Guide to Condoms
It may have been a minute since you were trapped at a cold, hard desk listening to your high school gym teacher declare their passion for safe sex. One essential and basic tool for safe and pleasurable sex is The Condom. As prevention becomes more and more important in our modern context, getting comfortable with the different types of condoms and finding one that fits your fancy is an essential activity for any sexually active person. Read on for a guide to help navigate the world of condom options.
Types of condoms
A condom is a sheath-shaped barrier that is worn over a penis during sexual intercourse or other sexual activities. It is used to stop seminal flow in order to prevent against unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They are a good birth control option because condoms are effective, easy to use and access and do not require additional forward planning. If used properly every time, a condom used over the penis is 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. This efficacy decreases if the condom is not used properly.
Condoms are made out of different materials, and there’s pros to each different type of material.
- Latex or plastic: The most common type of condom is latex condoms. If you’re allergic or sensitive to latex other condoms made of plastic include polyurethane or polyisoprene. These condoms can prevent against pregnancy and STIs with any type of sexual intercourse, ie. vaginal, oral and anal sex.
- Natural or lambskin: These are condoms that are made from lamb intestines, which some people prefer over plastic and synthetic materials. These are an effective option for preventing pregnancy, but these condoms have small, porous openings that are not effective in preventing STIs.
‘But I don’t like them…’
Condoms have somehow established a bad rep. Some people express great hatred for sex with a condom, claiming it compromises pleasure and just ‘doesn’t feel as good.’ (And to those people, we say, ‘It probably feels better than not having sex, right?’)
I’ve heard it before - I hope to never hear it again. These comments can put people who want to protect themselves from STIs and pregnancy in an awkward, and frankly vulnerable, position. Besides learning how to assert yourself and negotiate for your right to have safe sex on your terms, condoms can offer different features for enhanced pleasure. With these modern features, you and your partner are bound to find something that works for both of your safety and enjoyment.
- Ribbed or dotted condoms: These types of condoms have either ribs or dots on the outside of the condom to increase pleasure for both parties. Both options are intended to add extra stimulation to increase pleasure for people with penises and people with vaginas, but they are not universally preferred. Ribbed and dotted condoms have the same efficacy if used correctly every time.
- Thin vs ultra-thin: These condoms are thinner, or extra thinner, than regular condoms, and are FDA approved. The thinner latex is supposed to increase stimulation and pleasure. While thin material may sound like it suggests a weaker, and easier to break, material, thin and ultra thin condoms are just as effective as regular condoms.
- Pre-lubricated: Lubricated condoms are regular condoms that come pre-lubricated with either spermicide or non-spermicidal lubrication. This is to increase pleasure and reduce friction, as condoms can increase friction that may be undesirable to some people. Lubricated condoms are good for vaginal and anal sex, and often additional water or silicon based lubricants are recommended. Pre-lubricated condoms are not ideal for oral sex as the taste may be offputting.
- Flavored/scented condoms: Skip the candles and really personalize your sexual experience with flavored or scented condoms. Flavored condoms are a good option for oral sex, and for people who just don’t like the smell of sex and would rather enrich their bedroom with a fruity undertone instead. These are also a fun way to try something new and mix it up. Be sure to check to make sure these condoms align with your dietary preferences and allergies - i.e. are they gluten and/or nut free or vegan. For example, hazelnut is a popular flavor, which could be quite unfortunate for someone with a nut allergy. Make sure you read the ingredient list before you put anything in your body!
- Spermicide: Some condoms offer spermicide, which is a chemical called nonoxynol-9 that can harm sperm and render it ineffective. If you are using a condom correctly, spermicide is not necessary, and could potentially be harmful. Spermicide is not found helpful in preventing against HIV, and can actually increase the risk of contracting HIV from an HIV positive partner in people with vagina.s
‘But I’m too big…’
While you try to stifle a laugh, please have this image handy to show anyone who thinks they are so well-endowed that their girth overpowers the stretchy prowess of a condom.
Or - if your partner is too large to possibly fit in a condom, maybe that means they can’t fit inside you.
Navigating safe and pleasurable sex with your partner doesn’t have to be daunting, it can really be an opportunity to try out the myriad of condom options to find the best fit. Now, if you put it like that, it doesn’t sound like the worst task.
How to use a condom
1. To open the foil, tear the package carefully using your thumbs and forefingers. Do not use your fingernails, teeth, or anything that can damage the condom.
2. Gently remove the condom from the package ensuring that the reservoir tip of the condom (the pointy part) faces away from the tip of the penis.
3. Before any sexual contact, you or your partner can place the condom on the head of the erect penis. Being fully erect helps make sure that it fits correctly!
4. Squeeze the tip of the condom between the thumb and index finger to remove any air. This helps prevent the condom from splitting. Lesions, pre-ejaculate secretions, semen, vaginal secretions, and blood can all transmit infectious organisms.
5. Unroll or pull the condom all the way to the base of the erect penis. If the condom doesn't unroll easily, you may have it inside out or it may be damaged or old. You’ll need to start over with a new condom if this happens.
6. After ejaculation, hold the condom at the base while the penis is still erect so that it doesn’t slip off or spill. Then, when fully withdrawn, take the condom off.
7. Dispose of the condom by wrapping it in tissue and throwing it into the trash — don’t flush down the toilet! Afterwards, wash your hands with soap and water.