Adapted from Planned Parenthood
Condoms are thin, stretchy pouches that you wear on your penis during sex. Condoms provide great protection from both pregnancy and STDs. They’re easy to use and easy to get. If used correctly, condoms are 82% effective at preventing you from getting pregnant.
How do condoms work?
Condoms are small, thin pouches made of latex (rubber), plastic (polyurethane, nitrile, or polyisoprene) or lambskin, that cover your penis during sex and collect semen (cum). Condoms stop sperm from getting into the vagina, so sperm can’t meet up with an egg and cause pregnancy.
Condoms also prevent STDs by covering the penis, which prevents contact with semen and vaginal fluids, and limits skin-to-skin contact that can spread sexually transmitted infections.
Lambskin condoms do not protect against STDs. Only latex and plastic condoms do.
Do condoms help protect me against STDs?
Yes! Using condoms every time you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex is the best way to reduce your chances of getting or spreading sexually transmitted infections. Condoms protect you and your partners from STDs by preventing contact with bodily fluids (like semen and vaginal fluids) that can carry infections. And because condoms cover your penis, they help protect against certain STDs like herpes and genital warts that are spread through skin-to-skin contact (but they’re somewhat less effective with these because they don’t cover all your skin).
Pro-tip: if you cut a condom up the side, you can open it out and put it over the vulva for safer oral sex there. Condoms are helpful for everyone!
Condoms are one of the only types of birth control that also help protect against STDs. So even if you’re using another form of birth control (like the pill), it’s a good idea to also use condoms to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
Keep in mind that condoms made of lambskin or other animal membranes DO NOT protect against STDs — they only prevent pregnancy. Only synthetic condoms (latex or plastic) prevent the spread of STDs.
How do I use a condom?
Adapted from Planned Parenthood
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 STDs that are transmitted through skin-to-skin touching. It also prevents contact with pre-ejaculate (pre-cum), which can have STD germs and may rarely contain sperm that can cause pregnancy.
- Condoms last a long time, but you should always check the expiration date printed on the wrapper or box. Open condoms carefully so you don’t damage them — don’t use your teeth or scissors.
- Make sure the condoms ready to roll on the right way: the rim should be on the outside so it looks like a little hat, and it will unroll easily. You can unroll it a little bit before putting it on to make sure it’s right-side-out. If you accidentally put a condom on inside out, do NOT flip it around and reuse it — get a new one.
- Pinch the tip of the condom and place it on the head of your penis. Leave a little bit of space at the top to collect semen (cum). If you’re uncircumcised, it might be more comfortable to pull your foreskin back before placing the condom on the tip of your penis and rolling it down.
- 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.
- Have sex!
- After you ejaculate (cum), hold onto the rim of the condom and pull your penis 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 (cum) on them. Throw the condom away in the garbage — don’t flush it down the toilet (it can clog pipes).
You can’t reuse condoms. Roll on a new condom every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex. You should also use a new condom if you switch from one kind of sex to another (like anal to vaginal).
Don’t worry if you lose your erection (your penis gets soft) while wearing a condom — this is super common. If this happens you should change condoms. Just take the condom off, and once your penis is hard again, roll on a new one.
What are some tips for using condoms?
Taking good care of your condoms and using them correctly every single time you have sex is key.
Store your condoms in a cool, dry place away from any sharp objects and direct sunlight. Don’t keep them in your pocket, car, or bathroom for long periods of time (over 1 month), because excessive heat and moisture can damage condoms over time.
Always check the expiration date and make sure there aren’t holes in the packaging before opening your 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.
Since you have to use a new condom every time you have sex or get a new erection, it’s a good idea to keep a supply around. Have condoms nearby before things start heating up, so they’re easy to grab without interrupting the action.
Most condoms come pre-lubricated, but adding extra water-based or silicone lube can make condoms feel great and help keep them from breaking. Put a few drops on the head of your penis or inside the tip of your condom before you roll it on, and/or spread lube on the outside of the condom once you’re wearing it.
Don’t use anything that has oil in it with latex condoms, like petroleum jelly (Vaseline), lotion, baby oil, butter, or cooking oils. Oil damages latex condoms and may cause them to break.
It’s easy to make condoms fun and sexy — all it takes is a little creativity and a positive attitude! For many people, condoms are a natural part of foreplay. Having your partner roll on the condom, applying lube, and stimulating each other and saying sexy stuff while putting condoms on keeps things hot AND safe. Plus, knowing you’re protecting each other from pregnancy and/or STDs lets everyone relax and focus on feelin’ good.
Practice makes perfect, so it’s a good idea to get used to putting on condoms before you actually use one for sex. You can practice putting a condom on your own penis, or a banana, cucumber, or slim bottle — anything penis-shaped will do! Becoming a condom pro BEFORE you have sex makes it much easier to use them correctly when it really matters.
Lastly, it’s a good idea to use another form of birth control, like the pill, ring, shot, implant, or IUD, along with condoms. It can help prevent pregnancy in case you make a mistake or the condom breaks, giving you extra protection. If you have a condom mishap and you’re not on another birth control method, emergency contraception (the morning-after pill) can help prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
Where can I get condoms?
Condoms are the easiest form of birth control to get, since you do not need a prescription or a visit to your doctor. Here are just some of the places you can find condoms:
- Health centers,
- Community centers
- Doctor’s offices
- Grocery stores
- Convenience stores and gas stations
- Vending machines
Some places even give out condoms for free! For a map of where to get free condoms in your neighborhood, check out FreeCondomsMemphis.org.
There are no age restrictions on buying condoms — anybody can buy them.
What are internal condoms?
Adapted from Planned Parenthood
Internal condoms are an alternative to regular condoms. They provide pretty much the same great protection from pregnancy and STDs. What’s different about them? Instead of going on the penis, female condoms go inside your vagina for pregnancy prevention or into the vagina or anus for protection from STDs. They’re sometimes called female condoms. If used correctly, internal condoms are 79% effective at keeping you from getting pregnant.
How do internal condoms work?
Internal condoms are little nitrile (soft plastic) pouches that you put inside your vagina. They cover the inside of your vagina, creating a barrier that stops sperm from reaching an egg. If sperm can’t get to an egg, you can’t get pregnant. The female condom also helps prevent sexually transmitted infections.
Do internal condoms protect me against STDs?
Yes! Internal condoms aren’t just for birth control — they also reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.
Internal condoms help prevent STDs by covering the inside of your anus, vagina, and some parts of your vulva. This decreases your chance of coming in contact with semen (cum), pre-cum, or skin that can spread STDs. Since all the other condoms out there are worn on a penis, many female condom fans love that there’s a condom they can control. Female condoms let you take charge of your sexual health. Even if your partner doesn’t want to wear a condom, you can still protect yourself.