are thus not commonly imported into the UK, where AIDS organisations do recommend gay men to use extra strong condoms.

Hot Rubber condoms do not contain Nonoxynol-9 lubricant, and are plain-ended.

 

TROJAN EXTRA STRENGTH

Trojans, made by Carter-Wallace, are one of the leading US brands. This extra strong version comes in two versions, one of which contains nonoxynol-9 which some people find an irritant – check the pack to see which sort you're getting. Both have teats. This is one of the most aesthetically unpleasing condoms we've ever seen – it's a lurid deep yellow colour, although the manufacturer prefers to call it 'golden'.

The Rubberstuffers testing didn't study American brands. However, in tests by the American Consumers Association, published in their magazine Consumer Reports in May 1995, Trojan Extra Strength was among six Trojan brands that broke at unacceptably high rates during air inflation tests. Many standard strength American condoms performed much better in the air tests than Trojans.

 

RAMSES EXTRA

Ramses is the American brand name used by the London International Group responsible for the Durex brands. It's a pale, translucent yellow colour with a teat, and comes coated with nonoxynol-9 spermicide. In addition to the smooth-surfaced variety, you can get a ribbed version.

The US Consumers Association tests found that Ramses Extra condoms were among the strongest condom brands in air inflation tests, even though they're no thicker than standard strength condoms. The manufacturer claims this is due to a special manufacturing process. They're also a bit longer than average, which may make them a good choice if your cock is particularly big.

 

LIFESTYLES EXTRA STRENGTH

Lifestyles condoms are made by Ansell, who manufacture the Mates brands sold in Europe. The Lifestyles Extra Strength brand comes with a spermicidal lubricant, and has a teat.

These condoms performed averagely in the US Consumers Association tests. It's also of average length and average width. Like most European strong condoms, Lifestyles Extra Strength is a bit thicker than standard strength condoms.

 

NOVELTY CONDOMS

HIV and AIDS have made condoms a more prominent part of society. Along with all the great advances that have been made in condom provision, dozens of novelty condoms are now being sold. These are exactly what they say they are – novelties. They may have exotic flavours, shapes or colours or glow in the dark, but generally they are not stronger condoms and not appropriate for gay sex. By all means use them for a joke, but don't think that they will protect you against passing or getting HIV. That's no joke.