Why do people always go on about condoms?
Because if you want to have sex with someone, they're important! Sex can
be great, but there are risks involved. Aside from all the emotional issues,
you can catch infections, and a woman can become pregnant. If you don't want
to end up in a STD clinic or with a baby, using a condom is a good idea. Do
you like the idea of telling your parents that you're pregnant or
you have herpes?
It's okay - my boy/girlfriend'll sort it out. . .
Some people think it's the man's job to make sure he uses a condom, some
people think contraception is up to the woman. They're both wrong - it takes two
to have sex, so both partners should make an effort. If you're not responsible
enough to sort out contraception, you're not responsible enough to be having
sex. If you're sleeping with someone, you should have enough respect for them to
What about when we haven't got a condom?
Then if you want to be safe, you'll have to get one. Some types of
contraception (such as the pill) are more effective than condoms for avoiding
pregnancy, but won't reduce your chances of contracting a sexually transmitted
And if you're single, it doesn't hurt to carry condoms with you - just in
Doesn't that make me look 'easy'?
No - it makes you look like you're mature enough to look after yourself.
Oh, and it's okay to put a condom in your pocket or your wallet if you're
going out for the night, but don't keep them in there for long - they'll go
squidgy! Condoms need to be stored in a cool, dry place. They also have a
sell-by date on the packet - don't use condoms that are too old.
You can't catch anything or get pregnant on your first time
though, can you?
Actually, you can. 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 one when he masturbates, to get used to what
it feels like and what to do with it when he finishes.
Okay. . . so where can I get some?
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 sometimes schools and planning committees even have supplies of
free condoms for teenagers. In most places, you can buy condoms whatever your
But there's so many different kinds! Which ones are best?
There are a lot of different kinds of condoms, but don't worry. Here's a list
of the different types you can get :
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.
This can help to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy. One of the most common
spermicides, though, 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
use 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 by orally, so it's a good idea to use condoms 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
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.
I'm still not sure...
If you're unsure about what to do, it can help to talk things through with an
adult but sometimes this is not possible. Teens sometimes find it embarrassing
talking to their parents about sex - you could try asking a teacher or a
guidance councillor for advice and information, if you're more comfortable with
So how good are they really?
There's lots of myths about how good or bad 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 some 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.
What is the female condom?
There is also now a female condom, which is a type of pouch which
fits inside the vagina. See our female
condom page for more information.
How do I mention condoms without spoiling the moment?
"Everything's going great, the atmosphere's really romantic, and then you
have to get a condom out. . . ."
One of the main reasons that teens say they don't like using condoms is that
they think condoms interrupt a passionate moment - and it's true that it can be
difficult to find, open and unroll a condom in the dark when you've both got
your minds on other things.
But it doesn't have to be difficult and it doesn't have to 'spoil the
The best way to make sure you can put a condom easily is to practise in
advance . . . girls can practise on appropriately shaped vegetables. Then, when
the time arrives to do it for real, you'll know what you're doing. Putting a
condom on can be quite sexy. It doesn't have to be done by whoever is going to
wear the condom - it can be quite an intimate thing for his partner to do.
Keep your condoms and some lube close by, then you won't have to get up, put
the lights on, go into the bathroom and hunt around in the back of the
What is 'lube'?
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, like KY Jelly, ID Lube or Liquid Silk, which
you can buy from supermarkets or drugstores. But 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. Oh, and lube goes on the outside of the condom, when
the man is wearing it - if you put it on the inside, the condom can slip
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
If you want to use any lube, put it on the outside of the condom and make
sure it's water-based lubricant, such as KY. Oil based lubricants can weaken the
condom and make it break.
What if it breaks?
If a condom breaks while you're having sex, then stop right away and put
a new condom on. While you're having sex you can sometimes feel if a condom
has broken, but not always, so you should check occasionally that it's okay.
If you think some semen has escaped from the condom you might want to think
about talking to your doctor about getting emergency contraception and a HIV/STD
Do I need to use a condom for oral sex?
Yes, you should really. Some sexually transmitted diseases and infections
(such as herpes) can be passed on by oral sex. When you use a condom for oral
sex, you should change condoms before having vaginal or anal sex, because teeth
may have made little holes in it.
What about anal sex?
Again, yes. Anal sex is one of the most high-risk things you can do in terms
of STIs, and it won't necessarily stop a woman getting pregnant. Anal sex can
put more strain on a condom, so you can use stronger ones but standard ones are
just as effective if used correctly with plenty of lubricant not containing
Okay, when do we stop?
After he has cum, 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 - they cause pollution. And don't leave it under the bed for your mum to
For a look at all the questions we have been asked about condoms
visit our Condoms
and Spermicides page.
If you were searching for more detailed information about using
condoms try our Using Condoms,
Condom Types and Sizes page.
For more general facts about condoms take a look at our Condoms,
History, Effectiveness and Testing page.
Basic Info about
about Female Condom