Condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control. They slip over the penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of STIs by keeping sperm inside the condom and out of the vagina. (There are also internal condoms that go inside the vagina.) Condoms come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, with lube and without.
Types of Condoms
People who are sensitive to spermicide can use spermicide-free condoms. Condoms have very few side effects. This type has even less.
Elastic 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.
These condoms are perfect for people who are allergic to latex or prefer oil-based lube. Usually made from polyurethane, other synthetic high tech materials, or natural lambskin.
These condoms are lubricated with a chemical that kills sperm. Ok for vaginal intercourse, but not recommended for oral or anal sex.
The best thing about (most types) of condoms is that they help protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Lambskin condoms, however, are the one type that cannot be relied on for STI protection—they are able to block sperm, but not infections.
Condoms take effort and commitment
Condoms must be used correctly, every time, no matter what, in order for them to be effective.
May help sex last longer
Condoms can decrease sensitivity, and in some cases, that’s a good thing. (e.g., if a person has trouble with premature ejaculation), condoms may help sex last longer.
Cheap and easy to find
Condoms are inexpensive (and sometimes even free from clinics and bars), and they be found just about everywhere, from truck stops to supermarkets, and even online. Plus, there are so many different kinds to choose from!
No prescription necessary
For those who can't make it to the doctor (or don't want to), condoms are always available.
Not so good if you're allergic to latex
Those who are allergic to latex, will need to use a non-latex condom, or try another method.
Condoms are extremely affordable and accessible. Plus they protect against STIs as well as unintended pregnancy. Since condoms come in a variety of materials (and shapes, sizes, colors, textures, etc.), prices may vary more than for some other methods. Most basic condoms cost around a dollar, but splurging on condoms of different sizes, appearances, and materials might increase comfort and/or pleasure.
Payment assistance: Check with a local family planning clinics and find out if they offer free or low-cost condoms and other kinds of birth control (most do). And in some places there may be other places where free condoms can be found.
In-Store Vendors (price range per condom)
CVS: $0.30 - $5.10
Rite Aid: $0.90 - $4.00
Target: $0.30 - $5.40
Walgreens: $0.40 - $5.40
Walmart: $0.15 - $7.80
Note: These ranges are averaged from a survey of select vendors as of June 2016. Prices may change over time.
Online Vendors (price range per condom)
Condomania.com: $0.50 - $2.50
Condomjungle.com: $0.30 - $1.15
CVS.com: $0.25 - $4.40
Drugstore.com: $0.60 - $3.90
LuckyBloke.com: $1.10 - $15.00
Pharmapacks.com: $0.35 - $2.80
RiteAid.com: $0.60 - $3.75
Target.com: $0.30 - $3.00
Walgreens.com: $0.20 - $4.40
Walmart.com: $0.20 - $7.60
Note: These ranges are averaged—including taxes and standard shipping costs—from a survey of select online vendors as of June 2016. Prices may change over time.
How to Use It
How to put a condom on
- First things first: before using a condom, check the expiration date. Condoms can go bad and outdated condoms break more easily.
- Put the condom on before the penis touches the vulva. Pre-cum—the fluid that leaks from a person's penis before ejaculation—can contain sperm.
- One condom per erection.
- Be careful not to tear the condom when 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.
- If the penis isn't circumcised, pull back the 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.
How to take a condom off
- Make sure the person with a penis pulls out before it goes soft.
- One person should hold on to the base of the condom while the person with the penis pulls out so that semen doesn't spill out.
- Throw the condom away in a trash can (preferably one that is out of the reach of children and pets). Don't flush it down the toilet!
- Make sure to wash up the penis with soap and water before it gets near the vulva again.
Every method has its own positives and negatives, and because everyone's birth control is different what one person experiences may not be the same as another's experiences.
- Protects against STIs, including HIV.
- Cheap and easy to get a hold of.
- No prescription necessary.
- May help with premature ejaculation.
- Unless a person is allergic to latex, condoms cause no physical side effects. And only 1 or 2 out of 100 people are allergic, and there are alternatives available without latex.
- Some people may be sensitive to certain brands of lubricant.
- Some people complain that condoms reduce sensitivity.