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.
Internal Condoms / Reality®
Also known and female condoms, this is a soft, loose-fitting 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 internal 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).
- Internal 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 internal 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 internal 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: