It’s scary enough having sex for the first time without having to worry about using condoms, too. But you do need to – if you’re nervous about using condoms or if you don’t want to seem inexperienced, practise with them in advance. A boy could try to put a condom on when he masturbates, to get used to what it feels like, and what to do with it when he finishes.
Buying condoms can seem frightening or embarrassing, especially for a young person, but it isn’t really. You can get them in most pharmacies or drugstores and a lot of supermarkets sell them. In some countries such as the UK and parts of the USA young people are entitled to free contraceptive advice and contraceptives from their doctor. But you don’t need a prescription to get them, and often health clinics, family planning centres, and even schools have supplies of free condoms for teenagers. In most places, you can buy condoms whatever your age.
Kinds of condoms
- * Material – Most condoms are made from latex or polyurethane. The latex ones are a little stronger, so they give slightly better protection from STDs and pregnancy. A very small amount of people are allergic to latex, though, so they use polyurethane ones.
- * Size – Condoms come in lots of different sizes. You can get longer or shorter or wider or narrower ones. If a packet of condoms says ‘large’ or ‘small’, this is usually talking about the width of the condom, not the length. Be honest! A condom that is too big may come off, and a condom that’s too small might break. Most condoms that you buy in shops and vending machines will be a standard size.
- * Lubricated – Some condoms are not lubricated at all, some have silicone-based lubricants, some have water-based lubricants. Some condoms are lubricated with a spermicide (see below).
- * Spermicidal – Some condoms have a spermicidal lubricant, which can help to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy. One of the most common spermicides is something called nonoxynol-9. This is a chemical that some people are sensitive to, and if it’s used regularly it can can cause irritation and increase the chance of HIV infection. Condoms lubricated with Nonoxynol 9 should not be used for anal sex.
- * Ribbed – These condoms have little ridges running around them. These can make sex more pleasurable for both partners, and if they’re used correctly (see below) then they’re just as safe as ordinary ones. Ribbed condoms are the answer for people who complain “But I can’t feel anything if I put on a condom. . . “
- * Coloured – The natural colour of latex is a creamy white, so lots of condoms have different colours – some of them even glow in the dark. Again, if they’re used properly, they’re fine.
- * Flavoured – Some sexually transmitted infections can be passed on orally, so it’s a good idea to put on a condom for oral sex. Sometimes, people don’t like the smell and taste of latex, so they use flavoured condoms. These can taste of anything from strawberry to curry! Flavoured condoms shouldn’t be used for vaginal or anal sex, though, unless they have the kite mark sign in the UK and Europe, or are FDA approved in the USA.
- * Resevoir tipped – Most condoms have a reservoir tip to catch semen, some have a plain tip. If they have a reservoir tip, be sure to pinch the end when putting them on – if they have air inside them, they can break when you’re having sex.
How effective are condoms?
There’s lots of myths about how effective condoms are. If they’re used correctly, condoms are about 94% – 97% (depending on which study you look at) effective at preventing pregnancy and they’re nearly 100% effective at preventing transmission of HIV. Some people say that certain viruses can ‘pass through’ latex – that’s not true.
They won’t help against crabs, though, and some sexually transmitted infections (like herpes) can be caught through oral sex with someone who is infected, so you need to use condoms for this, too.
Is it even safer wearing two condoms?
No! The friction of the condoms rubbing together would probably make them both break, and it wouldn’t be very comfortable for the person wearing them. You also shouldn’t use the male and female condoms together.
Lubricant or ‘lube’ is like a cream or jelly which is sometimes used to make sex go a little more smoothly. Quite often being tense or rushing things can make sex difficult or painful, so try to relax and take your time. You might also want to use extra lubrication. There are many different brands of lube, for example KY Jelly, ID Glide, Astroglide or Liquid Silk, which you can buy from supermarkets or drugstores. There are also different types, for example some lubes are designed specifically for anal sex. If you are using a condom then you must use a water-based lubricant like KY Jelly, and not an oil-based lubricant like Vaseline. Make sure the lubricant only goes on the outside of the condom – if any gets on the inside, the condom can slip off during sex
Any tips for putting condoms on?
Firstly, you should put the condom on before there’s any contact between the penis and your partner’s body. Fluids released from the penis even very early on in sex can cause pregnancy or transmit an STI.
So, when the penis is erect, open the condom wrapper. Don’t do it with your teeth! This can cause tiny rips in the condom which you might not notice. Unroll the condom a little over the top of the penis – make sure that the roll is on the outside – if it’s backwards then the condom won’t unroll. If there’s any air trapped in the condom, this can cause it to break, so make sure you pinch the end to squeeze any air out. Then just firmly roll the condom down as far as you can. If you want to use any lube, put it on the outside of the condom and make sure it’s water-based lubricant. Oil based lubricants can weaken the condom and make it break.
After he has ejaculated, a man using a condom needs to stop and take the condom off. If you carry on having sex, it can burst. If you want to carry on, that’s fine, just put a new condom on again, and away you go. Never re-use a condom.
When the man pulls his penis out, he should hold the base of the condom to make sure that comes out, too. And when taking a condom off, don’t just pull on the end. Roll it back from the base and throw it away safely – you might want to tie a knot in the end to stop it leaking. Don’t flush used condoms down the toilet, and don’t leave it under the bed for your mum to find!