Fact: If you’re having sex, condoms are the best way to protect against STIs.
With a 97% rate of effectiveness, condoms help prevent pregnancy, stop the spread of STIs, and provide even better protection when they’re combined with another form of birth control.
Take a scroll and find out where you can get condoms, how they work, and the most effective ways to use them.
What do you know about condoms?
Did you know that besides abstinence (not having sex), condoms are the best method of protecting against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? Condoms are 97% effective when they are used properly.
Condoms also help to prevent pregnancy and provide even better protection when they’re doubled up with another form of birth control.
Anyone can use them, no matter their gender or size or even if they have allergies. Condoms today are made with all this in mind, so you can find the right one to keep you safe.
Pick them up free from a clinic, and be sure to keep them in a cool, dry place (like a locker or drawer, not the wallet in your back pocket). Storing condoms in a squished or hot environment can weaken them and they might break when you go to use them. Check the expiry date, too, since expired condoms are also less effective.
Why should I use a condom?
Here are a few reasons why you should use a condom:
- They’re your best defense against STIs.
- They help prevent pregnancy.
- They come in cool shapes and textures that might even enhance your sexual experience.
- They’re safe for all users. If you’re allergic to latex, polyurethane condoms might be a good choice.
- You can probably get them for free.
Different kinds of condoms
Condoms come in different sizes, shapes, and materials. Options are available so you and your partner can decide what will work for you.
Male condoms are the most commonly used type of condom. They’re made to fit over the penis (or certain sex toys), with room at the tip for collecting semen. These condoms are typically made of latex or synthetic materials, and they come in different sizes and shapes to fit different sizes and shapes of penises. Some of the male condom options are:
- Most condoms are made of latex: Latex is thin and prevents all sperm, bacteria, and viruses from passing through it. Latex condoms are inexpensive and even free in many places. Only water-based lubricants can be used with latex. For example, you can use K-Y Jelly®, Astroglide®, or Wet Lubricants®. Do not use ANY oil based lube – you will tear the condom.
- Condoms can also be made out of polyurethane. This is a great option for people who have latex allergies and it is just as safe and effective as latex. These condoms can be a little more expensive and a little more difficult to find. However, they can be used with both water and oil based lubricants (like body oil, butter and Vaseline).
- Lambskin condoms will prevent pregnancy, but the pores are too big to prevent the transmission of some viruses (like HIV). Do not use a lambskin condom for safer sex.
- You can also find “novelty condoms” (joke condoms or “specialty” condoms). Don’t automatically trust these for safer sex; read the label closely to see if they are really for STI protection.
Not all penises are the same shape. That’s why condoms come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles, including thin, ribbed, coloured, or studded. If one kind or brand of condom doesn’t work for you or your partner, try adding lube or try different ones until you find one that works.
Condoms also come in many flavours, which is great for oral sex. But these condoms may cause yeast infections, so it’s a good idea to switch to a regular lubricated condom for vaginal or anal sex. Coloured condoms can also make sex a little more fun and interesting – go ahead and surprise your partner.
“Female condoms” / Reality® condom
This is a plastic pouch (polyurethane) that’s inserted into the vagina or anus. There’s a flexible ring at the bottom of the pouch that keeps the condom in place, and a flexible ring at the other end that opens outside the body. Here are some of the benefits to using the female condom:
- It’s suitable for people who are allergic to latex.
- It can be put in up to eight hours before sex happens, so there’s no need to pause before sex to put a male condom on.
- It sits just outside the body, so it covers a bit more area and so can help a little more than male condoms to prevent STIs that are spread by skin-to-skin contact (like herpes or HPV).
- Female condoms are free at some clinics, but you may want to call first to make sure they have them in stock. You can also pick them up at most stores that sell condoms or pharmacies.
Sex dams, also called dental dams, are kind of like condoms – actually, they can even be made out of male condoms. They’re used as a barrier between your mouth and the other person’s vagina, anus, or testicles during oral sex.
How to use a condom
It’s really important to use a condom from the very beginning of anal, oral, or vaginal sex and to keep it on until the very end. This is because some infections don’t need semen (‘cum’) to be transmitted (they can be spread from skin-to-skin contact), and even small amounts of pre-cum can transmit STIs or cause pregnancy.
Whether you’re using a male condom, a female condom, or a sex/dental dam, these are important things to check before you even take the condom out of its package:
- Are there any rips, holes, or tears in the package? If there are, the condom could be damaged. Even if it doesn’t look damaged to you, all it takes is a tiny pin-sized hole to make it ineffective.
- Check the expiry date. You should find this on the back of a male condom package and under the back flap of a female condom. Expired condoms are a lot more likely to break, and if they have spermicide on them, it likely won’t work if it’s past its expiry date.
- Does the package say it will help prevent STIs, HIV, and pregnancy? If it says “For novelty use only,” that is a big red flag that the condom should not be used.
For specific instructions on how to use different kinds of condoms (with pictures), click on the links below:
Sometimes people feel embarrassed going into a store and asking for condoms. But you should be proud! Buying condoms says that you are responsible and that you accept your sexuality as a normal part of your life.
You can also find free condoms by checking out our Clinic and Condom Finder.
What if my partner doesn’t want to use a condom?
Ideally, you should talk with your partner about using condoms before you have sex. Explain to your partner why using a condom is important to you. You can also send them to this website if they want to read it for themselves.
But, if they decide they don’t want to use one right when you’re about to have sex, you might feel pressured to just go ahead without one. If you want to communicate with them – and quickly – click on the ‘Condom Comebacks’ (below) to help get your point across: