Feb 212012


We have all heard some horror story of a person in desperate need of a condom and trying to use whatever they have handy as one. A sandwich baggie was the item used in the anecdote I heard. Now that sounds comfy! Thankfully, we do have very reliable and much more enjoyable alternatives to something from the Glad Man -proper condoms either made of latex or polyurethane.


There are ancient cave paintings showing a man wearing a condom during sexual intercourse. They are 12 000 to 15 000 years old and the earliest known documentation of condom use. By the sixteenth century condoms were known to be used to protect against sexually transmitted diseases (A Dr. Condom, the earl of Condom, is said to have designed a penile shaft for King Charles II to prevent him from contracting venereal disease) and by the eighteenth century to prevent unwanted pregnancy. It seems it took people a little longer to realize how babies were made, but they figured out where that itch, drip or sore came from rather quick. While the original condoms were made of less effective materials (both for sexual pleasure -like oiled linen and vulcanized rubber- and as birth control and STD prevention -like sheep intestines and fish membranes), they were a step in the right direction.

In the past one hundred years there have been mixed messages about sexuality and condom use and this has been especially the case in the United States. During Word War I some U.S. allies gave their troops condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections. The U.S. Army chose to encourage chastity and consequently reported a yearly sexually transmitted infection (STI) rate of 766.55 per 1,000 for 1919 alone.

Certain groups have continued to push for chastity as the cure to many of our societal woes. They knock down condoms, saying they lead to promiscuity and the increase in STIs such as HIV and cervical cancer. The truth of the matter is that condoms are effective in preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. They are the only birth control method that is under a man’s control and the best barrier method available at this time for safer sexual intercourse. They are also inexpensive, found in most pharmacies (and corner stores, bars, restaurants, etc…), easy to dispose of (maybe a little too easy for those folks who like to litter), have minimal side effects (for those with latex allergies, you can use non-latex condoms such as Avanti), and can allow for longer-lasting sex play. I say, “condoms rock!”

A Few Facts

Of 100 women whose partners use condoms inconsistently or imperfectly, 14 will become pregnant in the first year of use. Only 3 will become pregnant if condoms are used perfectly.

Condoms are effective protection against sexually transmitted bacterial infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis.

The risk of HIV transmission with a condom is reduced – as much as 10,000-fold.

Condoms offer some protection against viruses such as human papilloma virus (HPV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV) that infect the general genital area. These viruses can “shed” to areas not covered by a condom, but a condom does decrease the risk of infection.

Oral sex, like intercourse and anal sex, is considered a high-risk sexual activity. Unprotected oral sex puts both partners at risk for a number of STIs, whether they are giving or receiving genital stimulation. These infections include gonorrhea, syphilis, chancroid, herpes, hepatitis B, cytomegalovirus, HPV, herpes, and, rarely, HIV.

A condom can be cut in half and spread over the entire vulva area for safer oral sex performed on a woman.

How to Use a Condom (from Scarleteen – used with permission)

1) Use a good quality condom that is new, that hasn’t been kept anywhere here it can get too warm or cold (it isn’t a good idea to keep them in your wallet or pocket for that reason).

2) Open the condom wrapper carefully, and roll it out a little so that the edge is rolled on the outside of the condom. Put a few drops of water-based lube (like Astroglide or KY Liquid) inside the tip of the condom. Only put a condom on AFTER there is a partial or full erection (after the penis has “gotten hard”).

3) Squeeze the tip of the condom with your fingertips to leave some extra space in the tip, and roll the rest down the length of the penis, still pinching the top.

4) Put some more water-based lube of the outside of the condom, and you’re good to go. While you are using the condom, you or your partner do not need to hold its base: condoms are designed for hands-free use.

5) After he has an orgasm and ejaculates (or doesn’t but you’re finished having sex), hold the base of the condom (the rolled-up part) with your hand and hold it with your other hand by the tip. Pulling it off by the tip alone not only makes a big mess, you could drip all over yourself what you just worked so hard to keep out.

6) Throw the condom away – NEVER reuse condoms. Never use two at a time to try and be “extra safe.” Both of them will most likely break, and it just doesn’t work. One condom, used properly, is as safe as it gets. If that isn’t safe enough for you, don’t have sex yet. Really.

Some Extra Tips

If you are uncircumcised, push your foreskin back while you’re putting the condom on. Once most of your penis is covered, you can push the foreskin up again gently.

Lubrication is really important. Condoms have a high rate of success, but that rate drops when they aren’t used properly, and one of the easiest ways to break a condom is by letting it get dry. Buy some lubricant when you buy condoms. Not only will it help them work better, well-lubricated sex is more enjoyable sex for both you and your partner. Do NOT use butter, oil, Vaseline or ANY lubricant other than lubricants intended for use with condoms. If you could buy it in an aisle in the store where food also is, it probably isn’t the right kind of lube.

Condoms don’t have to be a pain. Don’t try and rationalize your way out of using one, or put up with a partner who does: you’ll both need to get used to using them for a good part of your life, and even if one partner lets you get away with it, you can be sure another one won’t. Condoms keep you both safe, and when you don’t have to worry about getting diseases or getting pregnant, sex is a lot more fun.

You need to wear a condom during oral sex just as much as during vaginal or anal sex. Most STDs and transmitted through bodily fluids and mucus membranes…both of which exist in and on your genitals and your mouth.

When it comes to condoms, don’t scrimp. If you can’t afford them, check out your local Planned Parenthood clinic. They often give them out for free.

As far as comfort level and enjoyment, as well as durability, at Scarleteen we are partial to Durex brand condoms and Kimono brand condoms. Be SURE the lube you use is WATER-BASED. Other lubricants can destroy condoms.

Originally published at Seska for Lovers 2002.


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