It's the poor man's Viagra. It's the gizmo your trick forgets and you discover on your bedside table the next day. It's the simplest sex toy there is, except for maybe your palm. It's the cockring.
Based on the principles of fluid mechanics, the cockring allows blood to flow into a soft dick but more or less traps it there once a hard-on's achieved, prolonging and intensifying erection (and cleverly enhancing your beneath-jeans basket for those times you want to stand out in a crowd).
There are three traditional styles of cockrings: the impressively shiny metal model, the rubber stretch-on jobbie, and the leather snap-on. And there's a new kind, the gel ring, which is taking the gay community by storm.
They all do the job, tightly surrounding the base of the cock and balls, but the first two can be a bear to get on and off. You've got to guide your balls, most likely one by one, through the more or less unyielding ring, then get your shaft to fit through what space remains. Or you might find it easier to start with the shaft. The metal and rubber rings have their advantages: the metal one looks brutally sleek, in a Tomorrowland sort of way, and the rubber model is light, cheap, and if discovered can be explained away as an O-ring destined for space shuttle repairs.
But there are disadvantages, too, to these non-adjustable rings. The fit, especially with the metal ring, is crucially important. Too small a ring, and you'll never get it on. Too large, and it won't hug tight enough to do the job. And getting the rings off can be tough, since the flesh that once fit through snugly will still be somewhat engorged. In a pinch, a rubber ring can always be sliced through, but unless you like the idea of a hacksaw next to your privates (and some guys most likely do), a lube-slippery metal ring can take patience, skill, and maybe a dick-shrinking hunk of ice to remove.
Which brings us to the adjustable leather cockring. It's the one-size-fits-all workhorse, the GMC Jimmy of penis adornment. Sure, it has drawbacks, notably the unwashable nature of leather, a potential problem where butt germs are concerned. But a leather ring's snap-on ease makes getting it on - and getting it on - a breeze. There are usually at least a couple of snap positions to adjust for cock size (which, in deference to male egos, we'll call "big," "bigger" and "biggest"). At its simplest, the leather cockring is a plain strip of cowhide that fastens into a loop, but man has ingeniously come up with plenty of variants. Most commonly, the ring is decorated with a row of silver studs; it can become a decorative wristband when visiting the family on the way home from a date. On the kinkier side of things, a ring can be lined with sharp tiny spikes, the agony and the ecstasy combined in one handy package. And then there are the more baroque variations, like the charmingly named "Gates of Hell," which features a series of rings that fit tightly along the length of the cockshaft.
The new kid on the block is the gel ring. It looks like what a Gummi Bear would use on his dick, and is soft, very stretchy, and washable. It has a less vise-like grip than the other rings, which means it can be put on and taken off while hard and is less likely to cause discomfort. It's also versatile, usable on just the base of the cock or the balls. Eventually it may stretch out of shape or break, and oil-based lubes will destroy it, but hey, at less than five bucks apiece, who cares?
It's safe to use any kind of cockring, as long as the thing isn't way too tight or kept on too long - though if you're snapping a leather ring down on someone else, it's only polite to make sure you don't pinch little bits of delicate skin or pull any hair. Hell, some guys don't like to use cockrings at all, but for those of us who do, the little fellas are a bargain-level investment in sexual technology.
Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines
Sex Talk: Other Subjects