Drink and Be Merry: How to Party Safer

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

It is not simply enough to say, “Don’t have sex when you are drunk.” In real life, sometimes when people party it can lead to sex. No surprise there. Sometimes people falter. Thus it is better to be aware of these tendencies and adopt some basic protocol to help you party safer and reduce risks to your sexual health and well-being.

Even if you choose not to have sex when you drink, there are important party strategies you should know.

Here are key points about partying safer, covered by Yvonne Piper at Bedsider below:

  • Studies show that when people are under the influence of alcohol, condoms and other forms of birth control are discussed less and used less.
  • Another risk is that because drinking impairs your motor skills, there is a higher chance that you and your partner will use whatever method, such as a condom or diaphragm, improperly.
  • There are birth control options that are more “party ready”, such as the IUD and Implant. But these do not protect against STIs.
  • Sometimes condoms are provided at parties. Encourage this and bring your own.

This article is written by Yvonne Piper and originally featured here.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

So you’re at a party (or a bar, or a booze-fueled picnic in the park…you get the idea) talking with someone you like A LOT. It’s pretty obvious you want to hook up. There are details to sort out, like whose place and how are we getting there? Other important questions may or may not come up: How are we preventing pregnancy? How are we protecting against STIs? Unfortunately those important questions may be less likely to come up the more you both drink.

A disclaimer: I can’t reassure you that sex while partying can be 100% safe—in some cases the best decision is not to hook up at all. For one thing, when you’re under the influence it can be tricky to be sure both you and your partner are thinking clearly enough to communicate your desires and boundaries with each other. But I also want to be real here: sometimes people party, and sometimes partying leads to sex. For folks who occasionally find themselves hooking up under the influence, there are some ways to keep yourself safer.

Does drinking affect birth control?

Alcohol can alter your judgment. You may be willing to do things (or people!) you would not normally do when sober. This may include having sex when you haven’t negotiated birth control in advance.

There’s mixed scientific evidence about how alcohol impacts birth control use. Some studies show that when alcohol is involved, birth control is discussed less often and condoms are used less, even in established relationships. Other studies show that drinking is associated with more condom use for casual partners and that consistent condom users remain consistent even when under the influence. These conflicting findings may have to do with the fact that alcohol affects people differently.

Whether drinking changes your intentions or not, it can definitely mess with your motor skills. If you use condoms, spermicide, or a diaphragm—any method that requires set up right before sex—there is always a chance of human error. When you’re drunk, the chance of using these methods improperly goes up.

Not every method of contraception is affected by partying. Many methods—IUDs, implants, sterilization, the shot, the ring, and the patch—are perfect for partying as they are in place well in advance of the fun and you bring them with you everywhere. The down side to all these methods is they don’t protect you from STIs. Luckily, condoms are portable even in the tiniest purse or pocket and may be available at bars and parties.

Playing safer

Here are 8 practical ways to play safer when partying:

1) Make a plan when you are sober and stick to it, both for drinking and for sex. If your plan says absolutely no hooking up after drinking, you can still flirt and trade phone numbers with a new potential partner. If your plan clearly says you are done after three alcoholic drinks, alternate your boozy beverages with non-alcoholic drinks, like water or soda, to help the fun last longer. And, of course, make sure you have a plan for getting home that doesn’t involve anyone driving under the influence.

2) Something that may help with #1: whether as moral support or designated drivers, enlist the help of your friends to help you stick to your plan. Here are some tips about how to do this.

3) Condoms are always the way to go for STI protection, but consider a second party-ready method to help ensure that you won’t have pregnancy scares on top of potential STI concerns.

4) Speaking of condoms, don’t rely on a partner to supply them. Even if you’re not sure you’ll need one, even if you already use another form of birth control, carrying condoms—and always using them for STI protection—is a smart thing to do.

5) Don’t leave drinks unattended. Even though it’s flattering when someone offers to buy or bring you a drink, you are safer being in control of your drink at all times.

6) Female condoms can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex, so if you suspect you may be partying too hard to use a male condom, consider trying this.

7) If you find yourself having sex in a situation where condoms aren’t available, withdrawal is always better than nothing (especially if your partner has had practice).

8) Have some emergency contraceptive pills at home in case a condom broke or wasn’t used.

If you’ve had drunk sex, it might be worth reviewing: How much fun was it for you? Did you find you had a harder time getting off when drunk? Did you notice that you had less of your natural lubrication? How about your partner’s sexual function? How does it compare to hooking up sober?

Wish you partied less?

If partying is interfering with your work, school, or relationships and you’d like some support in playing safer, Moderation Management and HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol are good resources.

Be safe and have fun!

