Why do people always talk about condoms?
Because if you want to have sex with someone, they’re important! Sex can be great, but there are risks involved. Aside from all the emotional issues, you can catch sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and a woman can become pregnant. So if you don’t want to deal with these really tough situations, a condom is vital!
It’s okay – my boy/girlfriend will sort it out. . .
Some people think it’s the man’s job to make sure he uses a condom, some people think contraception is up to the woman. They’re both wrong – it takes two to have sex, so both partners should make an effort.
If you’re not responsible enough to sort out contraception, you’re not responsible enough to be having sex. If you’re sleeping with someone, you should have enough respect for them to protect them.
Any tips for putting condoms on?
Firstly, you should put the condom on before there’s any contact between the penis and your partner’s body. Fluids released from the penis even very early on in sex can cause pregnancy or transmit an STI.
So, when the penis is erect, open the condom wrapper. Don’t do it with your teeth! This can cause tiny rips in the condom which you might not notice. Unroll the condom a little over the top of the penis – make sure that the roll is on the outside – if it’s backwards then the condom won’t unroll. If there’s any air trapped in the condom, this can cause it to break, so make sure you pinch the end to squeeze any air out.
Then just firmly roll the condom down as far as you can. If you want to use any lube, put it on the outside of the condom and make sure it’s water-based lubricant. Oil based lubricants can weaken the condom and make it break.
What if it breaks?
If a condom breaks while you’re having sex, then stop right away and put a new condom on. While you’re having sex you can sometimes feel if a condom has broken, but not always, so you should check occasionally that it’s okay. If you think some semen has escaped from the condom you might want to think about talking to your doctor about getting emergency contraception and having STI and HIV tests.
Do I need to put on a condom for oral sex?
Yes. Some sexually transmitted diseases and infections (such as herpes) can be passed on by oral sex. When you use a condom for oral sex, you should change condoms before having vaginal or anal sex, because teeth may have made little holes in it.
What about anal sex?
Again, yes. Anal sex carries a high risk of HIV and STI transmission, because the lining of the anus is very delicate and easily damaged. Anal sex won’t necessarily stop a woman getting pregnant either, as semen can escape from the anus and enter the vagina after sex.
Anal sex can put more strain on a condom, so you can buy stronger ones if you wish, although standard ones should be just as effective if used correctly with plenty of lubricant. As mentioned above, it’s better if the lubricant doesn’t contain nonoxynol 9, as this can increase the risk of HIV transmission by irritating the lining of the anus.
But there’s so many different kinds! Which ones are best?
- Material – Most condoms are made from latex or polyurethane. The latex ones are a little stronger, so they give slightly better protection from STIs and pregnancy. A very small amount of people are allergic to latex, though, so they use polyurethane ones.
- Size – Condoms come in lots of different sizes. You can get longer or shorter or wider or narrower ones. If a packet of condoms says ‘large’ or ‘small’, this is usually talking about the width of the condom, not the length. Be honest! A condom that is too big may come off, and a condom that’s too small might break. Most condoms that you buy in shops and vending machines will be a standard size.
- Lubricated – Some condoms are not lubricated at all, some have silicone-based lubricants, some have water-based lubricants. Some condoms are lubricated with a spermicide (see below).
- Spermicidal – Some condoms have a spermicidal lubricant, which can help to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy. One of the most common spermicides is something called nonoxynol-9. This is a chemical that some people are sensitive to, and if it’s used regularly it can can cause irritation and increase the chance of HIV infection. Condoms lubricated with nonoxynol 9 should not be used for anal sex.
- Ribbed – These condoms have little ridges running around them. These can make sex more pleasurable for both partners, and if they’re used correctly (see below) then they’re just as safe as ordinary ones. Ribbed condoms are the answer for people who complain “But I can’t feel anything if I put on a condom…”
- Coloured – The natural colour of latex is a creamy white, so lots of condoms have different colours – some of them even glow in the dark. Again, if they’re used properly, they’re fine.
- Flavoured – Some sexually transmitted infections can be passed on orally, so it’s a good idea to put on a condom for oral sex. Sometimes, people don’t like the smell and taste of latex, so they use flavoured condoms. These can taste of anything from strawberry to chocolate! Flavoured condoms shouldn’t be used for vaginal or anal sex, though, unless they have the kite mark sign in the UK and Europe, or are FDA approved in the USA.
- Reservoir tipped – Most condoms have a reservoir tip to catch semen, some have a plain tip. If they have a reservoir tip, be sure to pinch the end when putting them on – if they have air inside them, they can break when you’re having sex.
What about when we haven’t got a condom?
Then if you want to be safe, you’ll have to get one.
And if you’re single, it doesn’t hurt to carry condoms with you – just in case!
My partner doesn’t want to use one!
Your partner should respect you enough to want to protect you, and you should seriously consider whether you want to have sex with someone who doesn’t show this respect.
How do I mention condoms without spoiling the moment?
“Everything’s going great, the atmosphere’s really romantic, and then you have to get a condom out….”
“Putting a condom on can be quite sexy.”
One of the main reasons that teens say they don’t like using condoms is that they think condoms interrupt a passionate moment – and it’s true that it can be difficult to find, open and unroll a condom in the dark when you’ve both got your minds on other things.
But it doesn’t have to be difficult and it doesn’t have to ‘spoil the moment’.
The best way to make sure you can put a condom easily is to practise in advance . . . girls can practise on appropriately shaped vegetables. Then, when the time arrives to do it for real, you’ll know what you’re doing. Putting a condom on can be quite sexy. It doesn’t have to be done by the person who is going to wear the condom – it can be quite an intimate thing for his partner to do.
Keep your condoms and some lube close by, then you won’t have to get up, put the lights on, go into the bathroom and hunt around in the back of the cupboard!
What is ‘lube’?
Lubricant or ‘lube’ is like a cream or jelly which is sometimes used to make sex go a little more smoothly. Quite often being tense or rushing things can make sex difficult or painful, so try to relax and take your time. You might also want to use extra lubrication. There are many different brands of lube, for example KY Jelly, ID Glide, Astroglide or Liquid Silk, which you can buy from supermarkets or drugstores.
There are also different types, for example some lubes are designed specifically for anal sex. If you are using a condom then you must use a water-based lubricant like KY Jelly, and not an oil-based lubricant like Vaseline. Make sure the lubricant only goes on the outside of the condom – if any gets on the inside, the condom can slip off during sex.