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How to use a condom

Condoms are the most effective form of protection against STIs


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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Condoms are the most effective form of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex performed on a penis. They are also an effective contraceptive for preventing pregnancy. 

What are condoms?

Most condoms are made from a thin latex, which covers the penis before coming into contact with a sexual partner. Some people are sensitive to latex, and many manufacturers also make latex-free condoms. Condoms are 98% effective when used properly. 

They come in a wide variety of flavours and shapes: all intended to enhance your pleasure and safety. However, it's important to be able to use condoms correctly in the heat of the moment. A condom is easy to use – once you get the hang of it. Practice makes perfect, so learn how to use one before you find yourself in a situation where you need one.

It is important to remember, that like all contraceptives, condoms are not 100% effective. Some people use condoms with another method to protect against pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections. Talk to your doctor to find out about the contraceptive that will work best for you. It’s just as important for gay and bisexual men to use condoms, to prevent the risk of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Where can I buy condoms?

Condoms are available in pharmacies, supermarkets, vending machines in nightclubs and pubs, STI clinics and often in student unions and health centres. Always buy condoms with a quality mark (Kite or CE mark). Health clinics and students unions will often give away free condoms. Here's a list of places to get free condoms.

CE and Kitemark Logos

When should I use a condom?

Ideally, you should use a condom every time you have sex. Remember, even the tiniest drop of fluid from the penis during the early stages of an erection (pre-cum) can contain sperm and Sexually Transmitted Infections. You should always use a condom if you're uncertain of your partner's sexual history or if you know your partner has HIV or any other Sexually Transmitted Infection.

How to use a condom:

  • Always put a condom on well before you start to have sex or touch your partner's genitals. You might not notice it, but some semen comes out of the penis before you cum.
  • Make sure the condom fits securely on the hard penis (erection): you can buy condoms in different sizes.
  • Don’t let anything sharp (fingernails, jewellery, scissors) damage the condom when you open the package.
  • Squeeze out any air in the tip of the condom before putting it on. An air bubble can cause it to tear during sex.
  • Unroll the condom down the length of the hard penis. Leave a little space at the tip for semen.
  • Check that the condom is on the right way round. Do this by checking which way it rolls. If you have problems rolling it on, it is probably because it is on inside out, so you will have to start over with a new condom.
  • When pulling out after sex, hold the base of the condom and be careful when removing the condom that you don’t spill any semen. Also keep the penis away from the vagina as it will still be covered with semen.
  • Wrap the condom and dispose of it safely and hygienically (not down the toilet).

Tips on using condoms:

  • If the condom splits or you forget to use one, act quickly. Find out more about emergency contraception.
  • It is advised that you do not store condoms in your pocket as it can damage them.
  • If you need a lubricant, make sure it’s water based. Don’t use Vaseline, massage oil, baby oil or moisturiser because they can damage the condom very quickly.
  • Only use a condom once. Never ever reuse it!
  • Make sure to check the expiry dates on the packet of the condoms. If they are out of date, don't use them.
  • Wearing more than one condom at a time can create friction and could cause both condoms to rip.

Will I be able to feel everything?

You may notice a very slight loss of sensitivity. However, condoms are constantly being updated for enhanced sensitivity and to feel more natural.

Do condoms make sex less spontaneous?

No, there's no need for things to come to an abrupt halt. When you use them regularly, you should find that putting on a condom can add an exciting new twist to your foreplay. Make sure you've stocked up on safety precautions by having condoms at home. Never ever feel pressured to have sex without a condom.

Remember to use dental dams for oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex

STIs can be transmitted through oral sex performed on a vagina or anus. Dental dams are the best form of protection here. Find out more about dental dams here.

Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.

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Published February 6th, 2013
Last updated April 6th, 2018
Tags condoms contraception sexual health
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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