Condoms: Get the facts - Play Safe

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Hopefully you use them each time you have sex, but just because you get intimate with condoms doesn’t mean you really KNOW them. So, here are some interesting facts about the humble but heroic condom that you may not know…

Not all condoms are made from latex

Some of the first condoms ever used were made of animal guts. True! Now, most condoms are made of latex, which is a type of rubber, but there are also condoms made of non-latex materials called polyurethane. These are a good alternative for anyone with a latex allergy. Plus, they’re a bit thinner than a latex condom.

Sex ‘feels’ better without a condom

This is definitely not true. You can absolutely still enjoy the feeling of sex while wearing a condom and still climax (if that’s your aim — which it doesn’t have to be). If latex doesn’t work for you, there are non-latex condoms to choose from that are thinner and may allow for a more sensitive experience. Remember though, sex always feels best when it’s safe, which means you’re protected from STIs or unplanned pregnancy and a condom does both! So, sex with a condom will feel great, simply because you can relax and enjoy it without fear of infections.

Condoms make sex last longer

They may, or they may not. At the end of the day, a condom is an extra layer of something between the penis or sex toy and the vagina, anus or mouth during sex. So it can ‘feel’ different to sex without a condom. In some instances, people with a penis claim that wearing a condom reduces a little bit of sensitivity which means they can ‘last longer’. The good news is, this is often received well…so it’s not something to be concerned about.

Condoms can fail

When used correctly, condoms are 98% effective in protecting you from STIs and unplanned pregnancy. So they’re pretty reliable. They can fail but if they do, it’s often because they weren’t stored or used correctly. Make sure you know how to use condoms.

Remember, they don’t last forever

Condoms do expire. So always check the expiration date before you use them. They’re not a fan of the heat or sun and they don’t survive in places that might put them at risk of getting a hole in them. That includes being near your keys or other sharp objects. So if you’re heading out, think about the best place for your condoms to travel and check on them when you get home. Storing them in your bed-side-table works really well for both convenience and longevity.

Learn how to use them

If it’s not on properly…then it’s not on. It may seem simple but when it comes to condom usage on a penis, there are a few things to note. It’s like anything really, you don’t want to go out wearing your shirt inside out or with your shoes on the wrong feet—so don’t have sex with a condom that’s not been put on correctly. 

  1. Be careful when tearing the wrapper open, you don’t want to damage the condom. 
  2. To put the condom on, make sure it’s the right way up, hold the tip of the condom and squeeze out any air pockets, then roll it down over an erect penis (it won’t work if your penis isn’t hard…)
  3. If you’re using lube, always choose a water-based one. Anything else could damage or cause tearing with the condom during sex. Make sure to use lots of lube for anal sex. This helps to minimise the risk of the condom breaking and can increase pleasure.
  4. Hold onto the base of the penis and slowly remove the condom. This helps avoid any ‘spillage’. 
  5. Always dispose of the condom in the bin, not in the toilet.

Condoms protect against…

STIs AND unplanned pregnancy. They’re actually the only form of contraception to protect against both.

Condoms can be fun

Make things interesting with flavoured, glow-in-the-dark, ribbed, coloured, even ‘tingly’ condoms. Not only do they protect you against STIs but they also can make sex more enjoyable both emotionally and physically. When you know you’re protecting yourself and your partner, the sex will always be more enjoyable. 

We know things don’t always go to plan. If you have a mishap with a condom (maybe it broke, maybe you didn’t put it on properly, or maybe you just got caught up in the moment) that’s ok — try not to panic. Simply go and get an STI test at least 7 days after having unprotected sex. For more immediate action, your options include a PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) within 72 hours if concerned about HIV or ECP (emergency contraception pill) if concerned about pregnancy. Getting an STI test in NSW is easy…and free.  If you’re worried about an unplanned pregnancy, click here to read advice from Family Planning and our Play Safe blog.

Do you have more questions about condoms? Ask our sexual health nurse Nurse Nettie, or join the conversation on the Play Safe forum.