Damn time flies. It was about this time last year when I wrote "10 Things You Should DEFINITELY Know About Condoms" for the site. Well, now I'm back and it's pretty much due to two convos I recently had with two male friends of mine. One just had a pregnancy scare with a sex partner. The other is a guy with herpes who, although he tells his partners that he has it beforehand, he goes without wearing a condom more times than not — and his partners are fine with it. What the hell, y'all?
Both discussions inspired me to check certain data to see if anything had changed when it comes to men and condom use, in general. Nope. That said, did you know that only around one-third of people actually put a rubber on during sex? Have mercy. Even with all of these STI/STDs (reportedly, 1 in 5 Americans have one) and the fact that a lot of people (including my friend who had the scare) profess they are not ready for kids (or they don't want any at all), folks are still raw-dogging it. And a top reason continues to be, "I don't like how condoms feel."
So, in the effort to get more folks (including my friends because I am going to forward this to them) to wrap it up more often, here are a few hacks that are proven to make condom use a much more pleasurable experience than simply buying one at Walgreens or CVS and just putting it on.
1. Get Out of Drugstores
Say that you only bought your clothes at Target. Not that there's anything wrong with that particular store but man — when you actually explore department stores, boutiques and fashion websites, it's like it's a whole new world out here, right? Same thing goes for condoms. A part of the reason why a lot of people don't like them very much is because they only really think about them the day they plan on gettin' some which means that they've got to rush to some drugstore (or gas station) up the street to pick something up real quick.
Listen, not all condoms are made the same and to say that there are levels in quality is a major understatement! One of the keys to enjoying condoms more is to purchase them from a place that has a wide variety. A cool online shop is Condoms Undercover. The options are vast. The prices are good. And it ships to you confidentially. Awesome.
2. The Thinner, The Better
As a marriage life coach and a doula, I find myself talking about birth control options quite a bit. Because some of the couples I work with would prefer to avoid the hormones that come with a lot of birth control options, some wear condoms. While the mere thought of that can suck when you're in an exclusive long-term relationship, what several husbands have been able to personally vouch for is the fact that the technology of condoms are continuing to evolve and there are some thinner ones that make protected sex a lot more bearable — pleasurable even.
So, be intentional about finding ones that are as thin (and yet still effective) as possible; the kind that seem almost like a second skin. One that gets a lot of praise in this department is Kimono MicroThin Condoms. As far as thin latex condoms go, they are some of the most popular ones on the market.
3. Make Sure He Wears One That Actually Fits
While going raw (not wearing a rubber) would usually be preferred by both the giver and receiver (because, I mean, come on), whether they realize it or not, a big part of the reason why a lot of men don't enjoy condoms is because they don't fit well. And that's because it seems like every man in the world thinks he needs a Magnum…when that absolutely is not the case. There's no telling how many times I've said that most penises are around 5-5.5" erect. This means that a lot of men can go without a rubber that comes in an extra-large. Anyway, as far as general sizes go, condoms tend to be classified as snug, standard, large or XL.
For your partner to know what will work for him, he should measure his penis when it is erect and go from there. For tips on how to do that, so that condoms can end up being a comfy fit, check out Medical News Today's article "How to Find the Right Condom Size".
4. Nix the Spermicide
Although some people are allergic to latex itself (if that's you or your partner, there are latex-free options), oftentimes, when it comes to discomfort, the bigger culprit is the spermicide that's inside of many of them. While spermicide is pretty effective when it comes to killing sperm, it can also irritate genitalia if you're not careful. That's why you should probably go with a condom that doesn't have any spermicide in/on it. Will that make it less effective? So long as your partner puts the condom on correctly and it remains on during intercourse, most health professionals agree that you should be just fine. Besides, a lot of brands don't even use spermicide anymore. #themoreyouknow
5. Put Some Lube Inside of It
Hey, the wetter, the better…right? I'm pretty sure that's a point that isn't up for debate. It's also a reason why some people give the thumbs down when it comes to condom use because, even if you give off a sensation of wetness, since there is a condom on your partner, it's not like he can feel it feel it.
One way to work around this lil' bit of frustration is to put some lubrication inside of the condom itself, even if you're planning on using a pre-lubricated one. If your partner puts some on the tip of his penis before putting the condom on or within the tip of the condom before unrolling it, that can help to provide a more intense sensation. Water or silicone-based is fine.
Prevention's got a list of some of the best water-based lubes here. My Toy for Joy has a list of some of the best silicone ones here.
6. Get One with “Bumps” on It
You don't even have to tell me. The thought of anything sexually related having "bumps" on it doesn't seem very appealing. However, it did make you look and the reality is a lot of textured condoms have exactly that — raised dots on them. And why should you consider going with those if you haven't before? It's because they have a way of creating extra friction (in the best way possible) which ultimately creates more intense orgasms for you. No one is saying that you have to use these. Still, if you've never given them a shot before, there's no time like the present to knock something else off of your "never have I ever" list. Right?
7. Put It on Orally
If your partner hates wearing a condom with everything in him, even if he knows that it really is a very responsible thing to do, warm him up to the idea by opting to put the condom on for him — with your mouth. It's sexy. It's seductive. And, if you apply the following tip that I'm about to make, it could actually cause you to become a really big fan of condoms. At least when it comes to oral activity.
8. Have You Tried the Flavored Kind?
It really does trip me out how, some people will be quick to say that they use condoms for intercourse but then will turn around and say that they never use 'em when it comes to oral sex. What in the world? Pretty much any STI/STD that can be transmitted during intercourse can also be passed on during fellatio and/or cunnilingus too. That's why you should definitely make sure that you and your partner are tested before ANY kind of sexual activity goes down. Oh, and if you want to be extra safe, you should use condoms during oral sex as well.
