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Our mission at Smile Makers is to help people with vaginas and vulva owners set their own standards for good sex, and with that comes safe sex. Good, safe, fun sex – is that too much to ask for?
Across the world, there is a lack of pleasure-positive sex education, STIs are on the rise, and for many of us, abortions are becoming difficult to access. It’s important to use a condom, but for some reason, condoms don’t have a fun reputation.
Condoms are funny but not fun. From our very first experience with condoms, during biology classes with bananas and cucumbers, we’re kinda taught that condoms are a joke. The awkward giggle is then perpetuated by a quick search on TikTok, which shows condoms being used comically, as a gag, and in ways, they are not meant to be used. Culturally, we seem to have accepted that using a condom for safe penetrative sex isn’t actually enjoyable or ideal. But why?
Condoms are a good barrier method; they are the only contraceptive that protects against STIs. Plus, there are no hormonal side effects – they enable comfort for people with vaginas who don’t feel comfortable taking other methods of contraception.
As it stands, it is often people with vaginas that carry this mental load of birth control - taking pills, using IUDs, or getting implants. (And we’re tired of carrying it alone, especially when the male contraceptive pill seems to be forever in trials because penis havers don’t want to put up with the side effects.) The invisible mental load includes
But male or female condoms are a contraception method that takes two. It requires communication and a moment of reflection between partners. Even if other forms of birth control are used, protection from STIs is also a big relief. Condoms are a shared responsibility because safe sex should be shared.
Safe sex is an enabler of pleasure and connection, which should be a joy to participate in. It needn’t be a mood killer. After all, safety is the foundation of consent, pleasure, and intimacy. When we know we’re safe, we can enjoy the moments we’re in.
Being present is some of the most significant advice sex therapists give to find pleasure and orgasms. Something that, in a straight partnered situation, men find much more of than women. That doesn’t feel like a coincidence when the onus is often on women to stay protected and safe.
For this orgasm gap, pain is often more present for vulva owners and impacts our pleasure experiences. But the opposite of pleasure is not pain; it is disconnection. Prioritizing pleasure starts with creating connection and being present.
What is often mistaken for fumbling awkward moments in television and film is actually an opportunity to connect with our partners. Taking responsibility for each other’s sexual health shouldn’t be an interruption; it should be hella sexy and caring. Especially when putting on a condom takes seconds; unwanted pregnancies and positive STI results should feel like the real interruption. So how does putting on a condom help connection?
Also, condoms can help pace intimacy with someone new. Creating (literal) healthy boundaries makes it easier to avoid catching feelings (and STIs) in casual situations. It can mark the next level of intimacy if you decide to go condomless with a longer-term partner you know has been tested.
Condoms not only help to stop the spread of STIs and semen but bacteria too! Bacteria (and semen) can disrupt the vaginal pH and cause infections such as bacterial vaginosis or thrush. A study in 2007 found that consistent condom use decreased the risk of BV and protected the vagina’s microbiome, while another study found that using a condom correctly helped the growth of protective probiotics in the vagina.
For people with vaginas, condoms are more than birth control; they protect against STIs! That means the only time to use condoms isn’t just for penis-in-vagina sex. And, even then, to use the condom correctly, it should be put on the way before it goes anywhere near the vulva to stay fully protected – things can be transmitted during grinding on top of each other, gliding across the clitoris, and oral sex. Then there’s anal sex! Remember, if you fancy switching between anal and vaginal sex, switch to a fresh condom to avoid transferring bacteria that can lead to UTIs.
Now, let’s forget penises. Condoms are an excellent barrier method for penetrative sex toys like dildos and strap-ons, especially when sharing between partners.
Dental dams help prevent the spread of STIs during cunnilingus or anilingus, i.e., vulva licking or anal rimming. External condoms are widely available, so many people make dental dams. By snipping the tip of the condom with scissors and then cutting lengthways, a thin sheet of latex is created.
In sex ed, conversations can often focus (if at all) on safe reproductive sex, but STI protection is just as important! LGBTQIA+ people with vaginas need to know about condoms, too; it’s not just for heterosexual sex or people with a penis. Read about the best practices for safer queer sex.
Say hello to Come Connected condoms for equal protection and equal pleasure. We designed these condoms by Smile Makers to be present with ourselves and with our partners by sharing the mental load, closing the disconnect, and allowing us to come connected and protected. We have always prioritized pleasure for people with vulvas, and now we want to prioritize their headspace too.
So, who’s with us? As the world reports an STI epidemic, let’s wrap up the funny condom jokes and reclaim the FUN in safe sex with Come Connected condoms.
Finding it hard to reach an orgasm with a partner, especially in the context of intercourse (thus, with a penetrative partner), is very frequent among vulva-owners. We asked a sexologist her advice on this often asked question
Vibrators are for sex! Yes, solo or partnered. Masturbation, mutual masturbation, outercourse or intercourse… All of these are opportunities to use a vibrator to enhance sexual pleasure. So, although you might be well-versed in using a vibrator alone, how do you use a vibrator during sex with somebody else?
We asked sex therapist Kaycee Polite to breakdown the limited thinking around libido, and share tips and advice to improve a sexual relationship when you and your partner have different sex drives.