How To Choose A Condom
Internal condoms or external? Latex or lambskin? Magnum? Glow-in-the-dark? Lubricated? Selecting the right condom for you can be overwhelming. Consider this your go-to guide
There are a bunch of options when it comes to safer sex practices: birth control pills, latex barriers, and IUDs to name a few. Of the many options, condoms are arguably the most commonly used barrier method, praised for their relative affordability, their portability, and their ability to minimize the risk of unplanned pregnancy. Most significantly, condoms are the only type of birth control that help protect against STIs during penetration!
That said, condoms are only effective when used correctly, so the first step to condom use is picking the right one. But with so many colors, shapes, sizes, and flavors—how do you choose? Condom selection is the frozen yogurt bar of the sexual world! Need some help with the menu? Here’s a handy guide to walk you through it:
Choose Your Condom Style: Internal Or External?
There are two styles of condom: external condoms and internal condoms. Deciding between these is the foundation of your condom experience. They are similar in many ways: accessibility, cost, and effectiveness at pregnancy and STI protection. Your choice between these two options depends on who will be wearing the condom.
When folks talk about condoms, they are typically referring to the external condom. External condoms cover the surface of penetrative objects, such as a penis or a sex toy. They come in many varieties, making them versatile options for sexual scenarios.
Condoms are the only type of birth control that help protect against STIs.
Internal condoms are meant to be placed inside a vaginal canal or anus to offer a barrier of protection during intercourse. Although insertion can take some getting used to, they can also be convenient, as the internal condom can be inserted up to eight hours before sexual activity, so there’s no need to pause to go get your condom.
Decide What’s Inside: Choose Your Condom Materials
Now that you’ve decided on your basic style of choice, take a moment to consider what materials your condoms are made of. External condoms are typically made of either rubber (latex), or plastic (nitrile, polyurethane, or polyisoprene). All internal condoms are made from a thin plastic called nitrile.
Latex is the thickest of these materials, making it least susceptible to breaking. It is also most easily found, and the most researched. While most people can use latex condoms without side effects, some people do have allergies to latex. If you know or suspect your partner may have an allergy, consider plastic options instead. Because plastic condoms are thinner, an added benefit is that they allow more of the sensations to be felt.
While most people can use latex condoms without side effects, some people do have allergies to latex.
Check the ingredients list to be sure that the condom doesn’t contain other common allergens and irritants. What you should be watching for are perfumes, dyes, and nonoxynol-9—which is a compound found in spermicide.
Choose Your Condom Size: Bigger Isn’t Better
After putting it on incorrectly, one of the biggest reasons that condoms can be ineffective is when they are the wrong size for the wearer. Condoms are marketed as one size fits all, but especially in the case of external condoms, the fit is extremely important. So what size do you choose?
If the condom is too tight, it will not only be uncomfortable for the person wearing it, but it is likely to break, eliminating its ability to do its job of protection. If it is too loose, it may fall off.
The celebrity of the Trojan Magnum has lured many people into making the purchase without considering the risks of a poor fit. But if a condom is too loose, it may fall off. And if the condom is too tight, it will not only be uncomfortable for the person wearing it, but it is likely to break, eliminating its ability to do its job of protection.
To be safe, measure the length and girth of the penis or toy before condom shopping (try using a piece of dental floss to measure circumference). Then when you are looking at the condom package, check to see which sizes it is intended to fit. If there is no size information listed, condoms are generally crafted to fit lengths of 6.5 to 8.5 inches.
Internal condoms are both wider and longer than external condoms, so there is more breathing room overall, and because of the way they work there is little risk of slipping off or coming out.
Dress It Up: Accessorize And Experiment With Condom Styles
Just like when you’re at a frozen yogurt bar, external condoms allow you to customize your selection. You can add lube, ribbing, colors, or some temperature-play in the form of warming or cooling condoms. They can be flavored, which can be fun for oral play, or something a little quirkier, like glow-in-the-dark. What are you in the mood for?