Listen, I'll be the first one to say that back in my "oral fulfillment days", I wasn't the biggest condom-user; especially when it came to head. Part of the reason was because I loathe the way that regular condoms taste (kinda like a rubber tire from the way it smells alone). Yet I wasn't really on to flavored condoms either.
I've tasted a few, so that I can give my honest opinion for pieces like this (and to prepare for when I return to them). And while they aren't exactly a hot fudge sundae, what I will say is they can make oral safe sex way more enjoyable for you and your partner. For you because they taste pretty good and him because, the more you enjoy giving fellatio, the more he will enjoy receiving it. Sex Toy Helper is a site that can point you in the direction of some of the best flavored rubbers on the market right now. Read about it right here.
9. Close Your Legs (Kinda)
Remember how I said that textured condoms can provide a good kind of friction feeling? So can keeping your legs somewhat closed when you're having sex. I mean, of course they can't be kept all the way closed. But if you're on top and you put your legs inside of his (rather than traditionally kneeling outside of them) or you put both of your legs over his shoulder while he's penetrating you, these are the kinds of sexual positions that can also take the sensation up a few notches when he's got a condom on (especially if the lube trick that I talked about earlier is added).
10. Think Positive
If you go in saying something along the lines of "I hate condoms", there's not too much wiggle room to change your mind, hacks or not. Listen, again, having sex without a rubber feels better (especially for the guys). Still, when you think about the fact that it can prevent you from getting sick or having a baby when you don't want one, how can you not have a little bit of love for it? The right one. The right hacks. The right position. The right partner. This combo can make condom-wearing (and feeling) better than you think. Just try the hacks and see.
Join our xoTribe, an exclusive community dedicated to YOU and your stories and all things xoNecole. Be a part of a growing community of women from all over the world who come together to uplift, inspire, and inform each other on all things related to the glow up.
Featured image by Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images
- A Beginner's Guide To Lubricant - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love ... ›
- My Complicated Relationship With Safe Sex - xoNecole: Women's ... ›
- How Men Compare Sex with a Condom vs No Condom - xoNecole ... ›
- Men Using Pull Out Method During Sex - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Allergic To Condoms? Latex Condom Allergy, Try This - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
Director of Content: Jasmine Grant
Campaign Manager: Chantal Gainous
Managing Editor: Sheriden Garrett
Creative Director/Executive Producer: Tracey Woods
Cover Designer: Tierra Taylor
Photographer: Ally Green
Photo Assistant: Avery Mulally
Digital Tech: Kim Tran
Video by Third and Sunset
DP & Editor: Sam Akinyele
2nd Camera: Skylar Smith
Camera Assistant: Charles Belcher
Stylist: Casey Billingsley
Hairstylist: DaVonte Blanton
Makeup Artist: Drini Marie
Production Assistants: Gade De Santana, Apu Gomes
Powered by: European Wax Center
Text This Before You Ghost Them, Sis.
We’ve all been there at least once (or a few times) along our dating journey. Maybe you’ve had a date or two with a potential suitor, but the spark just wasn’t there. Perhaps you convinced yourself that just “one more” date would help you overlook a non-negotiable ick. At this point in the dating cycle, you’ve probably reached the point where you must decide to either communicate “why” things won’t be moving forward or simply ghost them.
What Is Ghosting?
“Ghosting” refers to the act of suddenly and unexpectedly cutting off all communication with someone you've been dating or talking to without any explanation or further contact. It typically occurs in the early stages of dating but can also happen after a few dates or even in more established relationships.
The act of ghosting has become quite a common practice in our modern dating culture and can manifest in a number of different ways. From days of ignored text messages and phone calls out of the blue to not showing up for pre-arranged plans and sometimes disappearing from someone's life without any notice or explanation.
Morsa Images/Getty Images
The Problem With Ghosting
Being ghosted may seem like a harmless act of “self-choosing,” but the person on the receiving end of your decision can be left feeling confused, rejected, and even abandoned, wondering what happened and where they went wrong.
And we get it, what explanation do you owe someone for leaving after a few cocktails and a $100 date? While that may seem like the perfect opportunity to cut and run, taking an alternative approach to fizzle out a fling is a great time to practice clear and effective communication that can pay off in the long run.
While there is a time and a place for ghosting (and even blocking) if your boundaries have been crossed or safety has been threatened, if we’re looking to live out our best healed, secure-girl summer, there are ways to date freely without leaving others with damage of their own to recover from.
Being honest and upfront about your feelings while being respectful of the other person's time is the best way to leave a situationship or fling with both parties emotionally unscathed. So if you’re looking for ways to break things off with care and consideration, we’ve provided five text scripts to send instead of ghosting somebody’s son:
Morsa Images/Getty Images
5 Texts To Send Instead of Ghosting Them
1. If you want to take the honest but gentle approach:
"Hey [Name], I've really enjoyed getting to know you, but I've been doing some thinking, and I don't see this going any further. I wanted to be upfront and honest with you rather than leaving you wondering. I wish you all the best."
2. If you want to express gratitude before saying goodbye:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to reach out and say thank you for the time we spent together. You're an amazing person, but I think we're better off as friends. I hope you understand and that we can still maintain a positive connection."
3. If you want to leave a note of appreciation:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to let you know that I've had a great time with you, but I don't think we're compatible for a romantic relationship. I appreciate the moments we shared, and I hope we can both find what we're looking for."
4. If a face-to-face convo is needed:
"Hey [Name], I've been doing some thinking, and I believe it's important for us to have an open conversation about where we stand. Can we find some time to talk about our relationship and how we both feel? I think it's important to address things honestly."
5. If you want to keep things cute and concise:
"Hey [Name], I've realized that we're not on the same page, and it's best if we part ways. Take care."
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Morsa Images/Getty Images