Condoms are ubiquitous. When it comes to preventing sexually transmitted infections (and pregnancies), condoms are usually the first choice. After all, they are inexpensive, easy to get, and good at their job—most of the time.
Using a condom during intercourse can be up to 98 percent effective in preventing the spread of STIs. But condoms are only as good as their users. When used incorrectly or inconsistently, condoms can be rendered completely ineffective.
Addressing the consistency aspect is easy. If you use a condom every time you put a penis inside someone, you’ve got the consistent part down pat.
Using a condom correctly probably seems even easier, especially after you’ve done it a dozen times: You take it out of the package, roll it on, and you’re good to go! Right?
However, there are a number of mistakes people commonly make when putting on a condom, and these mistakes can cause the condom’s effectiveness rate to plummet.
No worries, if you just follow these simple tips, you’ll be having sex that’s worry-free and even more fun:
1. Size Definitely Matters
Sure, those extra-large condoms come with a tremendous ego boost, but there are massive problems using a condom that’s way too big. We’re not talking length here. Usually it’s a question of girth: The problem with extra-large condoms is that they are often too wide. A loose fit leads to friction, and that friction can lead to breakage.
So it’s important to make sure you find the condoms that fit the penis in front of you. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are at the “rip, tip, and roll” if your condom doesn’t fit. Fortunately, some brands, like LifeStyles Condoms, offer a wide range of styles and sizes so you can experiment to find the perfect fit. LifeStyles’ latex Snugger Fit, for example, is shorter and narrower than the average condom, while the longer and wider SKYN Large condom is made from a softer, highly flexible polyisoprene material that conforms more easily to the wearer than latex does. Experiment with a few different condoms to see what really fits.
2. Use Your Wallet for Money, Not Condoms
Admittedly, storing your condom in your wallet seems like a brilliant idea. It’s always with you, which means you’ll always be ready for action. The problem is, stocking your wallet with condoms will actually work against you. The same goes for the glove compartment of your car. Storing your condoms where they are exposed to constant pressure, friction, or heat will weaken the material and make the condoms less reliable. Just like your medications, red wine, or smartphone, condoms are best stored in cool, dry places.
3. Take Older Condoms Out of Service
Just like you’d never pour a questionable carton of milk on your cereal, you should never put an expired condom on your penis. Condoms have an expiration date for good reason: They expire. Over time, condoms can become brittle and tear. Check the date and make it a habit to inspect the condom before you use it to make sure it’s not dry, ripped, or sticky. When in doubt, throw
4. Roll With It
Now that you’ve made sure your condom fits correctly and hasn’t expired, make sure you follow these steps to put it on correctly. Open the package carefully.
Avoid using anything sharp that could tear or damage the condom, including teeth, nails, or jewelry. Adding a drop of lubricant inside the tip of the condom can provide a little extra pleasure for the condom wearer. If the penis is uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin before putting on the condom.
Most condoms only roll one direction. Position the tip of the condom so it is pointing away from the body, aiming the same direction as the head of the penis. Next pinch the air out of the reservoir tip, as this will reduce the chance of breakage.
Using both hands is a good idea at this point. Use one hand to hold the condom at the head of the penis and the other hand to slip it over the head and unroll it. As you roll the condom down toward the base of the penis, clear out any air bubbles that form on the way. To avoid slippage, double-check that the rolled-down condom covers the entire shaft.
Even if the condom is lubricated, you might want to add a little extra lubricant to the outside before you insert the penis.
5. Ready, Set, Sex
With the condom worn consistently and correctly, you’re all set for some scintillating safe sex. But your job isn’t quite over yet. After ejaculation but before pulling out, grasp the condom at the base of the penis. Holding the condom securely to the penis as it is pulled out avoids leakage or having the condom fall off inside. Remove the condom, tie the top into a knot to avoid any sticky messes, and discard it in the trash.
Making sure the condom you use isn’t expired, fits correctly, and was rolled on properly will only take a few extra seconds, but it can save you a heap of problems like incurable STIs. Once you’ve rolled the right condom on, you’ll be free to have safe, enjoyable sex without the worry of a condom malfunction.
Dr. Emily Morse is a sex and relationship expert with degrees in human sexuality and psychology. She runs the popular website SexWithEmily.com and is the host of the top-downloaded podcast Sex With Emily.