Ask Professor Foxy: Polyurethane Condoms Fore and Aft

This weekly Saturday column “Ask Professor Foxy” will regularly contain sexually explicit material. This material is likely not safe for work viewing. The title of the column will include the major topic of the post, so please read the topic when deciding whether or not to read the entire column.
Hi Prof. Foxy!
To get right to the point, I’m allergic to latex. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, that can cause a NASTY allergic reaction. My question then is about condoms. I know latex are the best but I can’t use them, and I know animal skin is the worst because they’re pores (I’m vegetarian so I wouldn’t use them anyway). I’ve been using the polyurethane condoms, but I really don’t know much about them STD wise. I’m on the pill, so I use condoms to prevent STDs but I’m not sure if latex free condoms are doing as much as they can. Any advice?
–Chick with a lot of Allergies

Dear Chick –
You are already making the right choice. Polyurethane condoms are your best option. While there have not been as many studies done on polyurethane condoms as latex condoms, existing studies show a similar effectiveness rate, except (and this is the happy part) because they cover more skin, they likely have a better rate of preventing skin-to-skin sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as herpes and warts. Polyurethane condoms are the best option for you.
Professor Foxy
Dear Professor Foxy,
I have been thinking lately about the dynamics of gender in sex. Would it be degrading for me as feminist to let my boyfriend give me anal sex, would I be able to receive pleasure as he would? It has been something I have been thinking about for a long while.

Dear Possible Receiver,
I don’t think any sexual act is inherently anti-feminist as long as consent is given. Are you interested in anal sex? Are you interested in at least exploring it? Consent is what matters. And why should penetration in one orifice be inherently less feminist then another?
Women (or receptive partners) can definitely feel please from anal sex. The anus is full of nerve endings. Preparation is very important. Use lots of good, water-based lube and use a condom (important for safe sex purposes, but also to smooth out the penis or inserted object). Polyurethane condoms are also great for anal, just take out the inside ring. I would also suggest that you don’t go from no insertion at all to penis. Start with one finger (a finger with a short, smooth fingernail), go to two, and three and four. Use lots of lube and breath deeply. A lot of receptive partners prefer being on top the first time to be able to control the insertion.
Anal sex can be all around enjoyable as long as you want to engage in it and do your necessary prep.
Professor Foxy
If you have a question for Professor Foxy, send it to ProfessorFoxyATfeministingDOTcom.

Join the Conversation

  • MiriamCT

    Polyurethane condoms are the best, we didn’t have any latex allergy issues, but my husband and I just liked them better.

  • moominmuppet

    I have to make a couple of corrections on this post; it sounds like Professor Foxy is conflating polyurethane female condoms with polyurethane male condoms — the advice she gives about covering more skin and about taking out the inner ring for anal sex are both standard advice when talking about polyurethane female condoms. I originally read the poster’s question as referring to polyurethane male condoms. Her advice was fine, but perhaps confusing to readers because of that flip.
    It’s also worth noting that female condoms are now available in a newer version that is nitrile, and that male condoms are also available in polyisoprene. Both are additional options for people who have latex allergies. I personally really like the polyisoprene quite well; they’re stretchy in a way polyurethane aren’t, although not so stretchy as latex.
    Also, it’s a good idea to be cautious about lubricants as possible allergens; I know I react to most types, and have found Slippery Stuff to be about as basic as possible, without the types of additives I react to. If changing condoms doesn’t resolve an allergy issue, try changing lubes. Also, I find I react to some cheaper sex toy materials, and have some toys I can only comfortable use while they’re condomized — it’s always a handy easy-cleanup and safer-sex option, but it’s also a good way to prevent allergy issues with an appealing but cheap toy. Just FYI.

