Beginner's Guide to Condoms

Condoms are a barrier method of contraception. In general, they are latex sleeves that fit over the penis to provide protection against unwanted pregnancy, and to help stop the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In more recent years, we’ve seen barrier contraception evolve rapidly, and now there are also internal condoms available to buy, which are a barrier contraception that can be worn on the inside of the vagina.

In this day and age, condoms come in many different colours, textures and varieties of condoms available, and are often used to enhance your play, as well as protect you and your partner.

There are condoms for everyone: flavoured, extra safe, delay varieties and non-latex alternatives such as polyisoprene or polyurethane condoms for anyone with an allergy to the standard latex, right through to ones that glow in the dark. Read on for the Lovehoney lowdown on using condoms as a form of safe and effective contraception.

Video: What is a Condom?

In this day and age, condoms come in many different colours, textures and varieties of condoms available, and are often used to enhance your play, as well as protect you and your partner.

What is a Condom?

Condoms, as we traditionally know them, are generally thin latex sleeves that are worn on the outside of the penis. Most often transparent, condoms can be worn without affecting the aesthetic of a person’s penis and with the material being ultra-thin, it is unlikely they will impact significantly on the sensations felt throughout sex.

Condoms are designed to protect against unplanned pregnancies and unwanted sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Semen is collected in a teat-shaped pouch at the end of the condom, preventing the sperm from transmitting to the other partner.

There are various types of condoms (and we’ll talk more on this later), and with different sizes, styles, textures and materials all on offer, there’s literally a condom for everyone.

condom packs

Why Do People Use Condoms?

Condoms are used by many people, because they are an easily accessible form of contraceptive and sexual health protection.

While condoms can offer protection against unwanted situations and sexual health scares, they can also enhance the experience of sex as most condoms come pre-lubricated and many are ribbed, dotted and flavoured for maximum pleasure. Some even come with warming, cooling or tingling sensations to add to that orgasmic and intimate experience.

Here are just some reasons you may wish to use condoms during sex

  • Protect against unwanted pregnancy
  • Protect against sexually transmitted infections
  • For extra peace of mind
  • Enhance play with textures and/or flavours
  • Revolutionise and optimise sexual happiness

How Effective are Condoms?

yellow banana on black table

When worn correctly, condoms are 98% effective and are the only proven method for both birth control and STI protection, so there’s no good reason not to wear one.

Of all those wearing condoms effectively as a form of male contraception, only 2 out of 100 people would become pregnant in any one year. However, this figure can rise to up to 15 pregnancies in 100 when a condom is used incorrectly, which is why it’s exceptionally important to ensure you know how to slip it on and slide it in with minimal risk.

The best way to protect yourself and your partner is to make sure that your contraceptive is safe to use.

Make Sure Your Condom is Safe to Use

  • Make sure you wear your condom from start to finish. This method is less effective as it can allow pre-ejaculate to enter your partner during penetration.

  • Pay close attention to the packaging of your condom - ensure that your condom has not reached its expiry date and that there are no obvious rips or tears in the foil casing. If in any doubt, throw away your condom and reach for a new one.

  • Always store your condoms in a cool, dark place. As tempting as it is to slip a condom into your wallet or jeans pocket, your body heat is likely to weaken the effectiveness of your contraception.

  • Most condoms come with a perforated line across the packaging. Simply pull open the foil across this point and be mindful not to puncture the condom with your fingernails. Sliding the condom down to the bottom of the packet will help with this.

  • Next, ensure your condom is put on correctly. For more advice on doing this, scroll further down this page.

  • Never use the same condom twice!

condom packs

Using Condoms for Oral Sex

Condoms are great for more than just vaginal sex. They can also be used for both protection and pleasure during oral sex. Pregnancy might not be a risk with oral sex, but STIs such as gonorrhoea, genital herpes and syphilis, in particular, are commonly transmitted by oral sex. Other STIs and bacterial infections are also transmittable through enjoying intimacy this way, so it’s important to wrap it up and keep things safe.

Things will feel and taste differently when using condoms for oral sex, but the experience needn’t be any less enjoyable. Adding in flavoured lubricants (avoid oil-based lubes as these can hinder the efficiency of latex condoms) or opting for a pre-flavoured condom can certainly tantalise the taste buds. If you prefer little to no taste at all, try a condom that isn’t already pre-lubricated in any way as these are more likely to be tasteless.

For the wearer, sensations may be slightly muted, but don’t let this interfere with the pleasure you can still enjoy from oral sex. Remember that you’re staying safe while being intimate and let your mind focus on what you can feel as you relax into the moment.

Using Condoms for Anal Sex

Unprotected anal sex can be a high-risk activity without the right protection. Using condoms will help to protect you and your partner against the infection of sexually transmitted infections and other sexual health risks. While they will ensure you have sex safely, condoms can also enhance the anal sex experience - less mess on places you don’t really want it and insertion with ease when using pre-lubricated condoms.

