There is a reason condoms are still king when it comes to protection: if you are having sex, condoms are the only method that provides protection against both unintended pregnancy and STDs. But they only work if used CORRECTLY, each and every time you have sex, from start to finish. So follow the condom guide for everything you need to know:
MAKING THE PURCHASE
Where to go: You can buy condoms in lots of places: drugstores, grocery stores, convenience stores, dispensers in bathrooms, and so on. There are also online retailers, including specialty condom sites as well as online drug stores and groceries that can mail them to you. Testing centers and health clinics may have free condom supplies available as well.
What to get: Condoms come in lots of colors, textures, lengths, widths, and thicknesses. The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a brand is that the condoms be made of latex or polyurethane (plastic). Both of these are effective in preventing STDs, HIV and pregnancy. Avoid using animal skin (or “natural”) condoms, which prevent pregnancy but aren’t as effective in preventing all STDs, including HIV.
Also, while male condoms are more popular, female condoms, which are inserted into the vagina, are also an option when male condoms can’t be used.
Now, RELAX: Many people feel nervous about going to the store to buy condoms, especially the first time. They may worry about what the cashier or others in the store might say or think. But remember: lots of people buy condoms every day; the only thing you can really tell about a person buying condoms is that they are taking responsibility for their sexual health.
USING A CONDOM
Inspect before using: Condoms should be kept in a cool, dry place to prevent breakage or leakage. Check the label and condom before using it. Don’t use it if it is past the labeled expiration date or if it is over five years past the manufacture date. Also, if the condom is ripped or looks dry, brittle, stiff, or sticky, it shouldn’t be used. Keeping a few spares on hand is a good idea in case one rips while being opened or put on.
Open carefully: To open the package, it should be torn gently on the side (not with teeth or scissors, which could tear the condom itself). Pull the condom out slowly (with care) to prevent ripping.
Lubricate: Using a pre-lubricated condom, or applying a small amount of water-based lubricant inside and outside the condom can help prevent rips. Oil-based lubricants (for example petroleum jellies, body lotions, mineral or vegetable oils) should not be used with latex condoms because they can cause the latex to break down, reducing or eliminating the condom’s effectiveness.
Put the condom on before sexual contact begins: The most common mistake is not using condoms from start (of sexual contact) to finish (after ejaculation). The condom should be put on before any genital contact. Some STDs can be transmitted without intercourse, through genital (skin-to-skin) contact. Also, pre-cum can contain semen and STDs (including HIV) so you need to wear a condom the whole time from beginning to end, each and every time.
Apply condom correctly:
- The rolled condom should be placed over the head of the penis when it is hard.
- Pinch the tip enough to leave a half-inch space for semen to collect. Holding the tip, unroll the condom all the way to the base of the penis.
- The condom should fit snugly – but not too tight – so that it won’t slide off or break during intercourse.
- If you start to put on a condom inside-out, don’t use it. Throw it away and use a new one. You’ll know it’s inside out because it won’t roll down the length of the penis easily.
- If the condom rips at any time, throw that one out and use a new one.
Remove the condom carefully:
Immediately after ejaculation, hold the base of the condom (so it stays in place and semen cannot spill out), and slowly withdraw the penis – while it is still hard. The condom should be wrapped in tissue and thrown away in the garbage (not in the toilet as it may clog).
WHAT IF THE CONDOM BREAKS?
If you feel the condom break at any point during sexual activity:
1. stop immediately
3. remove the broken condom, and
4. put on a new condom.
Condoms can break, slip, or leak if they’re not put on and taken off properly. If the condom breaks, emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy. Emergency contraception can be started 5 days after unprotected sex, but the sooner it’s started the better it works. Emergency contraception does not protect against STDs.
CONDOMS AND ORAL SEX
It is possible to get HIV and other STDs during oral sex if your bf/gf is infected. It’s a good idea to use a barrier, like a condom or dental dam, when giving oral sex to prevent fluids, like semen, blood, vaginal fluid, from entering your mouth. It’s also a good idea to use a barrier when receiving oral sex, because some STDs can be passed from the mouth, throat or lips to the genitals or anus. For oral sex on a penis, you should use a non-lubricated latex or polyurethane (plastic) condom. For oral sex on a vagina or anus, you should use a latex barrier (like a natural rubber latex sheet, dental dam or cut-open condom that makes a square) between your mouth and your bf/gf’s genitals.
TALKING ABOUT CONDOMS
Talking about condoms is about respect and showing that you want to protect each other. Your gf/bf will probably be relieved that you’re taking the lead to use condoms, so here are some talking tips to help you start the condom conversation:
- KNOW YOURSELF: Think through what feels right for you so that you’re clear about your own feelings and can talk about them with someone else.
- GET THE FACTS: Read up on STDs, pregnancy prevention and using condoms correctly and consistently so that you are prepared if any questions come up.
- TALK BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE: Talk about condoms before you are in a situation when you might need one (that means before you take your clothes off!) Find a time and place where you are comfortable and can talk without other things going on.
- BE CONFIDENT: Be up front and direct about wanting to use condoms each and every time you have sex. There’s no shame in wanting to protect yourself and others- using condoms protects you from STDs AND pregnancy.
- EXPLAIN THE RISKS: Using condoms doesn’t mean that you have trust issues— STDs often show no symptoms, and many of those who are infected don’t know it, so condoms are just good common sense.
- BE RESPECTFUL: Respect your bf/gf and respect your relationship. If part of why you want to talk about condoms is to tell your bf/gf about an STD you have, just say so. Talking about it will it help you take the right precautions to protect your and your bf/gf’s health. More on talking about STDS here.
- LOVE YOURSELF by respecting yourself. If your bf/gf refuses to use condoms, be firm. No condom, no sex. If your bf/gf doesn’t want to protect you and his/herself and doesn’t respect your wishes, you might want to ask yourself if you really want to have sex with this person.