Something to keep in mind is that even if you opt for a lubricated condom, it would be wise to have some lube handy: Some people feel irritation or from the friction of condoms, so lube helps keep things comfortable and pleasure-filled!
Lube helps keep things comfortable and pleasure-filled!
All in all, think about what you enjoy, and always ask your partners what they like as well to be sure that everyone has a pleasant experience. And always check the expiration dates of condoms and make sure they haven’t been opened, used, or exposed to a lot of heat or friction, in order to minimize the risk of breaks and tears.
Myths and facts
Setting the record straight.
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Circumcision Myths And Facts
Is circumcision medically necessary? Is it cleaner? Find out more about circumcision and sort the facts from fiction.
While circumcision of the penis is a commonly accepted practice in many geographical areas, a lot of misunderstanding still exists around the procedure, and the differences between cut and uncut penises.
Read on to explore some of the most common myths about circumcision, and clear up some potentially confusing misinformation.
Myth: Most Penises Are Circumcised
Circumcision is more common in areas such as the United States, Canada, Africa and the Middle East. Folks who live in these areas may perceive circumcision to be fairly common, because many or most of the penises they’ve encountered have been cut. However, only approximately 30% of penises worldwide are circumcised.
Myth: Foreskin Is Unnecessary
Since so many people are circumcised, clearly people with penises are able to function and survive without foreskin! However, there are some functional purposes of the foreskin.
Intact foreskin can provide protection for the head of the penis (or glans). Similar to the clitoral hood on a vulva, foreskin on a penis can help maintain the sensitivity of the glans by protecting it. The foreskin can also minimize friction and chafing during penetrative sex, as it moves in a gliding motion.
Myth: People Who Are Circumcised Are Cleaner
It is commonly recommended that the foreskin of uncircumcised penises be pulled back during bathing to be cleaned. While this is a step that those with an circumcised penis do not have to consider, it is a relatively simple task that folks with uncircumcised penises get accustomed to performing during their regular bathing routine.
Myth: Circumcision Prevents HIV
This myth is kind of a myth. There has been some compelling research that circumcision can sometimes help prevent the penetrating partner from contracting HIV in some situations and populations, but those results are not necessarily generalizable to everyone everywhere.
Intact foreskin can provide protection for the head of the penis
It may be something to consider for those living in areas with epidemic levels of HIV, but would not be the most effective prevention method for people living elsewhere. Other risk reduction strategies such as using condoms properly and routine HIV testing provide significantly more protection than circumcision.
Myth: Uncircumcised People Are More Likely To Have A Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
The connection between circumcision and sexually transmitted infections has been studied for decades, with mixed results. There are no clear and consistent findings that circumcision has any impact on the general population’s risk of acquiring an STI.
Myth: Circumcision Is Medically Necessary
As previously noted, approximately 70% of penises around the world aren’t circumcised and are nonetheless able to function and survive… so that would indicate that removing the foreskin is not a medical necessity.
In a minority of cases - if there are problems with a tight foreskin for example - circumcision may be medically recommended. However, circumcision is most often practiced for cultural or religious reasons, or just because it is the norm in a given community.
Myth: Uncircumcised Penises Are Prone To Smelly Buildup
Just like any moist area of the body (such as the skin flaps of the vulva, behind the ears, the armpits, between rolls of skin), the foreskin can breed bacteria and buildup that can produce an odor if not cleaned. Regular washing can easily prevent this from happening.
Is Circumcised Or Uncircumcised Better? Either Is Fine!
The truth is that circumcised and uncircumcised penises have more similarities than they do differences. Both cut and uncut penises can be of various shapes and sizes, can get erect when turned on, can ejaculate, and can provide and experience pleasure.
When learning about circumcision (or any sexuality topic!) it’s important to think about whether what we hear are true facts or just myths. So much of our sexuality education is rooted in generalities, shame, and misinformation. The truth is, sexuality is diverse! Different choices are going to work for different people, and circumcision is no different!