The condom. The wonderful, glorious condom. The savior of the promiscuous, the child-fearing fertile, and hypochondriacs. Sex educators can't sing their praise enough while doctors and public health clinics have their work loads reduced. Condoms prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV. That's why I wanted to talk about them today. With HIV numbers rising worldwide, it's important to understand condoms and why they're so important to the sex positive movement.
The CDC says, when used consistently and correctly, condoms prevent the transmission of HIV. There are two important parts of that message that need to be emphasized: Consistently - this means every time you're in the mood to feel the inside of someone; even when you're drunk or high; even when you've forgotten a condom and are hesitant to get up and go to the pharmacy to get a box; even when your partner doesn't have one; even when you just don't want to wear one. Every. Single. Time. The other vital point is "correctly". But sharing how to use condoms correctly is more than just a sentence. In fact, it's more than just a paragraph. How does one successfully use a condom?
Mommy, What's a Condom?
Let's start from the ground up. A condom is a thin sheath used during sex that prevents fluids from one person getting into their sexual partner(s). In male condoms, the sheath wraps around the penis. There is a reservoir tip which fills with semen when the penis ejaculates. Female condoms, sometimes referred to as bottom condoms, are larger and somewhat resemble a re-sealable sandwich bag. There is a plastic ring inserted into the condom which is used to help insertion. The ring stays in and lies against the cervix to keep the condom in place. If used for anal sex, the ring should be removed before insertion. Dental dams can be used during oral sex (oral-vaginal or oral-anal) to protect the mouth from infection. Just lay the dental dam (or non-microwavable kitchen plastic wrap) on the area you plan on licking and, voilà, you're good to go.
Cotton or Poly-blend? Gucci or Prada?
There are so many condom choices these days that you actually have to be quite careful when making a selection. In order to find a condom you're actually going to use, make sure to try a lot of different brands. There is a condom out there for everyone.
The first thing to look for is the condom material - latex, polyurethane, polyisoprene, or lamb skin.
Lamb skin condoms prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from passing from one person to the other. However, lamb skin condoms have pores large enough for infections (such as HIV or other STIs) to pass through. If you have a fluid-bonded partner and your only concern about is getting knocked up, lamb skin condoms are a viable option.
Perhaps the most prevalent condom on the market is the latex condom. This is where the term rubber came from. It stops sperm and infectious critters from getting in to your sexual partner. For those who are allergic to latex, the FDA has approved two alternatives: polyurethane and polyisoprene. Polyurethane is essentially plastic and does the same job that latex does. Users may experience discomfort due to the bulkiness of polyurethane, but heat does transfer through the material, creating some fun sensations. Due to the complaints about polyurethane, a new material, polyisoprene, is now FDA approved and used in condom production - it's thinner than its predecessor and seems very promising.
A cautionary point: make sure your condom is not a novelty product. These are not FDA approved to prevent pregnancy, STIs, and HIV. An example of this would be glow in the dark condoms sold in some gas stations.
Rubbermaid Bins and Salad Dressing
Now that you have your condoms, where do you keep them until you use them? It's important to keep condoms in a dry, cool, dark place. Exposure to extreme heat or cold may weaken the condom and make it more likely to break during use. Keep them in a drawer in your nightstand. Don't keep them in your car or in your wallet where they'll get very warm and become brittle or gummy.
Before putting on a condom, it's also helpful to think about how you're going to accessorize it. Picking the right kind of lube to go with your condom is a pretty important decision when you're going to bang someone safely. Water-based and silicone-based lubricants are pretty much the only way to go.
Water-based lubricants are quite often the default lube. The thing to be careful of - some water based lubricants contain glycerin, which is a sugar. On a number of episodes of Sex is Fun, we've brought up how sugars in the vagina can provoke yeast infections. Be careful, know your body, and read the list of ingredients.
Silicone based lubricants are slowly taking over as the favorite of the sex world. They stay slippery longer and are condom safe. In fact, most condoms that come pre-lubricated are lubricated silicone lube.
Common spur of the moment lubes to avoid with condoms: lotion, petroleum jellies (such as Vaseline), food oils (olive, grape seed, salad, etc.), and baking lards (i.e. Crisco). Some of these will work without condoms when you choose to be fluid bonded with your partner. However, when used with condoms, the oils in these products will break down the condom and make it more likely to rip, tear, or burst during sex. So head to your local pharmacy or sex shop, and make sure your lube matches your condoms. The folks that produce these condom-safe lubes happily exclaim it on their labels.
Bend and Snap!
Perhaps the part of the condom message that has been missed consistently is that practice makes perfect. Often times, when people pull a condom out of the packaging for the first time, they aren't sure what the heck to do with it.
A common error would be attempting to roll the condom on the wrong way. Always take your time and figure out which side to press your dick in to first. Never rush through this step. If the tip of the penis touches the wrong side of the condom and the user just flips it over, the male just exposed his partner to pre-ejaculate. Sperm and other nasty critters do exist and live in pre-ejaculate.
Next, make sure when rolling the condom on to squeeze the reservoir tip. The point of this is to keep air out of there. If there is air in the tip and then the tip gets filled with fluid, it's more likely to burst due to being over-filled. Keep the air out so your spunk has plenty of room to stretch out.
Roll the condom down as far as possible. Try to get it to the base. The more skin you cover the better. Some infections are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. Minimize your risk by covering as much of your penis as you can.
Finally, remember to use your hand to grab around the base of the condom when withdrawing from your partner. The penis will usually become flaccid quickly after ejaculation, and the condom is much more likely to slip off a flaccid penis than a hard one. So try to withdraw before you lose your erection after you've ejaculated. Once withdrawn, slide your penis out of the condom, tie the end in a knot and squeeze it to check for leaks. Be sure to dispose of your condom in the garbage. Don't flush it unless you want to deal with messed up plumbing. Be courteous and wrap the used condom in some toilet paper or facial tissue - although you got laid, not everyone needs to see the by-product. This will also prevent the condom from drying and sticking to the side of the trash can.
Remember when using the female/bottom condom to be wary during penetration or during extended and vigorous sex sessions - make sure the penis is always inside of the condom and not penetrating to the side of it.
It is important to talk about eroticizing condom use and giving people resources for including condoms in sex play. Making the condom an erotic aspect of sex will aid in the desire to use them.
Check out Kidder's Quick Sex Tip on Making Condoms Suck Less. It's filled with some great tips such as dumping loads of lube in the condom, masturbating often with them on, and including them in foreplay. With practice, you'll find that when you take a condom out of the package, your genitals will be swollen and throbbing in no time.
Sex educators are doing there best to encourage condom use, but with HIV and STI numbers rising, the message needs to be revamped. Talking about eroticizing condoms is a great first step. Also, regardless of who the audience is, it is helpful to talk about risk-reduction techniques. Educators should share tips such as that in a pinch, polyurethane female/bottom condoms can be washed out in the dishwasher and reused, or the technique of checking a condom for people who encounter resistance to condom use frequently, or any other safe, appropriate tips they learn anecdotally.
We often want to leave sex education to teachers. What we don't realize is that we all can and should be sex educators. Share your tips with your friends, family, and children. Although you took the time to do your research, that doesn't mean everyone else has. Let everyone know that safer sex is fun!
Write the Author: Gay Rick