Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Shuvani Sanyal, MD
This guest post was written by Liz Sabatiuk, Social Media Manager for Bedsider.
We think it’s safe to say that good sexual decision-making (safer sex) – not to mention good sex – goes hand in hand with good communication and trust. That’s why we are so on board with The STI Project’s vision to ‘achieve modern-day STD prevention by eradicating the stigma surrounding STDs.’
At Bedsider, our favorite STI-preventing barrier birth control method for safer sex is the condom.
Most people have heard of condoms, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re taking advantage of everything the dual-purpose device has to offer. Here are 5 things we think everyone should know about the only method on the market which can prevent both pregnancy and STIs.
1. Condoms only work if you use them correctly.
The good news is that condoms are super-effective (98% effective for male condoms, 95% for female condoms) if you use them correctly.
The bad news? Most people don’t – which is why, on average, 18 out of 100 women who rely on male condoms (and 21 of 100 who rely on female condoms) for pregnancy prevention will get pregnant within a year.
What’s with the discrepancy?
Condoms can fail if:
- you don’t use them every single time you get hot and heavy;
- you don’t squeeze the air out of the tip before putting them on;
- you unroll them before putting them on;
- you use them with oil-based lube;
- you open the wrapper with something sharp;
- you use two condoms at once;
- you don’t leave room at the tip;
- they’re past their expiration date;
- they’ve been exposed to extreme temperatures.
And the list goes on.
In other words, if you’re relying on condoms to protect against pregnancy or STIs, make sure you’re an expert at using them.
A few tools to get you started:
- Step-by-step instructions on how to put a condom on;
- Step-by-step instructions for using the female condom;
- Our Condom Pro iPhone app lets you practice on random objects.
We say: practice makes perfect. Set up some IRL sexy condom practice sessions with your partner – or you can always start by practicing solo if you’re feeling shy.
2. There are so many options.
Condoms definitely aren’t one-size-fits-all – there are different brands, different sizes, different styles, different materials, and different ways to use them.
It’s important to take the time to shop around for a condom that’s comfortable for you and your partner, and then become an expert at using it.
A few unusual suspects worth investigating:
- They’ve gotten negative press in the past for being noisy and expensive, but the latest model, the FC2, is quieter and less expensive.
- Rumor has it that using female condoms can feel great for women and men (especially guys who have trouble finding male condoms that fit them comfortably).
- Most male condoms are made of latex – and most people are not allergic to it. If you or your partner are among the small group of people who do have a latex allergy, there are alternatives that protect against STIs.
- A few to look into: the female condom, Lifestyles SKYN, and Trojan’s Supra.
More lube (not oil-based, please)
- Using lubricated condoms and/or additional water- or silicone-based lubricant will make condoms less likely to break and may also increase pleasure.
- Some sexperts say putting a drop of lube inside the condom – can make sex feel better for the condom wearer.
Vibration rings with condoms
- Safer sex and vibration – sound like a winning combination to anyone else?
We say: Sign up for a monthly condom subscription service like Lucky Bloke or Dollar Rubber Club and try different options. Bonus tip: When you order female condoms from Lucky Bloke, they throw in an extra ‘practice’ condom for free!
3. Condoms play well with other birth control methods.
A lot of women stop using condoms when they start using a more effective or lower-maintenance birth control method, but, actually, keeping up with the condoms along with another method is the best way to stay as safe as possible.
Even if you’re in a monogamous relationship, it can take a while for some STIs to show up on a test. That’s why it’s best to stay protected from STIs even if you add a ‘serious’ birth control method into the mix.
If you’re using a barrier method that involves spermicide (like a diaphragm, cervical cap, or sponge), it’s especially important to double up with a condom since spermicide can irritate the lining of the vagina and other sensitive skin, making it easier to contract an STI.
We say: Doubling up on methods is the best policy – just remember two is not better than one when it comes to two condoms at once.
4. Condoms aren’t only for vaginal sex.
If you’re using condoms for STI protection, don’t limit them to vaginal sex – STIs can be transmitted by oral sex, anal sex, and even sex toys.
- For anal sex, it’s important to use a condom – male or female – with plenty of extra lubrication.
- Latex condoms are probably the best option for use with toys.
- On the oral sex front, there are lots of options for flavored condoms, dental dams, and lube.
Speaking of dental dams, you can make one with a condom: get your explanation in text or video form.
We say: Get flavored, get creative.
5. It’s up to you to make condoms hot.
Contrary to popular myth, condoms do not ruin sex.
In fact, we’d venture to say that protecting yourself and your partner from pregnancy and STIs can feel pretty hot. But don’t take our word for it. A study published this year found that couples who use condoms experience as much sexual pleasure as couples who don’t. (They may even carry the added bonus of making sex last longer).
What’s more likely to ‘ruin’ sex is a lack of communication – which probably goes hand in hand with a lack of experimentation.
So, let go of any worries you have that keeping condoms around will somehow send the wrong message and be proud that you’re taking control of your sexual health. Don’t be afraid to try different kinds of condoms until you find a condom (and maybe a water- or silicone-based lube) that works for you.
We say: Condoms are as sexy as you make them, whether that means knowing how to put them on with your mouth or just owning the fact that you always use one – no awkward moment necessary.
Of course, condoms are only part of the prevention picture, and accidents can happen – even to condom experts.
That’s why it’s important to get tested regularly, keep emergency contraception handy, and keep the lines of communication open.
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This guest post was written by Liz Sabatiuk, Social Media Manager for Bedsider. They believe everyone should have the life they want, when they want it. And until someone is ready to have a baby, they believe they should have access to birth control. That’s where Bedsider comes in. They make birth control easier. How? By giving you everything you need to find it, get it, and use it well. You can also find them in social media spaces like Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.
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Did you learn something from this article? Which safer sex method do you prefer to use or are you going to begin using? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Great post. I appreciate the emphasis on “communication” as key to a safe, fun experience. Couldn’t agree more.