There are two kinds of condoms, the male condom and the female condom, but storage and lubrication rules are similar for both of them.
Condoms have few side effects, although some people have an allergy to latex. If that is the case, you can switch to a condom made from polyisoprene or polyurethane, although there are fewer studies available on their effectiveness.
The most frequently reported downside of using a latex condom was diminished sensation. However, male condoms are also available in natural fibers (lambskin). These have a much better feel, but are more expensive and a shorter package life. Also, the lambskin condom may be less effective at preventing STIs, although few studies have been done. People who use lambskin often combine the lambskin condom with withdrawal to reduce the risk of disease and pregnancy.
Another option is the female condom or polyurethane condoms. Some men prefer the feel of these over a latex condom because the texture is soft and moist.
One of the benefits of both male and female condoms is that they are available over-the-counter (at Amazon and drugstores) to anyone. They are relatively inexpensive at $2–5 each, the female condom usually costing more than the male condom.
The primary benefit of condoms is that they can prevent or at least reduce the risk of disease transmission and they are the only birth control method that does this. They are not of high reliability though and should be combined with other types of protection, such as spermicides or withdrawal and the pill, implant or IUD.
Condoms should be stored in a cool, dry place away from any sharp objects and direct sunlight. Don’t keep them in your pocket, wallet, car, or bathroom for long periods of time (over one month), because excessive heat, moisture and friction can damage condoms over time.
Instead, make a small kit and store your condoms in a container that protects them from sharp objects, grit, pressure and heat. Since some people can have an allergic reaction to latex or spermicides, you might have a selection of condoms to choose from, including the latex condom, the polyurethane condom, and even the female condom.
The kit can contain other important items, like a water-based lubricant, spermicidal foam or jelly, emergency contraceptives, towelettes, hand sanitizer, nail brush, and the like.
Why a nail brush? It is a good idea to have clean nails before intimate contact, as many germs can be carried under the nails. Even if no STI germs are present, it is easy to cause vaginitis or a urinary tract infection if your hands and nails are not clean.
Since you have to use a new condom every time you have sex, it’s a good idea to keep a supply in your kit, and keep your kit close by.
Most male and female condoms come prelubricated, but adding extra water-based or silicone lube can make condoms feel better and also help keep them from breaking. It must be a water-based or silicone-based lubricant, not an oil-based lubricant.
Never use petroleum jelly (Vaseline), lotion, baby oil, butter, or cooking oils on latex or polyisoprene. The oil damages the material and may make condoms break more easily.
To use a lubricant, put a few drops on the outside of the male condom once you’re wearing it. If needed, add some during sex too. For the female condom, add a bit to the inside before putting it in the vagina, or add more to the penis during sex.
Practice makes perfect, so it’s a good idea to get used to putting on either the male or the female condoms before you actually use one.
Even if you store, lubricate and use the condom correctly, sometimes a batch of condoms is recalled due to manufacturing problems. Condoms made overseas may be more prone to manufacturing error, since we have standardized testing of condoms in the U.S. If you wonder if your condom was any good, test your condom after you use it by filling it with water. If it leaks, use an emergency contraceptive. See chapter 10.
Using the Male Condom
Always check the expiration date, and make sure there aren’t holes in the packaging before opening the condom—you should be able to feel a little air bubble when you squeeze the wrapper. If a condom is torn, dry, stiff, or sticky, throw it away.
Unrolled (left) and rolled (right) condoms.
Be careful in opening a new package. Don’t tear the condom with your teeth, scissors, jewelry or other sharp objects.
Roll the condom on when your penis is erect (hard), but BEFORE it touches your partner’s mouth or genital area (vulva, vagina, anus, buttocks, and upper thighs)—and wear it the whole time you’re having sex.
This helps protect you from many STIs that are transmitted through skin-to-skin touching. It also prevents contact with preejaculate, which can have STI germs and may contain some sperm.
Make sure the condom is ready to roll on the right way: the rolled rim should be on the outside so it will unroll easily. If you accidentally put a condom on inside out, do NOT flip it around and reuse it — get a new one.
If you’re uncircumcised, pull your foreskin back before placing the condom on the tip of your penis.
Squeeze the tip of the condom between your thumb and finger, and place it on the head of your penis. The little bit of space at the top is needed to collect semen (cum) and needs to be empty of air.
Unroll the condom down the shaft of your penis all the way to the base.
You can put a few drops of water-based or silicone lubricant inside the tip of the condom and/or on the outside of the condom once it’s on.
