- Birth control
What is a condom?
Rubber. Jimmy-hat. Love sock. Wrapper. However you say it, condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control out there. They slip over the penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of STIs by keeping sperm inside the condom and out of the vagina. (There are also internal condoms that go inside the vagina.) Condoms come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, with lube and without.
The condom is so-so the way people typically use them—better when used perfectly.
Perfect use: 98% effective
Typical use: 87% effective
What does perfect vs typical use mean?
Usually none. Unless you have a latex allergy.
You have to use one EVERY time.
Easy to get
Drug stores, clinics, supermarkets, and even some bars and clubs.
About $1 per condom or free at lots of clinics and bars. Read more about costs.
Types of condoms
These condoms are lubricated with a chemical that kills sperm. Ok for vaginal intercourse, but not recommended for oral or anal sex.
Women and men who are sensitive to spermicide can use spermicide-free condoms. Condoms have very few side effects. This type has even less.
Elastic fantastic latex can stretch up to 800%. These are the most common condoms. 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. Usually made from polyurethane, other synthetic high tech materials, or natural lambskin.
It might be for you if…
The best thing about (most types) of condoms is that they help protect you against sexually transmitted infections (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.
Condoms take effort and commitment
You have to make sure to use condoms correctly, every time, no matter what, in order for them to be effective.
May help sex last longer
Condoms can decrease sensitivity, and in some cases, that’s a good thing. (Eg. if you or your partner has trouble with premature ejaculation), condoms may help sex last longer.
Cheap and easy to find
Condoms are inexpensive (and sometimes even free from clinics and bars). You can find them just about everywhere, from 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 to the doctor (or don’t want to), you can always use a condom.
Not so good if you’re allergic to latex
If you’re allergic to latex, you’ll need to use a non-latex condom, or try another method.
Don’t take our word for it. Check out the videos above to hear people talk about their experiences with condoms.
How do you use it?
Condoms are pretty easy to use, but life isn’t high school health class, and a dick 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. (Outdated condoms break easier.)
- Put the condom on before your partner’s penis touches your 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 you’re 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 your man.
- If your partner 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.
- Then 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 that semen doesn’t spill out.
- Throw the condom away in a trash can (preferably one that is out of the reach of children and pets). Don’t flush it down the toilet! That’s just bad for your plumbing.
- Make sure to wash up his penis with soap and water before it gets near your vulva again.
How much does it cost?
Condoms have a reputation for being extremely affordable and accessible. 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 some 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: Check with your local family planning clinics and find out if they offer free or low-cost condoms and other kinds of birth control (most do). Depending where you live, there may be other places where you can find free condoms.
What are the side effects and benefits?
There are positive and negative things to say about each and every method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.
- Protects against STIs, including HIV
- Cheap and easy to get a hold of
- 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 100 people are allergic, and if you happen to be one of them, you can always use a plastic condom instead)
- Some people may be sensitive to certain brands of lubricant (so, if the lube bugs you or your partner, try another brand)
- Some guys complain that condoms reduce sensitivity
- Hard to remember to use if you’re drunk (but that might be when you need one most, so keep them on hand anyway!)