What’s A Concerned Vulva-Haver To Do?

If there’s one thing my friends know about me, it’s that I am usually a source of free condoms. Most dorm rooms and apartments I’ve lived in as an adult had a free condom bowl casually in the living room. Thanks to the Great American Condom Campaign and my college‘s Health Services, I was able to regularly give out condoms in my residence hall and on the quad.

Giving out condoms to protest an anti-abortion group that came to campus.

Giving out condoms to protest an anti-abortion group that came to campus.

I even dressed up for special occasions.

The Prophylactic Pirate

The Prophylactic Pirate

The Free Condom Kitty

The Free Condom Kitty

I didn’t really care about which brands I gave out- condoms are condoms, right?  They must be safe if they’re FDA approved, so why be picky?

It turns out that, while condom companies are required to report durability data, they are not required to post the ingredients in their lubricants- just check the box in your bedside table. This means that some condom lubes may have additives like glycerinparabens, or phthalates (among others!), which may be harmful to one’s body or cause a nasty yeast infection. Add in the risk of damage due to spermicide and you may have a very unhappy vulva in the morning.

So what’s a concerned vulva-haver or someone with chemical sensitivities to do?

1. Pair a non-lubricated condom with a good lubricant, that has taken a commitment to be free of these toxic components. In fact, many condoms need extra lube anyways, so it’s good to have a reliable lube on hand.

2. Some brands of condoms, like Sir Richard’s or Kimono, who boast  paraben and glycerin free ingredients.

3. Talk to your medical provider and make sure it’s not a latex allergy.

4. Travel down to your local body-safe sex shop for advice. I checked out Secret Pleasures in DC and they were excellent, and back in Boston, I sent folks to Good Vibrations (they also have several locations in California). In NYC and Seattle, there’s Babeland. Minneapolis’ Smitten Kitten is a legend. Many cities have at least one shop that’s solid. You can tell if a sex shop is good if you walk in and start talking about chemical sensitivities and body safe materials and they don’t look at you like you have six heads.

Good luck exploring!


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