What is a condom?
A male condom helps protect partners from pregnancy and reproductive tract
infections, including HIV/AIDS. A male condom is shaped like a penis and is
usually made of latex. It can fit over an erect penis or a similarly-shaped
sex toy. A male condom can be used for vaginal or anal intercourse,
sex, or sex
toys. It works by providing a barrier between partners so that bodily fluids,
like semen, blood, and saliva, are not shared. This helps ensure that sexually
transmitted infections are not passed and pregnancy does not occur. Male condoms
are the only currently available effective and reversible birth control method
for men. Male condoms are 85-98% effective.
Condom Failure Care
Male condoms are only effective when placed just before intercourse or oral
sex. At first, male condoms can be awkward to use; take your time and become
familiar with them. It may be helpful to practice prior to sexual play. Either
partner can put a condom on the penis as part of sexual play. For some people,
learning how to put on a condom before sex play can help reduce anxiety with
a partner. During sex, water-based lubricants can be used with male condoms.
DO NOT use two condoms at once. Male condoms and female condoms should not
be used at the same time. Placing two male condoms on a penis can raise the
chance of tearing.
After sex play, throw away the condom. DO NOT REUSE it. Also, do not use the
same condom if you engage in both vaginal and anal intercourse.
The male condom is placed on a man's erect penis. Before putting on the condom,
uncircumcised men may find it useful to pull back the foreskin. With one hand,
squeeze a half-inch of the tip to remove air and leave room for semen. With
your other hand, you can unroll the condom to the base of the penis. The band
of latex at the open end of a male condom helps to keep it from slipping during
After ejaculating, withdraw the penis before losing the erection. To keep
sperm from leaking out, hold the condom on the penis during withdrawal. Throw
away the condom and use a new one if sex continues. Maintain distance between
you and your partner's genitals to help prevent infection or pregnancy. Sperm
may still be on the penis after the condom is taken off.
Most people prefer using male condoms without spermicide for oral sex. You
can also buy flavored male condoms.
For oral sex on a woman, male condoms can be used as dental dams to protect
against the spread of infections. Cut off the closed tip of the condom. Make
another cut along the side of the condom. This will give you a rectangular
sheet. Place the sheet over the genitals or over a partner's mouth. Be careful
to keep any areas of contact fully covered by the condom during oral sex.
After oral sex, throw away the condom.
For oral sex on a man, the condom is placed on the penis as it would be for
intercourse. After oral sex, throw away the condom.
If you and your partner choose to share a toy, like a dildo, using a male
condom on the toy can help prevent the spread of infection. Change the condom
between uses by different partners. DO NOT use the same condom for more than
one person. In addition, wash the sex toy with soap and water when you are
There is a chance that male condoms could break or slip during sex. If this
occurs, women may consider taking Emergency Contraception or the 'Morning After'
Pill to prevent pregnancy.
Prevent Condom Failure
The most common causes of condom failure are breakage and slipping. To prevent
a condom from breaking, make sure there is enough lubrication from natural secretions
or a water-based lubricant. Dryness creates more friction and can tear a condom.
To keep a condom from slipping off, make sure the rim stays near the base of
the penis during intercourse. This is especially important at the end of intercourse
as the penis is withdrawn. Either partner can hold onto the rim.
Oil-based lubricants, like Vaseline or edible oils, weaken male condoms and
make them less effective.
Store condoms in cool, dry places. Exposure to heat, such as a back-pocket
wallet or a hot glove compartment can create microscopic holes. Most male condoms
can be kept in their packages for about 2-3 years. Those with spermicide are
usually effective for about 2 years. Check the condom's expiration date before
using it with a partner.
If you or your partner experiences genital burning or itching, it may be a
sign of an allergy to either the condom or spermicide used. If you used a latex
condom, try using condoms without latex. You can also try a spermicide with
different chemicals than the one you used. If your spermicide contains nonoxynol-9,
try one without.
- Prevents the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and
- Birth control for men.
- Available without a prescription.
- No hormonal side effects.
- Use can be part of sex play.
- Easy to use.
- Does not affect future fertility.
- May decrease women's risk for developing pre-cancerous cells on the cervix.
- Must be readily available.
- Can interrupt sex play.
- Can break or leak.
- Possible allergic reaction.
- Decreased sensation for some people.