  • raptorpants

    I’m not sure if the “covering more skin” and “inner ring” are referring to female condoms. I’ve heard that the new ones are pretty great, but haven’t used them. My experience with male polyurethane condoms has been mixed- some feel thicker or more plasticky than others. The new polyisoprene condoms feel really thin and stretchy- my partners and I have been pleased, but I haven’t found safety data on them. Latex allergies or sensitivities can be a pain to deal with, but sweet bonus- non-latex condoms taste better :)

  • Anacas

    When you say polyurethane condoms it seems like you’re talking about receptive condoms (less accurately called “female condoms”), which aren’t what people typically mean when they say polyurethane condom (even though they’re usually made of polyurethane). There are penetrative condoms (regular condoms, or “male condoms”) made out of polyurethane too, and at least in my experience they’re what’s typically intended by the phrase “polyurethane condoms.”
    Studies of polyurethane penetrative condoms seem to show they’re effective at preventing pregnancy and STIs, but not quite as effective as latex condoms because they’re more prone to breakage ( Still, they’re much better than latex for someone with a latex allergy!
    Receptive condoms can be and are used for anal sex with the ring taken out, but there’s some data showing they create a higher risk of anal bleeding, which raises STI transmission rates. So it’s a mixed bag.

  • Professor Foxy

    Thanks for the further explanation everyone. You are right, I was conflating the two. Apologies!
    Professor Foxy

  • Comrade Kevin

    The perceived power dynamics element of anal sex I think is just as confusing for a man as it is for a woman. My reservations about the practice were not so much that it was anti-feminist but that it was not masculine–and that it was somehow forsaking my masculinity in taking a submissive role designated purely for women.
    Our society does have a marvelous way of putting ridiculous ideas in our heads often times. Nonsensical as it may sound, this willful, subversive sacrifice of male privilege via penetration is a concept many men are led to believe.
    If I were a fan of anal sex I know my partner and I would totally go for it, but I find it more attractive in theory than in practice. She is uncomfortable with the very idea of it, and based on previous experience, I have been far more inclined to perform anal sex on those who are vocal about how much they enjoy it—not those who are squeamish about trying.

  • holmes

    Although polyurethane condoms are similarly effective, they are slightly more prone to breakage – therefore for anyone else reading this post, it is really important to note that polyurethane can be used if one has an allergy to latex, but they should be used with lubricant if necessary:
    “Studies have shown that with typical use (used inconsistently or incorrectly some of the time and consistently and correctly other times), latex condoms are more likely to do the job better than polyurethane condoms. But, this isn’t to say that polyurethane condoms are ineffective — they are, certainly, quite effective. In fact, they’ve passed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rigorous tests and have gained the FDA’s stamp of approval for sale in the United States as an effective method of contraception and HIV prevention.
    Compared to latex condoms, polyurethane condoms are less elastic and looser-fitting, making them slightly more likely to break or slip off. (Using lube and being a little less enthusiastic in movements may help to prevent this.) For this reason, many organizations, including the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend polyurethane condoms to people sensitive or allergic to latex. For those who are not sensitive or allergic to latex, latex condoms are a better bet for safer sex.”

  • Emily

    I LOVE anal sex! I agree about going slowly and using fingers first but I wanted to add that being extremely horny first makes any sex better so I would wait until your feeling that way before trying it so the first time (which can be a little intimidating) is a better experience. Also, I find I like a small butt plug better than fingers so that’s also an option. My husband bought a book on anal sex and I think it really helped with us so that’s also an option.

  • Heina

    I have a mild latex allergy, and synthetic latex (polyisoprene) has been the best thing I have ever discovered. Polyurethane does not stretch the way latex does, but polyisoprene definitely does; I know lots of people that use them for the feel rather than due to any allergy. I use LifeStyles Skyn, and there is also the Durex Avanti Bare brand.

  • paperispatient

    Possible Receiver, my partner and I are both feminists and we have pretty much every kind of sex, including anal. I find it extremely pleasurable – even more than he does, actually.
    I don’t see it as the least bit degrading, and it may be useful for you to think about why you feel like it might be. Would you think about anal sex between two (feminist) men or two (feminist) women similarly?

  • moominmuppet

    A quick comment on the anal sex question, as well: I’m a woman who really does love it, and get a lot of pleasure from it. It’s definitely possible, when done right. Tristan Taormino’s Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women (in its second edition now, I believe) is still the best resource book I’ve ever found on the topic, and addresses all sorts of questions and issues. I highly recommend it. If you’re not up for buying a book, her website also has a lot of good info. She’s got a strongly sex-positive and feminist sensibility. OK, really need to stop fangirling now…

  • MK

    I definitely agree about the being highly aroused first part.
    What book did your husband buy?

  • MK

    What other similar resource books have you read? I’ve found Jack Morin’s “Anal Pleasure & Health” to be the best.

  • moominmuppet

    That’s really the other great one out on the market that I’m aware of.