Photos by Eliza Sohn

Here is my morning's Google search activity: "Trojan. LifeStyles. parent company." Mind you, at this time I own no condom or pharma stock—heck, I don't even have a dick. So why so interested in where condoms come from?


It's Not that Hard, Guys

Simply put: In my experience, either Trojan condoms or Portland men have tended to, um, underperform. When I (consistently, patiently) ask a new partner to use a condom, said partner suddenly gets crest-and-cock-fallen. Often it's a rubber he brought with him, and when that's the case, odds are it's a Trojan. Usually, I can see its tight base pinching, visibly constricting blood flow at its source. At this point, the given guy tends to sheepishly explain that this happens all the time, even copping to some level of "erectile dysfunction" or blaming the beers he's had, and complaining that condoms exacerbate his problem. Usually, dude kinda snivels that he "won't be able to feel anything," and kinda whines, "Can't we just...?"

"No, we can't," I respond (consistently, patiently). Says who? Says the '80s. And sex-ed. And your mama. And my valuable vagina that doesn't want the babies or "the herps." Since you asked, I'm totally uncool about subverting my own sexual health for our (Twenty? If I'm lucky?) minutes of amusement. And what's this? Now you're suggesting that I take the pill or get an IUD to humor your prophylactic angst? Oh, Baby—let me stop you there, press a finger to your lips, and whisper softly in French, "au contraire." Think about what you're asking for: You expect me to alter all my bodily hormones 24/7 or install a tiny robot in my cooch just so you can stick your dick in me more comfortably (for 30, 35 minutes) without babymaking? Also, we should just use the honor system for STD prevention? Are you high? (Oh, you are? Okay then, we'll try this some other time when your rasta-cock can withstand a damned condom.)

Even so, I'm sympathetic to penis-havin' people, and since apparently they're not going to do it, I've felt compelled to help us all out with this problem. I'm about to share some interesting findings about (a) who's making good and bad condoms, (b) why Trojan is everywhere, (c) who has a direct profit motive to make bad condoms, and (d) how the three top brands of skin-flute suits perform against each other (and one unlucky pack of vegan chorizo) in simple tests.

But before we get into all that—real quick, can I show you an amazing trick? While I pull this coin out of your ear, I'm also slipping an appropriately sized, reasonably sensitive condom onto your tender todger—and, voila! Your boner springs back to life! No more sulking. It's like magic!

But guys, here's the rub: You may need to experiment for yourself with a few different kinds of condoms to find the best fit and feel—and that's easier said than done. If you're not paying attention, the odds are 7 in 10* that you've bought, borrowed, or drunkenly shoplifted a Trojan rather than any other brand... and in my experience, Lover, those aren't necessarily best.


Trojan Force

"But if they're not the best, why are Trojans so popular, Santy Claus?" you may ask, noting that "Trojan" is easily the "Band-Aid," the "Kleenex," the "Xerox," of condoms. Oh, Kid. Plenty of things that suck still show up everywhere. Walmart. Ke$ha. Your ex. And Trojans. It's cute that you even believe in merit—because today's supermarkets and mini-marts run only on money and power.

First, realize that practically every product that exists has a Coke-and-Pepsi-style rivalry with another brand, and they're all fighting to kill. The nice men—I mean folks—no, I mean mostly men—who bring the stuff to the stores on trucks (distributors) and the salesmen (see above) who get grocers to sign the checks, often rep a raft of different products from the same parent company. These guys' goal is to bump all the brands that they don't deliver down to the bottom shelves—or better yet, into the dumpster. A brand that's particularly keen to beat out its competitors may have salesmen pay the grocer for the best shelf placement (eye level, aisle endcap) or pressure stores to carry their brand exclusively and dump rival products completely. The bigger a given product's parent company is, and the more goods it controls, the more leverage it has in the game.

Well, guess what? Trojan's parent company, Church & Dwight, is a real swinging dick in the grocery industry, supplying scores of otherwise-unrelated household products. They have Arm & Hammer, Arrid, Spinbrush, and OxiClean. They have deodorant, hair remover, and denture glue, just to name a few. With so many sibling products being carried by its powerful parent, Trojan has the bargaining power to be cock of the walk—the first, or even the only, condom brand you ever see.

For example, a C&D salesmen could say, "No baking soda for you, Shopkeep, unless you hang the Trojans at eye level"—and legal filings suggest this kind of scheme. In 2009, the makers of Kimono condoms sued Church & Dwight, citing Trojan's near monopoly of the condom market as a violation of antitrust law and accusing them of muscling other products out of retail shelf space. Guess what else? Since they also produce First Response pregnancy tests, Church & Dwight can get you coming and going. Safe sex with Trojans? Pay Church & Dwight! Risky sex with pregnancy scare? Pay 'em again, Sam.

It's hard to believe that Church & Dwight is deeply committed to great sex, or even great latex. After all, they've got their fingers in a lot of pots—many of which are full of noxious, caustic substances intended to strip, bleach, scrub, and coat things around your house. Should you really trust the folks who make Nair to melt your leg hairs and Orajel to numb your gums to make the best condoms? In this context, at least Trojan's product up-sells make sense. I like to imagine that mysterious chemical compounds that promise "warming" and "tingling" spring from slow days at the Church & Dwight labs, when scientists dare each other to slip a little toothpaste or wood cleaner down their pants to see what happens.


