How to use a condom

By Reed Adams, PhD, Emanuel Fliegelman, DO, and Alan Grieco, PhD

Sexual abstinence is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including AIDS. If you do decide to have sex, correct use of a condom will help you to protect yourself and your partner against these risks. Until recently it was recommended by some agencies that you look for a condom treated with a spermicide called nonoxynol 9, which was also thought to be a chemical barrier against sexually transmitted infections. However, new evidence show that nonoxynol 9 does not add protection, and may actually increase chances for infection. A condom is the only barrier that can prevent acquisition of sexually transmitted infections among sexual partners. This guide tells you how to use a condom for maximum protection.

How to buy and maintain condoms

Do buy a supply of latex, reservoir (nipple)-end, lubricated condoms. They are available in different colors, textures, and sometimes in two different sizes. For those with severe allergy to latex, effective polyurethane condoms can now be purchased. Female condoms—a polyurethane sheath with a closed end that is inserted deep inside the vagina to catch sperm and an open end that remains outside the body—are another effective option. A good quality condom is the most important item needed for safer sex.

  • Do check expiration date on outer package.
  • Do store in a cool, dry place.
  • Do carry a condom with you at all times.
  • Don’t buy condoms made of any material other than latex if your main concern is protection against infection. Although polyurethane male condoms and female condoms prevent pregnancy, they provide a lesser level of protection against infection.
  • Don’t buy old (outdated) condoms.
  • Don’t store condoms in hot places. Heat can damage the condom.
  • Don’t be shy about buying condoms—thousands of condoms per year (10% of total sales) are bought by women.

How to put a condom on

  • Do remove rolled condom from package.
  • Do roll condom down on penis as soon as it is hard, before you engage in foreplay or start to make love.
  • Do leave 1/4 to 1/2 inch extra space at tip of condom to catch the ejaculate if the condom has no nipple.
  • Don’t unroll condom before it is placed on the penis; instead, carefully roll on all the way toward the base of the penis.
  • Don’t wait to put condom on until you are ready to enter your partner—it may be too late. Drops of semen may ooze from the uncovered penis before ejaculation, and may infect or impregnate your partner.
  • Don’t twist, bite or puncture condom—this will damage it and allow fluid to lead out.

(Click here to enlarge image)

How to take a condom off

  • Do hold the condom at the rim; remove soon after ejaculation while the penis is still firm.
  • Do keep used condom away from your partner, particularly the genital area.
  • Don’t let penis go soft inside partner—the condom may slip off, and protection will be lost.
  • Don’t tug or carelessly pull the condom off—it may tear.
  • Don’t allow semen to spill on your partner’s hands or body. Wash carefully if contact occurs. Wrap condom in tissue and dispose of safely.
  • Don’t allow semen to come in contact with a skin break, cut, or open wound.

Important points to remember

Use only water-soluble lubricants such as K-Y jelly or water.
Don’t use oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly or baby oil with latex condoms; they can damage the condoms.
Never use a condom more than once.
Only latex condoms can protect you from sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV infection.

How to talk about condoms with your partner

If your partner says: You can say:
“I’m on the pill, we don’t need a condom.” “I’d like to use it anyway. We’ll both be protected from infections we may not realize we have.”
“I know I’m clean; I haven’t had sex with anyone in months.” “Thanks for telling me. I’m disease-free too. But I’d still like to use a condom since either of us could have an infection and not know it.”
“I’m a virgin.” “I’m not. This way we’ll both be protected.”
“I can’t feel a thing when I use a condom. It’s like wearing a raincoat in a shower.” “Even if you lose some sensation, you’ll have plenty left.”
“I’ll lose my erection by the time I stop and put it on.” “I’ll help you put it on. That’ll help you keep it.”
“By the time I put it on, I’m out of the mood.” “Maybe so, but we feel strongly enough for each other to stay in the mood.”
“It destroys the romantic atmosphere.” “It doesn’t have to be that way.”
“Condoms are unnatural and fake—a total turnoff.” “Please let’s try to work this out—an infection isn’t so great either. So let’s give the condom a try. Or maybe we can look for alternatives to intercourse.”
“What kinds of alternatives?” “Maybe we could just pet, and postpone sex for a while. We could try manual stimulation too.”
“This is an insult! Do you think I’m some kind of disease-ridden slut/gigolo?” “I didn’t say or imply that; but in my opinion, it’s best to use a condom.”
“None of my other boyfriends uses a condom. A real man isn’t afraid.” “Please don’t compare me to them. A real man cares about the woman he dates, himself, and their relationship.”
“I love you. Would I give you an infection?” “Not intentionally. But many people don’t know they’re infected. That is why it is best for both of us right now.”
“Come on, just this once without?” “Once is all it takes.”
“I don’t have a condom with me.” “I do,” or “Then let’s satisfy each other without intercourse.”
“You carry a condom around with you? You were just trying to seduce me.” “I always carry one with me because I care about myself and my partner. I have one with me because I care about us.”
“I won’t have sex with you if you’re going to insist on using a condom.”
“So let’s put it off until we can agree. I won’t have sex without one.”