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

Should I Buy Condoms For My Teen?

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BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

No side: BUT THEN THEY’LL HAVE SEX!
Yes side: But if they want to, they’ll have sex anyway.

I do an experiment with my classes every now and then, for fun. I ask them through an anonymous question and answer system whether they plan to have sex later in the day or that night. Because I do this with high school and college students, sometimes I have entire classes who don’t plan to have sex, but more commonly it’s a mix.

Then I pass out condoms.

And ask again whether anyone plans to have sex later that day or night.

And the answers never change. The students who were going to have sex (with or without protection) still will, the students who weren’t going to have sex still aren’t going to.

Providing condoms to young people doesn’t affect whether they’re going to have sex, but it does have the potential to affect whether they’re going to use condoms when they have sex.

And yes, it’s weird, it’s awkward, and other people might judge you for it. Supporting your child in protecting their sexual health is important – far more important than other people’s judgment.

One parent protested to me that she wanted her children to at least have to stop long enough to go and buy condoms before they had sex and that might make them stop long enough to decide not to do it.

Do you see the flaw in her reasoning? She assumed that her children:

• had the intellectual and emotional wherewithal to step out of an emotional and arousing experience,
• have a thoughtful conversation with their partner,
• find a way to a store,
• produce money,
• and look a clerk in the eye (or resolutely avoid it) as they bought condoms when they had zero experience talking about condoms and decision-making with adults, because she refused to have those conversations with her children or allow anyone else to have them.

The risk/reward breakdown here when compared to issue free, condom-less sex just doesn’t make sense for a teenager – and nor should it for a parent who isn’t pulling the wool over their own eyes.

Providing condoms for your teenagers and their friends – regardless of whether they’re actually having sex – normalizes the conversation and makes it that tiny bit more approachable. Lucky Bloke has some great condom sampler options – buy a few of them, toss all the condoms into a bowl, and leave the bowl on the back of the sink in the bathroom.

This is the beginning – or middle – of the parent/teen sex conversation, not the end. But it’s a fantastic stopping station that every parent should take advantage of.

rayne2sm DR. KAREN RAYNE With a doctoral degree is in Educational Psychology, Karen provides advice and support to parents on how to educate their children and teenagers about sex and sexuality. Karen’s knowledge about adolescent development and education provides her with a solid background for guiding parents through these tricky conversations. And, as a college professor, helping young adults grapple with sexuality, she is known to change student’s lives. On twitter @KarenRayne

5 Ultra-Thin Condoms Guaranteed to Improve Your Sex Life

Photo credit: Maik Kirchner

Photo credit: Maik Kirchner


Not sure what condoms to try? Here is Lucky Bloke’s top condom picks for incredible pleasure.

For all those people who complain about condoms, there’s good news. You can still have protective sex that feels amazing! It’s just a matter of knowing your condom size and being open to experiment with different style condoms. Really, it’s that simple.

If you (or your partner) are someone who struggles with condom use, Melissa White, CEO at Lucky Bloke, highly recommends trying ultra-thin condoms.

The fact is that there are new ultra-thin condoms recently introduced to the market, like ONE Vanish and SKYN Elite, the thinnest non-latex condom.

In this article, Melissa White breaks down the most popular ultra-thin condoms and explains what’s new and improved about each. She shares her personal favorite ultra-thin condom along with other close seconds and what condom users consider best sellers to hit the market today. 

This article was originally published on YourTango.com.

MELISSA WHITE | LuckyBloke.com

Are you one of the many people who find that condoms reduce sensitivity and pleasure? The very best ultra-thin condom options will likely change your mind.

At Lucky Bloke, our mission is to lead you to the land of amazing sex with condoms. With the world’s best condoms at our fingertips, we’re here to prove that the right condom can actually improve your sex life.

Yes, most condoms get a bad rap. A lot of people think (OK, experience) condoms detract from the pleasure of having sex.

However, having said that, more often than not it’s because they’re using the wrong condom. Lucky Bloke’s ongoing global condom reviews find that most men (over 70%) are wearing the wrong size condom.

Another recent study (Sexual Pleasure and Condom Use, Mary E. Randolph, et. al.) found that those who report disliking condoms are those who don’t use condom or don’t use them often. Meanwhile, men who report that condoms do not decrease pleasure are those who use condoms regularly.

In other words, people who use condoms often and have learned what condoms they like and how to use them well, enjoy sex with condoms. It boils down to experience and knowing what condoms are right for you.

So, “What size condom do I (or does my partner) need?” This handy condom size chart will help you figure it out. Once you’ve determined the proper condom fit, try a state of the art ultra-thin condom and feel the increased sensitivity for yourself.

