They protect against STIs, don’t require a prescription, and are inexpensive.
Male condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control out there. They slip over a man’s penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of STIs by keeping his sperm inside the condom and out of your vagina. There are hundreds of shapes and sizes to choose from, with lube and without.
These condoms are lubricated with a chemical that kills sperm. Ok for vaginal intercourse, but not recommended for oral or anal sex.
Women and men who are sensitive to spermicide can use spermicide-free condoms. Condoms have very few side effects. This type has even less.
Elastic fantastic latex can stretch up to 800%. These are the most common condoms. But don’t use them with oil-based lube. They can break or slip off if you do.
Allergic to latex? Prefer oil-based lube? Then these are for you. Usually made from polyurethane, other synthetic high tech materials, or natural lambskin.
The best thing about most types of condoms is that they protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Lambskin condoms, however, are the one type you should not rely on for STI protection—they are able to block sperm, but not infections.
Condoms take effort and commitment
You have to make sure to use them correctly, every time, no matter what, in order for them to be effective.
Cheap and easy to find
Condoms are inexpensive (and sometimes even free from health centers and bars). Plus, you can find them just about everywhere, from truck stops to supermarkets.
No prescription necessary
If you can’t make it to the doctor (or don’t want to), you can always use a condom.
May help your man last longer
If your man has trouble with premature ejaculation (in other words, he comes too soon) condoms may help him last longer.
Not so good if you’re allergic to latex
If you’re allergic to latex, you’ll need to use a plastic or lambskin condom (but don’t forget that lambskin condoms aren’t good for STI protection), or try another method.
Condoms are among the least expensive
and easiest to find methods of birth control out there. Bonus: you can slyly fit one of these in your pocket or purse and be prepared all the time.
- CVS: $0.30-$1.83
- Target: $0.29-$1.08
- Walgreens: $0.52-$1.54
- Walmart: $0.18-$0.60
- Payment assistance: Check with your local family planning health centers and find out if they offer free or low-cost condoms and other kinds of birth control (most do)
* Keep in mind that these prices are from a survey of online retailers; prices at the store may be a bit higher—or lower—than what we found online.
Condoms are pretty easy to use,
but you have to remember—if you’re relying on condoms, you have to use them EVERY SINGLE TIME.
How to put a condom on
- First things first: Before you use a condom, check the expiration date. Outdated condoms break easier.
- Put the condom on before your partner’s penis touches the outside lips of your vulva. Pre-cum—the fluid that leaks from a guy’s penis before he ejaculates—can contain sperm from the last time the guy came.
- Use one condom per erection.
- Be careful not to tear the condom when you’re unwrapping it. If it’s torn, brittle, or stiff, toss it and use another.
- Put a drop or two of lube inside the condom. It’ll help the condom slide on, and it’ll make things more pleasurable for your man.
- If your partner isn’t circumcised, pull back his foreskin before rolling on the condom.
- Leave a half-inch of extra space at the tip to collect the semen, then pinch the air out of the tip.
- Unroll the condom over the penis as far as it will go.
- Smooth out any air bubbles—they can cause condoms to break.
- Apply lubricant if desired.
How to take a condom off
- Make sure your man pulls out before he’s soft.
- One of you should hold on to the base of the condom while he pulls out so that semen doesn’t spill out.
- Throw the condom away in a trashcan (preferably one that is out of the reach of children and pets). Don’t flush it down the toilet—that’s bad news for your plumbing.
- Make sure he washes his penis with soap and water before it gets near your vulva again.
There are positive and negative things to say
about each and every method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.
Positive “side effects”? You bet. There are actually lots of things about birth control that are good for your body as well as your sex life.
- Protects against STIs, including HIV
- Cheap and easy to get a hold of
- No prescription necessary
- May help with premature ejaculation
Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for most women, they’re not a problem.
- Unless you’re allergic to latex, condoms cause no physical side effects (only 1 or 2 out of 100 people are allergic, and if you happen to be one of them, you can always use a plastic condom instead).
- Some people may be sensitive to certain brands of lubricant (so, if the lube bothers you or your partner, try another brand).
- Some guys complain that condoms reduce sensitivity.
We’re here to get this method working better for you.
And if it still doesn’t feel right, we’ve got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected while you switch.
My partner says it reduces his sensitivity.
Not all condoms are created equal, so try a few different brands or types to see if that helps. You might want to check out the condoms marketed as “ultra-thin” or “ultra-sensitive.”
Still not working?
You can also try switching to a method you can “forget about” for a while, like an IUD, implant, shot, ring, or patch. But remember, none of these other methods will protect against STIs. So if you want STI protection, you could try a female condom instead.
Condoms keep slipping and/or breaking.
Not all condoms are created equal, so try a few different brands or types to see if that helps. It may be that you’re not putting it on properly or, if the condom is slipping as your partner is pulling out, you may be able to prevent slippage by having him pull out while he’s still hard.
Still not working?
You may want to check out a non-barrier method, like the patch, pill, ring, IUD, implant, or shot. But remember, none of these other methods will protect against STIs. So if you want STI protection, you could try a female condom instead. Or you can try again to find a male condom that works for you.
Real Stories (English)
You can’t argue with Phil and his girlfriend when they say condoms are easy to get and use. We also love Phil’s observation that they help guys last longer. Sure, he’ll admit there’s a little loss of sensation, but he thinks it’s totally a reasonable price to pay to be safe. And his girlfriend likes that condoms are a hormone-free birth control method. A lot of guys knock condoms because they are like a barrier when you want things to be really tactile and intimate. But for Phil, he knows that benefits like protecting against STIs and pregnancy far outweigh not using a condom when it counts.
For Ramiyah, it’s all very logical: Sex is fun. Sex can lead to pregnancy. If you want to have sex and don’t want to have a pregnancy, birth control always needs to be part of the equation. Ramiyah prefers to use condoms as her method of birth control. What if the guy doesn’t have one? Not a problem. Ramiyah does. And what if a guy wants her to have sex without one? That’s easy, too. They won’t be having sex. Because she’s done the math and the only way it’s going down is with the addition of a condom.
Emily used to use the pill. She wasn’t that good at remembering to take it, though, and eventually got pregnant. After that, she decided to find a method she would remember to use consistently. So she switched to spermicidal condoms. She loves that they’re convenient, affordable, easy to use, and effective. But they’re only effective because she remembers to use them every time. She says they have no excuse not to because they’re always right there next to the bed. And when they run out, they just head to the store down the street. No prescription necessary. Easy as can be.
Michelle and her boyfriend are consistent condom users. She knows that he needs to wear one every single time to be safe. And so they do. For Michelle, putting on a condom isn’t something that disrupts the moment; it’s part of hotter sex. She simply takes it out at the right moment and puts it on him as part of the natural flow. Michelle and her man tried a bunch of condoms before finding just the right type—a little lube and no spermicide. (We’re sure perfect condom awaits you, too. So start product testing now and have the double whammy of pregnancy and STI prevention.)