What is a condom?
The male condom is a latex sheath that is rolled over the penis to prevent secretions including semen from entering the vagina. A condom should be used in combination with spermicide.
How do male condoms work?
The condom fits over an erect penis and collects semen after a guy ejaculates. This way, sperm never enter a girl’s vagina.
The Good: Latex condoms will keep you protected against most STIs. They’re cheap, easy to buy (check out your nearest drugstore), and small enough to carry around. They’re pretty easy to use, too, but don’t forget, the penis must be erect before you can put it on.
The Not-So-Good: Unfortunately, condoms aren’t 100% foolproof. Nothing is. Condoms are really good protection, but the sad truth is that it’s impossible to have sex that is 100% safe. Condoms (or any other method) won’t completely protect you from STIs like Herpes or HPV. Or, the condom could break when you open the package, especially if you have long nails. They can also break during sex if they’re not put on correctly or you forget to remove the air from its tip, so make sure to read the instructions in the box. Or they can leak if they’re not taken off correctly, so make sure the penis is still erect when you take it off.
The Great: Male condoms are really easy to get. You can buy a box at the drugstore or you can grab them for free at your nearest family planning clinic. They come in all types of sizes and varieties, so experiment to find out which ones you like the best.
Condoms are 97% effective, and they protect against most STIs if used consistently and correctly. Condoms are the only contraception that can prevent STIs.
Some guys complain about lack of sensitivity. The condom may slip off during sex. Rough handling may cause the condom to break. Some guys (and girls) may be allergic to latex. Tip: To increase sensitivity put some water-soluble lubricant (saliva, KY jelly) inside the tip of the condom before putting it on.
Where to buy them?
You can pick up a pack of condoms at the drugstore for about 50 cents per condom, or you can grab one in a washroom, supermarket, convenience store, or free at a family planning centre.
If a condom breaks or slips off during sex, contact your doctor or a clinic for emergency contraception as soon as possible.
Condoms in Depth
Condoms are your best protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They stop bacteria and viruses that may be present in your partner’s genital fluid from infecting your own genitals, anal area, or mouth. They also protect against unwanted pregnancy. For a lot of sexually active people, they’re about as good as contraception gets.
Condoms work! When used as directed, they offer better protection against AIDS and other STIs than any other birth control method.
To give yourself added protection, team up a condom with a spermicidal jelly, foam, cream, suppository, or film. These products can stop sperm from moving up the female reproductive tract in case the condom breaks. Just be sure not to use spermicides on their own, as they can make HIV spread easier.
The only situation in which it’s safe not to use a condom is in a long-term, monogamous relationship with a partner who’s tested negative for STIs and has proven himself worthy of your trust.
Condoms, HPV and Hepatitis B
Condoms offer protection against most STIs, but do not protect against two of the most common: human papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B.
HPV can be passed along by sex or close skin-to-skin genital contact. Some forms of HPV cause only harmless skin warts, others can lead to genital warts, and still others can cause cervical cancer. A medical test called a PAP smear can test for the early signs of this cancer, which can be treated. If you’re a sexually active female, be sure to have your doctor perform this simple test on a regular basis.
The Hepatitis B virus can be passed along through semen or blood, and more rarely from saliva or vaginal secretions. The virus has to enter your bloodstream to cause disease. Hepatitis B can be detected through a blood test, and often heals spontaneously, but may cause serious liver damage in some people. An effective vaccine now exists to protect against Hepatitis B. If you’re sexually active, you might want to talk to a doctor about getting the Hep B vaccine.
Raising the Subject of Condoms
Protecting yourself and your partner from STIs is a shared responsibility, so girls need to know how to raise the subject of condoms. Even if you’re really shy, STIs and pregnancy are way too big of a deal not to bring up the subject.
If you think you might be having sex in the near future, it’s a good idea to pick up some condoms to have around just in case he doesn’t. And you should talk about using them before you start sex, not as you’re rounding third base. It could be something you discuss right before things start to heat up, or you could talk about it casually, when sex isn’t even an option. The point is, when the time for sex comes, you should know where you both stand. Otherwise, you could get caught up in the heat of the moment, and do something you’ll regret.
And yes, there are ways to raise the subject without sounding like a traffic cop. Maybe use a little humour to lighten the discussion.
- “So, how about we get the condom talk over with now, so we can enjoy ourselves later?”
- “I know it’s awkward, but we need to talk about condoms. Are you feeling as embarrassed as I am?”
- “And now for a really romantic question: Your condom…or mine?”
Usually, your partner will be just as interested in avoiding disease and pregnancy.
Still, there’s a chance that he might say:
- “Sex with a condom does nothing for me.” You can say: “Let’s see if we can do something about that.”
- “Don’t you trust me? It’s not like I’ve been sleeping around or anything.” You can say: “Even so, you or I may be carrying STIs without knowing it. I’m concerned about protecting both of us.”
- “This discussion is so predictable. I was hoping you’d be different.” You can say: “Sorry about the yawn factor, but sex without condoms is not an option for me right now.”
One of the big things to make clear is that sex without a condom makes you worried about yourself and about him. Tell him that you just wouldn’t be able to relax or enjoy sex without a condom - and let him know that if you can enjoy sex more, there’s a good chance he will too. If the discussion turns into an argument or a battle of wills, suggest a nonsexual activity like watching a movie. You can bring up the subject again some other time - or you can just wait until you find a partner who’s more sexually responsible.
Sometimes you may not have enough warning to bring up the subject ahead of time. In this case, you may want to just produce a condom and say something like, “Here, let’s use this.” It doesn’t have to sound like an order, but make it clear that it’s not up for negotiation.
Putting on a condom
- Begin the procedure when your penis is hard.
- Male condoms usually come rolled up in a sealed packet, and most are pre-lubricated on the outside (the preferred choice).
- If the condom is brittle, stiff or sticky, discard it and use another.
- Put a drop or two of lubricant or saliva inside the tip of the condom (optional)
- If you’re not circumcised, pull back your foreskin
- Place the rolled-up condom over the tip of your penis, leaving a half-inch space for semen collection
- Pinch the air out of the tip of the condom
- Unroll the condom all the way to the base of the penis
- If you’re not using a pre-lubricated condom, lubricate the outside of the condom with a water-based lubricant
- When you’ve finished having sex (vaginal, anal or oral), hold the condom against the base of your penis while you pull out.