what are condoms?
Let’s start with the basics and then we’ll move on to how to put on a condom. External condoms are thin, stretchy “sleeves” worn on the shaft of the penis or on a sex toy to protect against pregnancy and STIs (though when not on a penis, they’re solely protecting against STIs). While this article is all about external condoms, there are also internal condoms that go inside the vagina.
And before you even think about outsmarting the system, know that you should never use an internal condom and an external condom together—this doesn’t give you extra protection, just extra friction!
What are condoms made of?
Condoms can be made of three main materials: latex, plastic (polyurethane, nitrile, or polyisoprene) (2), or lambskin. And yeah, it’s definitely made of lamb intestines—not vegan-friendly!
When you hear your parents talk about “rubbers” they’re referring to latex condoms, because those condoms are made with natural latex rubber (that’s the full name). If you’re allergic to latex, it’s best to use plastic or lambskin options, but it’s important to note that lambskin condoms DO NOT prevent against STIs.
What are some different kinds of condoms?
Some condoms come with spermicide to well, kill those sperm. Spermicide can be irritating for sensitive genitals, though, and that irritation can lead to increased risk of HIV and other STIs for the person being entered into (3).
Other condoms come pre-lubricated with water or silicone-based lubes, and they can even come lubed to make things all tingly and extra sensitive for all parties. They can also be lubed to taste good too…just sayin’!
Plus, if you want to help save the planet while having sex, eco-friendly condoms can be purchased.
how effective are condoms
When used perfectly, the condom is 98% effective. But people aren’t always perf, so in real life, condoms are about 85% effective. (2) Stats can get confusing when trying to determine your own personal risk, like, “what does it realllyyy mean for me that 15 out of 100 people IRL are not fully protected by condoms?” So, let’s focus on how to use condoms to maximize their effectiveness (1):
- Put it on right away: Don’t let even “just the tip” in before using that condom
- Use it with all partners
- Pull out before cumming
- Don’t use any oil-based lubes (vaseline, lotions, commercial oil-based lubes, etc.) as this can cause the condom to break down
- Don’t use two at once (whether that’s another external or internal condom)
- Use for anal, vaginal and oral sex
- Do not reuse
Ok, ok, so how do you wear a condom perfectly each time? Keep reading!
How Do I Put A Condom On...Correctly?
It may seem pretty straight forward, but stick with us—even we learned a thing or two! Follow these steps to improve the overall effectiveness of your condom:
1.Check the expiration date: That’s right, condoms expire! Throw it out if it’s past the expiration date, which can be found on each individual condom wrapper. As condoms age, they lose their elasticity and become susceptible to breaking (1).
2. Scootch the condom out of the way before you tear open the package, as that will help ensure you don’t accidentally tear the condom. Also, don’t use your teeth—this ups your chance of tearing the condom, plus it’s really not that sexy of a move.
3. Hold the condom by the tip before putting in on and squeeze out the air. There is a little bubble there. Release the air. By holding the bubble with your fingertips, you let the air out of it. This little bubble area is where the cum will go. It also gives space for the penis to move some in the condom, creating less friction and preventing tearing. #smartdesign If the air is still there, friction can make for a not so fun time and pop the bubble.
4. Put the condom on the shaft of the erect penis, and roll the condom down. Leave a lil’ breathing room at the top. You will know it’s the right way if it looks like a little hat. If it looks more like a dome, it’s wrong. Try again!
IMPORTANT INFO ALERT! If the condom is not rolling down easily, it’s likely on the wrong way. Do not flip it and reverse it. Throw that one out and use a new condom instead (1). When you flip it over, you’re exposing your partner to precum and increasing the chance of pregnancy and STI exposure.
Is there a correct way to remove a condom?
Yes, and this is also important for the condom’s effectiveness! Hold the condom by the rim and slowly pull it down and off while the penis is still hard. Never double dip—you need to use a new condom to go again. You should also use a new condom if you are switching orifices as each one has its own unique ecosystem!
What do I do if the condom breaks?
If you are trying to prevent pregnancy, back up birth control is important! Back up BC includes things like the pill, ring, IUD, shot, implant as well as tracking your cycle. But hey, if you don’t have back up BC, or you aren’t sure, there is always emergency contraception. You can check out our Ultimate Guide to Emergency Contraception here!
If the condom breaks, and you don’t know your partner’s status, it is important to get tested for STIs, as transmission is a possibility.
Where do I get condoms?
In the U.S, condoms can be purchased almost anywhere (though in other parts of the world, you can get them in vending machines, and, well, we aren’t quite there yet). Convenience stores, pharmacies, Amazon, the grocery store…even right here!
You can also get them for free! Many OBGYN and midwifery offices, community centers, local family planning and health clinics, and even coffee shops and bike repair shops—we’ve seen em there!—sometimes have a bowl for you to grab from, Halloween candy style. Stock up! (But also please save some for the rest of us.)
Does size really matter with condoms?
When it comes to condoms, actually yes. You gotta find the right fit! A regular condom will fit most people. For those people who struggle with the length or width of condoms, there are other options. Condoms can be straight, flared to have extra room at the head, or even snug at the base (1).
Width is where you will look for certain brands. When it comes to shorter lengths, it doesn’t matter. Just stop rolling. On the other side of the spectrum, those needing a longer length will reach for the longer sizes.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Condoms
Condoms are actually dope! These are the benefits:
They are the only form of birth control that prevents against STIs also (except if you use lambskin).
They are light, portable and cheap (sometimes even free!)
Wearing them can help you last longer
You can make them part of your foreplay—have your partner put it on you, try flavored condoms for oral…there are even ones that glow in the dark!
They can actually make sex feel better: Try condoms that come in different textures like ribbed or studded or ones with lubricants that warm up or tingle.
What are some of the disadvantages of condoms? (FYI, we don’t see these as negatives)
You gotta use them every time for them work
Have fun and be safe out there!
Written by: Ty Dupuis, Mental Health Counselor (in training!)
All content found on this Website, including: text, images, audio, or other formats, was created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
(1) American Sexual Health Association. 2019. “How to Use a Condom.” https://www.ashasexualhealth.org/condom/
(2) Planned Parenthood. 2019. “Condom.” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/condom
(3) Planned Parenthood. 2019. “What Are the Disadvantages of Using Spermicide?” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/spermicide/what-are-disadvantages-using-spermicide