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Condoms are a significant and important way to protect against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Acting as a barrier against the movement of sperm as well as the spread of bacteria that can cause diseases, these thin often-rubber shields are among the lowest cost and most effective contraceptive tools available.

However, in spite of these benefits, the advantages of condoms aren’t always common knowledge. Many schools teach abstinence, not condom usage, and there is a common misconception that condoms lead to less comfortable sex or aren’t needed if a partner is using another form of birth control.

Good sex means safe sex – and in virtually all cases, that means condoms. This is what you need to know about using condoms as protection in sexual situations and why condom use matters.

Types of Condoms

Condoms aren’t one-size-fits-all. These important contraceptive tools are available in several different shapes and styles to encompass as many kinds of sexual encounters as possible. These include ultra thin, extra large, ribbed, dotted, and flavored condoms.

Most condoms fall into two distinct categories: male condoms and female condoms.

Male Condoms

Male condoms are the best known form of condom. A thin sheath most commonly made from latex, these condoms are rolled over the top of the penis and down the shaft, creating a barrier. Sperm is collected in the tip of the condom to prevent the transmission of fluids.

Male condoms can differ greatly from one model to another. They are available in different sizes to accommodate the shape of the penis, as well as in various materials, like latex, plastic, or lambskin. Condoms are also sold in flavored varieties for use in oral sex, ultra thin condoms for that close to natural feel, and textured models to increase sensation during intercourse.

Condoms can be very effective when used properly, but this means carefully and precisely adhering to all directions. Failing to put a condom on properly can make errors far more likely, leading to the heightened potential for disease transmission or unplanned pregnancy.

How to Put on a Male Condom

  1. Rip open the wrapper and gently remove the condom from the packaging
  2. Inspect the condom for holes or tears
  3. Pinch the top of the condom, creating room in the tip
  4. Place the ring of the condom over the tip of the penis and unroll it all the way until the entire shaft is covered
  5. If the condom is not firmly in place or has ripped in the placement process, throw the condom away and start over
  6. Replace condoms between every sexual act

After sex, condoms should be removed right away. To do this, men should grab the base of the penis while withdraw from their partner, ideally while the penis is still erect. A flaccid penis will not fit within the condom properly, which can cause leakage. Once unencumbered, the condom can be gently rolled off of the penis. Care should be taken to prevent spillage.

If a man is uncircumcised, the process of putting on a condom is similar. Some men may prefer to pull the foreskin away for a more comfortable fit.

Female Condoms

Female condoms are less common than male condoms but can still serve a valuable purpose. These condoms are larger than male condoms and feature two flexible rubber rings. The smaller ring is used to hold the condom in place while the lower ring stays outside of the vagina to create a barrier. Plastic female condoms are no longer FDA-approved in the U.S.; all current female condoms are produced with synthetic latex.

How to Put on a Female Condom

  1. Open the wrapper and remove the condom from its packaging
  2. Inspect the condom for any holes or tears
  3. Grasp the smaller ring and guide the condom into the vagina until the ring is firmly in place; be sure the entirety of the outer ring is outside of the vagina
  4. If the condom rips during application or does not appear to be all the way inside, remove the condom and use a new one

What Size Condom Do I Need?

Condoms are sold in numerous different sizes, from smaller variations to extra large condoms. In spite of this, the vast majority of men will find standard condoms to be comfortable and effective.

There is a common misconception that condom size relates to length when, in reality, it is more applicable to girth. Men with a penile girth under four and a half inches may want a snugger fit condom, while men over five and a half inches may prefer a larger size. As sizes can vary from one brand to another, it’s important to try numerous options to find the best possible fit. As penis size does not play a significant a role in sexual satisfaction for a man’s partner, men are encouraged to choose the right condom size for their body, not an overly large size to attempt to send a message.

How Should a Condom Fit?

The point of a condom is to serve as a protective barrier against the transmission of sperm. As such, it should be snug enough to stay in place during sexual intercourse. Condoms should be in full contact with all areas of the penis, save for the space left in the tip that acts as a reservoir to collect semen. If a condom easily slips off, does not reach the base of the penis, or feels uncomfortably tight, a user may want to consider a different size.

How Effective Are Condoms?

