I know you’ve all heard the condom lecture a million times. “Blah blah blah contraception blah blah sexually transmitted infections.” And I know that when I whip out my patented “Herpes really IS a gift that keeps on giving” spiel most of you just hear a buzzing noise. Well, in science news you can use, a couple of observational studies recently suggest that a condom alone might not be enough for pregnancy and STI protection. You have to be a condom connoisseur, a fashionista if you will, choosing (and using) a condom that not only makes you look good, but feel good.
Like all good fashion, condoms have form and function. Ignore either at your own (and your partner’s) peril. Let’s start with function:
- The most common cause of condom malfunction? The condom isn’t removed from the wrapper. It doesn’t do you any good to have one if you don’t use it!
- Even the most fashionable raincoat will leave you soaked if you put in on after you go out in the rain. Same thing with condoms. If you put it on after the action starts, then – no pun intended – you’re screwed. And by action, I don’t mean when you cross the finish line; I mean before you start the race. If you are one of the lucky few who secrete a little bit of semen before ejaculation, you can impregnate or transmit disease to your partner before you know it.
- Like an old pair of stinky socks, condoms should not be re-used. Do I really need to explain this one? If you’re lucky enough to need another condom, break out a fresh one.
Once you put it on, keep it on! In a recent study, about 40% of male participants reported removing their condom because of fit, or in our analogy, poor form. Commonly cited reasons for removal included penile irritation, loss of erection from discomfort, and partner complaints. A few important fashion tips from the condom runway:
- Don’t squeeze! A too-tight condom can tear. If this happens before ejaculation, stop immediately and put on a new condom. If it happens after ejaculation, carefully extract yourself with as much intact condom (and dignity) as you can. You and your partner should contact your healthcare providers to discuss whether post-exposure testing or treatment will be necessary.
- A condom should cover the whole penis, from the tip of the glans right down to the base of the shaft. A short condom can leak and leaves more skin surface exposed for disease transmission. Remember, some STI’s get transmitted through body fluids but others only need skin-to-skin contact to spread.
- Baggy might be okay for Kanye’s pants, but it’s not okay for his condoms – or yours. Loose condoms can fall off just when you need them most, they can leak and women report more discomfort when guys use them.
No need to search for a condom tailor. Your local grocery, drug, or big box store is stocked with condoms in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Experiment until you get the fit right. Do that penis proud! I know that in the heat of the moment it might seem like a buzz-kill to look for a condom. But just remember this; when it comes to killing the mood, a few minutes of scrambling through your pockets is nothing – and I mean nothing – compared to the crying of a baby, the flowing of pus from your favorite body part, or the weeping of a herpes vesicle.
Victoria Rentel, MD (OSU SHS)