If you wish to use additional lubricant during anal penetration (we recommend you do), then avoid using an oil-based lubricant with your condoms as this may lower the effectiveness of your contraception. Ensure any additional lubricant is water or silicone-based like our Discover Anal Lubricant, available in a 250ml bottle.

golden girls condom GIF

What are the Best Condoms?

The best condom is the one that feels right and fits best for you. Here are a few that are readily available to try:

yellow banana fruit on white concrete post

Regular Condoms

Designed to offer the best fit for standard-sized penis-owners, regular condoms are available from a variety of trusted brands. In general, regular condoms measure 190mm in length and 54-66mm in width, to comfortably protect.

The average thickness is around 70 microns, which provides protection without compromising on sensation. Regular ‘raincoats' are snug enough for complete safety and sensation, without causing any uncomfortable constriction.

Delay Condoms

Delay condoms are a great way to prolong pleasure. Using a tiny amount of the light anaesthetic benzocaine, they may reduce sensitivity throughout the whole of the penis, potentially delaying ejaculation.

They have exactly the same features as regular condoms, with reservoir and teat ends and an easy-on shape, but they’re often slightly thicker. This can help to reduce over-stimulation even further, keeping the pleasure going for longer.

Extra Safe Condoms

Ensure peace of mind during sex with extra-safe condoms. Offering an increase in thickness and more lubrication, extra-safe condoms are often used for anal sex, and provide even more safety without compromising on pleasure.

Oral Sex Condoms

Taking the connotations of ‘getting fruity’ to a whole new level, you can transform your lover into an extra-tasty treat with flavoured condoms from trusted brands and enhance the delicious fun and good sexual health practices of oral sex.

Covered with flavoured lubes, flavoured condoms come in a wide variety of tastes and scents, from fruity and sweet to fresh and minty.

Size Appropriate Condoms

Size definitely does matter, but only insofar as getting the best fitting condoms is concerned. If you’re bigger than average and find that regular-sized condoms don’t provide the comfort and fit you need, extra-large condoms are the perfect option for you.

Penis-owners come in all different shapes and sizes, and so do condoms. If you find that regular-sized condoms feel loose or uncomfortable during sex, discover the perfect fit with small condoms.

Offering a close snugness for great security, safety and pleasure during lovemaking, small condoms can make a big difference.

green cactus in back pot beside tape measure

Latex-Free Condoms

Non-latex condoms are a fantastic option for those with latex allergies. Made to the same high-quality standard as regular condoms, these clever creations use innovative materials including polyisoprene, polyurethane and natural membrane to provide a more natural feeling. Often people choose latex-free condoms because they prefer the sensation.

Textured Condoms

Offering different textures to stimulate both partners during sex, textured condoms feature sensual dots, ribs and beads to bring an extra-exciting dimension to your pleasure.

With a large selection available from a wide range of trusted brands, make it your mission to discover why these condoms are perfect for both safe sex, and great sex!

Extra-Sensitive Condoms

Experience a closer feeling without compromising on safety with extra-thin condoms. Designed to enhance your pleasure with a skin-on-skin feeling, the minimal thickness allows for greater intimacy during sex.

Each sensitive condom is made to the same high specifications as regular condoms, offering both quality and security.

person holding yellow banana fruit

Condoms for Women

Female condoms are latex sleeves that are worn on the inside of the vagina. Just like the male version, this is a barrier contraceptive method that inhibits the sperm from reaching the womb. Female condoms generally come pre-lubricated to help with easier insertion, although many women feel they are more comfortable to use when accompanied by additional lubricant.

Female condoms are inserted in a similar way to tampons, and the inner part of the condom should sit near the cervix while the outer ring will sit outside of the vulva. To ensure safe sex and effective contraception, it’s important to guide the penis into the condom and not into the sides of the vagina.

How to Put on a Condom

Putting on your condom is easy. Follow these steps for safe, pleasurable sex.

  • Tear the foil pocket open along the perforated line, ensuring the condom is out of the way before opening.

  • Look for the teat-shaped end and pinch in with your fingers.

  • Place the condom on the tip of your penis then start to roll the ring downwards towards your testicles.

  • Once the condom has covered the entire penis, you can let go of the teat of the condom.

Keep Your Condom in Place

To keep your condom in place, it’s best to choose a condom that fits you well. Condoms are available in small, regular, large and extra-large sizes and choosing the one that’s most suited to your penis size will help ensure your condom stays in place.

Ensure your condom is put on correctly following the step-by-step guide above and use plenty of lubricant to minimise chafing which can rip or tear the condom.

Condom Sizes

Not sure which size condom you need to buy?

Most condoms come with a size guide on the packet - this can differ for each brand, so take time to read through and choose the ones that are likely to fit you best.

Generally, condoms come in small, standard/regular, large and extra-large, and choosing the right size condom will help ensure your contraceptive is most effective and stays in place for all those night-time rendezvous!

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