In general, condoms are extremely effective, around 98% when used properly. It is important to note that proper use is a key part of disease and pregnancy prevention. A condom that is improperly placed or is torn can greatly increase risks. When condoms aren’t placed properly or removed safely, effectiveness drops to closer to 85%. As such, users are encouraged to be diligent when using condoms, including using condoms in all sexual encounters, removing condoms properly, and ensuring condoms are new and in good shape. Condoms that are old, kept in a wallet, or are exposed to high temperatures can be brittle and more prone to breakage.

With perfect use, around two in 100 users will fall pregnant per year. With regular use, about 15 in 100 users will become pregnant. This is why perfect use is highly encouraged. To reduce risks, users are encouraged to consider other forms of birth control in addition to condoms, like hormonal contraception.

What to Do if a Condom Breaks

Condoms are intended to be a safeguard against pregnancy and STDs while still offering a comfortable experience. As such, the material used to manufacture condoms is very thin and, consequently, may be subject to tearing and ripping. While not common, this can happen, particularly if condoms aren’t the right size, aren’t changed between intercourse sessions, or aren’t stored properly.

Men wearing condoms are likely to notice a different sensation, particularly in areas in which the penis is no longer protected. The condom may also feel looser or may slide off during intercourse.

If a condom breaks, it is important to cease sexual contact immediately. Even if an act has just started, female partners are encouraged to take emergency contraceptives, more colloquially known as Plan B, in order to prevent against pregnancy. Those who have engaged in sex with a broken condom should also seek testing for STDs as soon as possible.

A new condom should be used if any additional activity is to continue after a condom breaks or tears. A broken condom should never be reused.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy Condoms?

Condoms are not a controlled substance. Therefore, there is no minimum age to buy condoms. If a clerk asks for an ID or asks how old you are, you are not obligated to answer. There are no local, state, or federal laws that preclude minor from purchasing condoms for personal use.

What Is the Best Condom?

Condoms are made in many different shapes and sizes, differing in material, scale, and texture. In most cases, condoms are more alike than different, with many brands offering similar products, regardless of price point.

Valm’s selection of condoms is expansive and affordable, providing thin condoms for heightened sensations during sex, large condoms for men who need a little more space, and studded condoms to increase pleasure. Shop your favorites and see how effective a great condom can be.

The History of the Condom

Condoms have existed in many different forms across numerous different societies dating back to the early days of humanity.

Condoms made from animal intestines were in use as early as medieval times, with other scholars noting evidence of potential use as far as back as ancient Persia in the tenth century. There is no clear way to identify who invented the original concept of the condom, as the idea of putting a barrier over the penis or within the vagina to stop the spread of sperm has existed for thousands of years. In the 16th century, doctor Gabriele Falloppio was the first known healthcare practitioner to suggest condoms to his patients to stop the spread of disease. This recommendation has, of course, shaped the ways in which we address STD and pregnancy prevention today.

Condoms made from animal intestines were the norm through the 1800s, with men using a small piece of ribbon around the base of the penis to keep the condom in place during intercourse. However, as this practice was generally associated with prostitution, the condom was heavily stigmatized at this point in history.

The development of vulcanized rubber revolutionized the condom industry, with rubber condoms hitting the market in the 1860s. However, these condoms had a seam down the middle, making them quite uncomfortable. This process led to a seamless condom decades later, as well as the introduction of a condom made from fish bladders.

The development of condom technology hit a snag in the 1880s, with the passing of the Comstock Laws. These laws, which banned any kind of sexually lewd material of any kind, made condoms illegal. However, this did not stop some enterprising inventors, like Julius Schmid, the founder of the successful Ramses and Sheik condom company and Merle Young, the founder of Young’s Rubber Company and the inception of one of the most famous condom brands of all time: Trojan.

In the 1930s, the Supreme Court legalized condoms, allowing doctors to prescribe them to patients to prevent disease. At this point, the competition expanded, with the introduction of latex speeding along the process. In spite of the affordable options available, the debut of the birth control pill in the 1960s saw a decline in condom use – until the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. With the risks of unprotected sex rising to new highs, the importance of condoms became clearer than ever.

Today, condoms are encouraged for sexual intercourse of all kinds. With the ability to defend against both pregnancy and disease, condoms should be worn during any sexual encounter.