Condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control out there. They slip over a penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by keeping sperm inside the condom and out of the vagina. There are hundreds of shapes and sizes to choose from, with lube or without.
These condoms are lubricated with a chemical that kills sperm. Okay for vaginal intercourse but not recommended for oral or anal sex.
Women and men who are sensitive to spermicide can use these. Condoms have very few side effects. This type has even fewer.
These are the most common condoms, and they’re great—fantastic, elastic latex can stretch up to 800%! But don’t use them with oil-based lube. They can break or slip off if you do.
Allergic to latex? Prefer oil-based lube? Then these are for you. They’re usually made from polyurethane, polyisoprene or other synthetic high-tech materials. Some are made from lambskin, but those don’t offer STI protection.
Condoms take effort and commitment.
You have to make sure to use them correctly, every time, no matter what, for them to be effective.
Cheap and easy to find.
Condoms are inexpensive and sometimes even free from health centers. Plus, you can find them just about everywhere, from CVS to truck stops to supermarkets and even online. Plus, there are so many different kinds to choose from!
No prescription necessary.
If you can’t make it or don’t want to go to a health care provider for other forms of birth control, you can always use a condom.
May help sex last longer.
Condoms can decrease sensitivity, and in some cases, that’s a good thing. If a guy has trouble with premature ejaculation (in other words, if he comes too soon) condoms may help him last longer.
Not so good if you’re allergic to latex.
If you’re allergic to latex, you’ll need to use a non-latex condom made from polyurethane or polyisoprene or try another method. Female condoms also offer non-latex STI protection. If you choose to skip condoms, remember to get tested regularly for STIs and know your partner’s status.
Condoms are pretty easy to use, but life isn’t high school health class, and a penis is not a banana, so follow the tips below. And remember, if you’re relying on condoms, you have to remember to use them EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
How to put a condom on:
- First things first, before you use a condom, check the expiration date. Just like cheese, condoms can go bad. (Expired condoms break easier.)
- Put the condom on before the guy’s penis touches the girl’s vulva. Pre-cum, the fluid that leaks from a guy’s penis before he ejaculates, can contain sperm from the last time the guy came.
- One condom per erection, please. (So stock up.)
- Be careful not to tear the condom when unwrapping it. If it’s torn, brittle or stiff, toss it and use another.
- Put a drop or two of lube inside the condom. It’ll help the condom slide on, and it’ll make things more pleasurable for the guy.
- If the guy isn’t circumcised, pull back his foreskin before rolling on the condom.
- Leave a half-inch of extra space at the tip to collect the semen, then pinch the air out of the tip.
- Unroll the condom over the penis as far as it will go.
- Smooth out any air bubbles—they can cause condoms to break.
- Lube up, and get at it.
How to take a condom off:
- Make sure the guy pulls out before he’s soft.
- One of you should hold on to the base of the condom while he pulls out so semen doesn’t spill out.
- Throw the condom away in a trash can, preferably one that is out of reach of children and pets. Don’t flush it down the toilet! That’s bad for your plumbing.
- Make sure to wash the penis with soap and water before it gets near the vulva again.
Condoms have a reputation for being extremely affordable and easy to get. And what’s not to love about STI and pregnancy prevention that fits in your purse or pocket?
Since condoms come in a variety of materials (and shapes, sizes, colors, textures, etc.), prices may vary more than for other methods. Most basic condoms cost around a dollar, but splurging on condoms of different sizes, appearances and materials might increase comfort and/or pleasure.
Payment assistance: Local health departments and most clinics offer free or low-cost condoms and other kinds of birth control.
The best thing about most types of condoms is that they protect you against STIs, including HIV. Lambskin condoms, however, are the one type you should not rely on for STI protection—they are able to block sperm but not infections.
There are positive and negative things to say about each and every birth control method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friends experience.
- Protects against STIs, including HIV
- Cheap and easy to find
- No prescription necessary
- May help with premature ejaculation
- Unless you’re allergic to latex, condoms cause no physical side effects. Only 1 or 2 out of every 100 people are allergic. If you happen to be one, you can always use a plastic condom made from polyurethane or polyisoprene instead
- Some people may be sensitive to certain brands of lubricant. So if the lube on the condom bugs you or your partner, try another brand
- Some guys complain that condoms reduce sensitivity
Expert dirt: “Your go-to for preventing STIs. Use them for STI protection (until you’ve had that test and talk), even if you’re using another method. Also great for back-up or in a birth control pinch.”