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As You Desire: The Ins and Outs of Condom Use

If you missed the prequel to this column on condoms, you can click here and read it now. Also, a brief warning, readers: This column includes some graphic images.

Now we get down to the meat and potatoes of condom use. The “why they do” and “why they don’ts” … the ups and downs, ins and outs. OK, enough of that. This is serious business. With consistent and correct use, condoms have an estimated 95% protection rate (reference 1) (reference 2) against the spread of STDs and unplanned pregnancy.

So why is it still so difficult to get people to use them? I asked that exact question in an informal survey with my FB crowd. Here’s what they said:

  1. The first reason is the obvious; sex just doesn’t feel as good with a condom.
  2. Next I learned there is still a huge embarrassment in purchasing condoms. There is this fear that the clerk will know you are going to be having S-E-X and that you’ll know the clerk!
  3. Then there is the problem of finding a condom that fits well.
  4. It also has become apparent that people don’t really know when it’s okay NOT to use condoms. I have heard everything from, “I always use them with a new partner, but once I know her/him I don’t use them” to “I use them, but not for oral sex.
  5. Since the first column was published I have been asked, “Can you pass infections by swallowing semen, and if women perform oral sex on each other can they pass STDs this way?” Hmmm, we still need some education out there. I think I’ll do a column on STDs very soon!
  6. I don’t have the money.” (FYI, a baby or STD treatment is WAY more expensive.)
  7. One time without one won’t hurt.”

It is true. Sex feels better bare. I suppose this motivates us towards monogamy and long term relationships. We have established that it is a show of respect and responsibility to use condoms, so here are a few hints to making condoms more comfortable and user friendly.

Condom manufacturer Lifestyles offers this data on the spectrum of men's penis sizes. Click the image to enlarge it.

For the men, correct fit is imperative. Too tight, too lose — not good. We’ve already talked about how to find the right size for you. (See my last column, with the Condom FitKit. If you need it, a custom fit is worth the time and cost and will increase the likelihood you’ll use your condoms.)

More honesty now; Condoms don’t feel all that hot to women either. They can pull and tug on that tender skin, leaving tiny lacerations, irritation and occasionally a nasty allergic reaction. I have one word for you: “lubricant!” Lubricants such as SYLK , Astroglide, or WET (multiple flavors available) not only feel good but they also prevent breakdown to the condom and your woman. The downside is that you will have to reapply more often because lubricant is absorbed into the body’s tissues. Be generous.

Too shy to buy?

The fear of embarrassment when purchasing condoms is reportedly very high. One can imagine walking up to the checkout stand at CVS with a box of Trojans in hand … only to discover the clerk is a neighbor or Mom’s best friend. This imagined hellacious situation is enough to prevent someone from making a purchase that could save their life.

But after all, do you really think it’s any easier for women to make the purchase? And now since you know you have the option of custom ordering condoms so they are comfortable and fit correctly, that should solve the embarrassment problem. Now the other reason you might not want to buy them …

Some women believe it’s not embarrassment as much as it is about most men being too cheap to purchase condoms – that it’s up to the woman to buy them. If that’s true, maybe we could get men to purchase our birth control pills in exchange? Seriously, guys … I’m really hoping this is not the case. Condoms on average are fifty cents apiece! And remember, it is YOUR penis!

Once you’ve made your purchase, don’t worry about wasting your money if the condoms are not used right away. Condoms have a shelf life of up to 5 years (3 if they have the spermicidal lubricant) if they are kept in a cool place. If you carry one in your wallet or glove box the heat will speed up deterioration. If you don’t use it in a few months, discard and replace with a new one.

How in the world do you bring up the topic and ask a guy to use one? What should you say? Here are some great one-liner’s my crowd came up with: “No Glove, No Love.” “Wrap it up or Pack it up.” “You know what they call a guy who won’t wear a condom? Daddy!”

Now ladies (and gentlemen), waiting until the moment of impending penetration is NOT the moment to mention condom use … yet that seems to be the most popular time to bring the topic up. I suggest that as you are fooling around and decide you want to take this further, you need to ask him if he has “protection,” “a wrapper,” “a condom,” or whatever else you want to call it. JUST ASK!

If he says, “No, don’t you?” Well, we will be discussing the quality of your “picker” later, but hopefully you have brought some with you (or you are more than willing to forgo having sex that night). In my last column, we talked about the SIZE variation in, eh hem, condoms … so either you really know this guy well or you carry a party variety pack with you. (Seriously, though, he should be bringing condoms that fit him to any sexual situation.)

Latex allergy is not an excuse to go bare. There are a variety of non latex condoms available (visit Condom Country) for you to be safe and allergy free.

And now, click here for directions on how to use your condom.

When is it OK to stop using protection? There is a lot of controversy about when it’s OK to shed the condoms in a relationship. If you are both monogamous and have had a couple of  clean HIV tests (at 3-6 month intervals) then your risk is significantly lowered. Most people don’t wait that long. So waiting at least 6 months in a committed relationship and then both getting tested seems middle of the road. The truth is, you can’t have 100% safe sex. You don’t know if your partner is being monogamous (over 50-60% of married people admit to undisclosed extramarital sex, 40% of which are women) so having unprotected sex is not risk free. That being said, we cannot live our lives in fear. So just be wise enough to get your own tests done periodically if you are unattached and playing. Once you find someone that you are serious about, then have some mature discussions and go get those tests done. You are worth it. I’ll speak more about disclosure in my next column.

Oral sex and condoms. Many people have no issue with enjoying unprotected oral sex, then insist on a condom for vaginal or anal sex. Contrary to popular belief, you can contract STDs via oral sex. That includes Herpes, GC (gonorrhea), HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, HPV, etc. The condom companies have created a variety of flavored condoms (banana is a popular one) to make this oral sexual experience with a condom more palatable. The extra thin latex condoms that are flavored can make the sensations of oral sex enjoyable, tasty and at much less risk for infection. Women need to know that just because a man doesn’t ejaculate doesn’t mean she cannot contract disease. Those little drops of clear fluid that lubricate the path long before ejaculating are not sterile by any means. When performing oral sex on a woman, you can use dental dams (also flavored) to keep you safe. The female condoms are available and are being improved for easier use. It can be fun to try the variety of protective devices out there if for no other reason than to mix it up. If you try something new, write to me and let me know what your experience was.

“One time without a condom (at the very least) can make the difference between life as you know it and parenthood.”

You can make the condom application a part of the foreplay. Taking time to explore each other and learning what pleases your partner is the best! Ladies, learn how to put condoms on … and get sexy-creative when doing so. It doesn’t have to be a downer. When you are using a condom you are respecting and caring for each other in a highly responsible way.

Remember, not having condoms won’t prevent anyone from having sex … it will only prevent them from having protected sex.

Intimately Yours,
Nancy

Nancy Sutton Pierce RN, Health Educator is the Founding director of Nancy Sutton’s House of Yoga and Radio Talk Show Host on The Conscious Living Show LIVE every Saturday 11a-12noon on KCNR 1460am You can reach Nancy at asyoudesire@ymail.com with your comment or questions.

As You Desire is proudly sponsored by Body Logic MD; helping both men and women restore their libido and vitality through hormone therapy, fitness and nutrition counseling. www.bodylogicmd.com

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