If you feel the condom getting tighter as you are having sex, it may be about to break. Pull out and reposition it correctly. Condoms can get tighter if your partner squeezes on the way in.
By contrast, the condom can get pulled off if your partner squeezes on the way out. Another thing that can make the condom more prone to slip is use on the uncircumcised penis because the foreskin allows a fair amount of motion.
Be careful and try to feel for each of these movements happening. If it does, pull out as described below and reposition the condom.
After you ejaculate take hold of the rim of the condom and pull your penis and the condom out of your partner’s body. Do this BEFORE your penis goes soft, so the condom doesn’t get too loose and let semen out.
Carefully take off the condom away from your partner so you don’t accidentally spill semen. Throw the condom away in the garbage — don’t flush it down the toilet (it can clog pipes). Wash your hands and penis with soap and water.
You cannot reuse condoms. Use a new condom every time you have vaginal or other sex. You should also use a new condom if you switch from one kind of sex to another.
Sometimes people are afraid to ask for condom use because they are embarrassed to ask, or they worry it suggests that their partner has a disease. However, frank discussions about protection are an important part of intimacy.
It’s easy to make condoms fun and sexy — all it takes is a little creativity, confidence and a positive attitude! Protect yourselves from pregnancy and/or STIs so you can both relax and focus on the intimacy.
Lastly, you may recall that the actual failure rate of condoms is 13%, which is pretty high. You should always combine condom use with other forms of birth control, such as a spermicide or withdrawal and the pill, implant or IUD.
IF THE CONDOM BREAKS, SLIPS or LEAKS, use an emergency contraceptive. See chapter 10.
Using the Female Condom
The female condom is the only woman-controlled method that reduces the risk of transmission of STIs. It is available over the counter and can be inserted ahead of time to avoid interruption during sex. One nice advantage is that it can be used during menstruation. However, it is less reliable than the male condom and certainly less discreet than other methods since part of the condom hangs out of the vagina. It may also cause some discomfort or irritation, and it can make noise.
Female condom (left) inside the vagina covering the cervix (right).
That said, sometimes men prefer the female condom more than the male condom because they say it offers more sensation. Thus, men should try one and if they like it, include a few in their kits.
The female condom is bigger than a male condom, but it’s not uncomfortable if inserted correctly. If you can use a tampon, you can probably use a female condom.
Check the expiration date on the package, and then open it carefully.
The female condom comes already lubricated, but you can add more lube to the inside if you want. You can also put spermicide or lubricant on the outside of the closed end before insertion.
Relax and get into a comfortable position. Standing with one foot on a chair, lying down, or sitting are common positions—kind of like how you’d put in a tampon.
Squeeze together the sides of the inner ring at the closed end of the condom and slide it into your vagina like a tampon.
Push the inner ring into your vagina as far as it can go, up to your cervix. Make sure it’s not twisted.
Pull out your finger and let the outer ring hang about an inch outside the vagina. The large ring at the open end of the female condom will cover the area around the vaginal opening — it is normal for this part to hang outside your body.
You can insert the female condom up to eight hours before sex. Like the male condom, it should be used the whole time you are having sex.
Guide your partner’s penis into the opening of the condom, making sure it doesn’t go between the condom and your vaginal walls.
Female condoms and male condoms should not be used at the same time because they can stick to each other and cause slippage or breakage of one or both devices.
After sex, twist the outer ring (the part that’s hanging out) to keep semen inside the pouch. Gently pull it out, being careful not to spill any semen. Throw it away in the trash (don’t flush it).
Female condoms are not reusable—use a new one every time you have sex.
Slippage of the female condom can occur, especially if the penis is large, sex is vigorous, or if you are inexperienced at using it.
If it slips, stop immediately! Take the female condom out carefully, so that the sperm stays inside the pouch. Use a new female condom if you continue having sexual intercourse. Add extra lubricant to the opening of the pouch or on the penis and then insert the new female condom.
Remember the female condom isn’t very reliable by itself (21% failure rate). Always combine it with other forms of protection, such as spermicide or withdrawal plus the pill, implant or IUD.
Some drugstores, such as Walgreens, carry female condoms, but they are not as easy to find as male condoms. Ordering online (Amazon) is a great option, or you may be able to find a clinic nearby that has them.
Remember, both sexes can use male or female condoms—the name only relates to where it is used—not who buys it and makes it available.
IF THE CONDOM BREAKS, SLIPS or LEAKS, use an emergency contraceptive. See chapter 10.