What is a condom and how does it work?

  • Male Condom: A thin sheath that fits snugly over an erect penis to act as a barrier. The closed end of the condom catches the semen, so that it cannot pass into your partner at the time of ejaculation.
  • Female Condom: Allows women to control use of a barrier method to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

When should condoms be used?

Condoms should be used for all acts of vaginal, anal or oral sex (on a man) to help prevent pregnancy and/or the transmission of sexually transmitted infections.

How effective are condoms?

When used correctly and consistently, condoms are very effective in preventing sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.  However, condoms typical effectiveness is lower because people do not always use them correctly and they do not use them every time they have intercourse.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy:

  • Discuss condom use with your partner before you get physically involved
  • Be sure you know how to use a condom correctly
  • Practice applying a condom, so you can do it quickly and correctly when you need to
  • Use a new condom every time you have sex

What types of condoms are best?

Condoms are made of several different materials: latex rubber, polyurethane, polyisoprene, and lambskin. Most condoms come lubricated, and some have a spermicide applied to them. Latex condoms, used with a non-spermicidal lubricant, are the best type of condom to use to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and unwanted pregnancy. Spermicides can cause irritation, making individuals more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections. Lambskin condoms are too porous to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections. Non-latex condoms, such as those made with polyurethane and polyisoprene, are useful for individuals allergic to latex, but they are somewhat less effective than latex condoms.

Condoms are available in many varieties: there are different brands, colors, flavors, shapes, and textures. You may want to experiment with different condoms to determine the type(s) of condom that is most satisfactory to you and your partner.

How do you use the condom?

Condoms must be used correctly in order to be effective. Condoms are packaged individually. In order to maintain their effectiveness, they must be protected from heat.

  1. Beforehand
    • Get condoms. They are available at different locations on campus, through local drugstores and online vendors. Make sure you get FDA approved condoms, not novelty products (like those sometimes available from gas stations and gift stores).
    • Protect condoms from heat. Heat can breakdown latex, making condoms more likely to break.
  2. Getting ready
    • Check the expiration date of condoms before use.  Over time, latex breaks down, making condoms more likely to break.
    • Open condom packaging carefully, so you don't pierce or tear the condom. Inspect the condom to make sure there are no signs of damage.
  3. Putting It On

    Before any sexual contact, when the penis is erect:

    • Pinch the condom at its tip to squeeze out any air.
    • Apply lubricant under the condom, if you'd like, to increase sensitivity.
    • Place the condom on the top of the penis head, and unroll the condom to cover the entire penis.
    • If you put it on backwards and it does not unroll easily, don't flip it over; there may be semen on it. Use another condom.
  4. Increasing Comfort

    Insufficient lubrication can cause discomfort and chafing or condom breakage.

    • Feel free to add a water-based lubricant once the condom is unrolled over the erect penis, even if the condom was already lubricated.
    • Additional lubricant can also be applied directly to the receptive partner.
    • There are a variety of lubricants available. Make sure to use a water-based lubricant that won't damage the condom, but feel free to experiment to determine what works best for you and your partner.
  5. Taking It Off

    Right after ejaculation (coming):

    • Hold the condom at the rim at the base of the penis while the wearer pulls out slowly with the penis still erect. This will keep the condom from slipping off inside your partner or any semen from being spilled.
    • Tie a knot at the end of the condom, to prevent it from spilling, and throw the condom away in the trash.

Where can I get condoms on campus?

  • Condoms may be purchased very inexpensively at the M.S. Shook Student Health Service pharmacy.
  • Wellness & Prevention Services facilitates distribution of safer sex supplies through a number of locations around App State.

Page content reviewed: 06/04/18 fwg