Rubber Soul

After having good luck performing boner resurrection with LifeStyles (neither a multivitamin nor a gay magazine, but a condom brand), I looked up its parent company, too. Een-ter-est-ing. LifeStyles hails from Australia, under parent company Ansell—and where C&D diversifies, Ansell specializes solely in variations of the "rubber glove." From industrial, to surgical, to penis-cradling weights, it looks like every product they make uses some variation of the same material (latex) and serves the same function (direct contact with human skin, and protection from permeation). Small wonder these rubber-lovers' goods outperform the condoms tossed off by jack-of-all-trades Church & Dwight.


The New Comer

In Europe, "Durex" is apparently so popular, the word is used interchangeably with "condom"—but you wouldn't know it on this side of the pond. In the US, Durex condoms only hold about 15% of the market share, roughly neck-and-neck with LifeStyles and no match for Trojan's commanding 69%—but Durex sales are projected to grow. Its parent, Britain's Reckitt Benckiser Group, also handles Dr. Scholl's. Hmmm. Do shoe insoles have anything to do with condoms? A case could be made. Rubber, comfort, and durability immediately spring to mind. (Fun fact: Brits call condoms "Johnnies.")



The skinniest slip of market share belongs to this aforementioned condom company, and as a result, Kimono condoms are the hardest to find. If you make a special trip to the sex shop, go ahead and nab some; they're allegedly super-sensitive. (Maybe that's why they hide.)


Where the Rubber Meets the Load; Notes from the Lab-Whore-Atory; Or the Mercury Tests Some Condoms for You

Though every dong is special, there are only a few things anyone wants a condom to do. It has to fit, it has to work, and it needs to feel good. Here at the Mercury lab-whore-atory, we tested the three major brands' (Trojan, LifeStyles, Durex) "sensitive" condoms to figure out which are best at what. Though they're not scientifically conclusive, these results should at least show you how to tell the different brands apart.


Fit, Friction, and Constriction

The first thing we had to do was humiliate a shrink-wrapped pack of Soyrizo (a vegan, gluten-free sausage, just like so many of yours) for science. Please also note: This product's generous 16-centimeter girth was selected to stress the rubbers to the max, not to threaten your manhood. I wanted to measure constriction, because as you probably know, when your dick's had some whiskey, too tight a chokehold becomes a buzzkill. I slipped each condom onto the sausage pack and unrolled it halfway down, and then I measured the circumference of the condom's base to see how deeply that rolled-up end was pinching. Trojan's base constricted the sausage by a whole centimeter, while LifeStyles and Durex pinched only a half-centimeter each. Unless you're looking for the cock-ring effect, Trojan loses this test.

Next, I rolled each condom the rest of the way down to measure their relative length, noticing that as I unfurled and the thickness of the rolled-up rubber ring diminished, the condom's base became less oppressive. (Good news for long dongs—except since it takes more blood to fill 'em up, less-inhibited blood flow may be only fair.) In this test, Durex unfurled a full inch longer than the other two (nine inches to their eight inches) and would provide even more length on an average-width member.

But how well would these condoms stay on? Only one way to find out: by stroking each of them off. Trojan came off in seven strokes by my count, LifeStyles in nine, and Durex in 11. Wait—the one that pinches hardest pulls off easiest? How can that be? Friction, friends. The less lubed and smooth a condom is, the more readily it's gonna get pulled down the shaft in a few dry strokes. Even if its base keeps pinching, the rest of the length may wrinkle, leading to even more friction on the resultant rubber ridges. In sex scenarios, that's when I tend to say "Ow!" and stop. In my lab-whore-atory, suffice to say Durex won this round.


Stretch and Strength

Obviously, you want your condom to be strong, to fend off the formidable risks of STD-catching and babymaking. So this test was simple: Stretch each condom against a tape measure until it breaks. Trojan stretched an impressive 44 inches while LifeStyles and Durex went 38 and 35, respectively. Looks like Trojan wins—but wait, doesn't Durex unroll longer? Yes. Which seems to indicate that Trojan's walls are much thicker. After all, if Trojan is packing enough extra material to stretch six inches further than its next competitor, it stands to reason that the thing is thick. Not that this can't have its merits... which brings us finally to...



This test is the most subjective, and the creepiest: I put a condom on my hand and touched things. I tried tickling my palm with a hairbrush, crushing some rose petals in my fingertips, fondling a grapefruit with my whole hand. It's the kind of project best done without your roommates around. Durex seemed like the most sensitive, making brush bristles poke like daggers, rose petals yield like pudding, and grapefruit peel pocks feel like moon craters. LifeStyles was less sensitive, but somehow just as much or more satisfying, as though it had a magic way of blunting the sharpest stuff while still enjoying the smoothest. Unsurprisingly, I wasn't really feeling the Trojan. By which I mean to say, sensation was blunted. I mean, whatever. Who cares, right?


What to Buy

If you're looking to blunt sensation and last longer, go with Trojan. It's stalwart. If you want maximum flex, minimum weight, and smoothest lube, choose Durex—the condom for slippery Brits. If you're a sort of sexual Goldilocks who likes it neither too hard nor too soft, you might be best suited to LifeStyles. All this to say, you've got options.

So actually no—we can't "just...."


* Seriously, that's the market share. Around 69% (har har) and often higher.

† By the way, don't Trojans seem pretty sinisterly named? Sneak your soldier into this horse and you're in those gates, bro!