I work with Options for Sexual Health as part of their Community Relations team, and we go to many different events around British Columbia. We have been asked almost every possible condom question imaginable! Here are some of the questions I've been asked, and my responses on how to solve this conundrums in a pleasurable way! Enjoy!
How reliable are condoms?
When used perfectly, external condoms are 98% effective in protecting against pregnancy. In typical use, they are 85% effective. Internal/female condoms are relatively new to the market, and in theoretical perfect use are shown to be 95% effective and 79% effective in typical use.
Why such a big gap in theoretical use to typical use? Many people don’t use condoms properly 100% of the time, which is why it’s important to learn the steps to putting a condom on or in, and to use those steps every time someone engages in sexual activity. The more comfortable someone is with condom application, the more likely they are to use a condom properly every time, thus increasing the effectiveness.
Condoms are also an excellent method of reducing the risk of transmission Condoms are very effective at keeping bodily fluids apart thus preventing transmission of most STIs (Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, HIV). However, it is important to note that not all STIs are transmitted through bodily fluid; for example HPV and HSV can be transmitted through skin to skin contact on areas of the body not covered completely by condoms.
What if I’m allergic to latex?
If you’re allergic or sensitive to latex, you might experience a skin rash, dry skin, itching, and-in rare cases, welts. People with latex allergies can use polyurethane condoms for men or polyurethane internal/female condoms. Lifestyles has also brought out a new condom, “Skyn” that is made of polyisoprene, which is softer and more flexible than polyurethane.
There are also latex free options for dams (Hot Dams are polyurethane) and latex free gloves can be purchased at most drugstores.
Why do I lose my erection when I fool around with my partner or try to put on a condom?
This is a very common problem that can definitely be overcome. By practicing putting condoms on and getting comfortable with the idea of condoms, anxiety and nerves will be greatly reduced. Communicating with a partner before sexual activity can also reduce anxiety and nerves. Another good tip is to relax and take the focus off of intercourse for a while, and enjoy sexual intimacy in other ways. This can be really erotic and exciting!
What if my partner doesn’t want to wear one?
There can be a number of reasons why a man doesn’t want to wear a condom. Numerous excuses can include “I can’t feel anything when I wear a condom”, “I don’t have any diseases”, “I lose my erection when I have to put one on”, “I don’t have a condom”, and so forth. In an ideal situation, having the condom discussion prior to being naked would be helpful. But that doesn’t always happen! Here are some other tips on ways to make condoms more fun:
- Help your partner put the condom on.
- It doesn’t have to be a clinical procedure! Practice using condoms and getting comfortable with the proper steps to putting a condom on, and then when it’s time to use them on a partner, have fun putting the condoms on!
- Lube isn’t just for the outside of the condom!
- Putting a drop of lube inside the condom into the reservoir tip can help reduce the friction of the latex and can improve sensation! Just make sure not to put too much or the condom might slip off!
- Offering a partner the opportunity to try out as many different kinds as they’d like might help motivate them.
What are the best condoms to use for anal sex?
Almost all condoms that are used for vaginal intercourse can also be used for anal intercourse, with the exception of condoms with spermicidal nonoxynol-9, as the chemicals used can actually damage the rectal tissue. Also, because there is more friction when having anal sex, using the thin and ultra thin condoms might increase the risk of breakage, but using lots of lubricant decreases that risk. Some men find that they have a preference for different condoms during anal sex. It is important however, that when engaging in anal sex additional lubricant is used. The anus doesn’t produce natural lubrication like the vulva, so using additional lubricant is essential.
Some people also like using the internal/female condom with anal sex, as they find it to be more comfortable. When using the internal condom for anal sex, removing the ring is recommended. The partner who is inserting the penis into the anus should place the condom onto the penis. The condom will stay in place once inserted.
Where should we keep the condoms?
The best answer to this question is “Keep the condoms where you will remember to use them!” For some people, this means in their wallet or purse, maybe even in a pocket. Although rubber will break down with continued exposure to heat, if the person forgets their condoms in their bed side table, and decides not to use one, that’s less productive than keeping it in their wallet!
That being said, the best location for condoms to be kept is in a cool, dry place away from heat sources. This is why the bedside table is usually a good option!
Another tip is to check the expiry date on the condoms before placing them in the bedside table, so there is no fumbling for lights to check the expiry date. As condoms do break down over time, if they are past their best before date, it’s worth it to throw them out, and stock up on new supplies!
What if the condom breaks or slips off?
Don’t panic. There are steps in place to deal with things like this! First thing: talk to your partner and make sure they know that this has happened. For female partners who are concerned about pregnancy, it is important to get Plan B (or another emergency contraceptive option) as soon as possible (within 5 days of the condom breakage). Two weeks after, it is recommended to go to a clinic and have STI testing done. Even though it might be tempting to go right away, the screening process requires a two week window between the incident and the testing.
Tomorrow: Part 3 of 4: More Condom Troubleshooting!
Any questions can be directed to Dr Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org