Here are 5 new and improved ultra-thin condoms that deliver ultimate satisfaction and safety:

1. ONE | Vanish

This brand new condom is 35% thinner than standard condoms and built with an advanced latex formula called Sensatex, making it softer and smoother than leading latex brands. You’ll find Sensatex is more supple, conforming and stretching better for additional pleasure.

Designed with a unique shape that forms to your partner’s contours, it will provide a more pleasurable experience for you both.

2. SKYN | Elite

This condom is the latest (and greatest) addition to Lifestyle’s poplar non-latex condom collection: SKYN. It’s the thinnest polyisoprene condom to hit the market.

Elite is so comfortable that even people without latex allergies recommend it. Made of polyisoprene means this condom feels softer and thinner than most condoms offering you a very different condom experience.

3. Okamoto | 004

State-of-the-art Japanese technology brings you Okamoto 004 (zero zero four). This Japanese condom holds the reputation as the thinnest latex condom available in the United States today.

Its special latex formula transfers body heat and sensation so well, it genuinely feels like nothing’s there.

4. Crown | Skinless Skin

This durable and ultra-thin condom is a favorite across the international market (originally due to it starring in several adult films). The Skinless Skin provides a “bareback” film and is a perfect accessory when looking for a comfortable, bare feel.

5. Unique | Pull Condoms

With its one-of-a-kind design, Unique Pull will change everything you know about roll-on condoms (this is my personal favorite ultra-thin condom!).

Made from high-tech synthetic polyethylene resin, this is an odorless, non-latex condom that’s three times stronger and three times thinner than conventional (latex) condoms. This condom is ideal for men who require a standard, though more generous condom fit.

Want to try a little of everything?

Try the International Ultra-Thin Condom Sampler—a thoughtfully crafted selection offering a fantastic range of premium ultra-thin condom styles for your pleasure. (And a great way save you from having to buy an entire box of each style!)

Pro Tip: We always recommend using additional lubricant with ultra-thin condoms to enhance pleasure, comfort and safety. Read our tips on finding the right lube.

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7 Ways to Make Sex with Condoms Sexier

orgasmNational Condom Week 2015 is here! From Feb. 14th to Feb. 21st, we are celebrating by providing a new article every day by prominent sexual health advocates focused on condom use and education.

Pleasure is an important yet seldom discussed feature in condom education. As Lara Worcester of Condom Monologues argues, “There is a difference between knowing how to put on a condom and knowing how to use them well.” When you know what condoms and lubes you like, which condoms fit best, how to put one on in sexy ways, how to talk to your partner about condom use, your safer sex is guaranteed to be hotter!

This article offers some creative ways to spice up sex with condoms.

In sum, the main tricks to loving the glove are:

  • Communicate
  • Take turns putting it on
  • Practice
  • Be prepared
  • Be playful and have fun
  • Lubricant!
  • Be aware of condom sizes and experiment with different ones

Continue reading for a more in depth discussion on sexy condom use.

This post was originally published at Condom Monologues

BY CONDOM MONOLOGUES | CondomMonologues.com

I’m sure you know, or at least have heard of someone who claims that condoms make sex feel less good.  Condoms (and other safe sex tools) don’t have the best reputation.  It doesn’t help that we rarely see safer sex happening in media representations of sex that is hot, fun, or romantic.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

As we discussed elsewhere, there is no solid empirical evidence to back up negative claims about condoms. Studies find that people who use condoms correctly and are used to using them tend to report greater pleasure with protected sex than those who go without protection.

This does not mean that people on an individual level do not experience problems enjoying protected sex.  There is a difference between knowing how to put on a condom and knowing how to use them well.  That is why it tends to be people who use them often and consistently that report greater sexual satisfaction.

It takes practice and know-how to feel confident and learn what feels good for you and partner(s).  Condoms can add a playful and sexy dimension to sex but, as with anything sexy, you need a positive attitude and a dash of creativity. In this post, we offer some ways to help spice up condom use.

Before we begin, the basics of condoms should be known.  Check out our user manual.  Once you understand these essential steps to condom care you can explore ways that may enhance sexual pleasure and make condoms a part of sex- rather than a disruption to it.

This post focuses on condom use for penis and sex toys, but some tips here can also apply to safer anal and vaginal oral sex using barriers including condoms, sex dams, cling film saran wrap, or latex/nitrile gloves. For more info on protective lesbian sex check out this sex column.  For specifically gay protective sex info, the Gay Men’s Health Charity is an excellent resource.

Introducing condoms to partners 

This isn’t something that should feel awkward no matter how casual or serious your relationship.  It can be as simple as just stopping what you are doing and handing over a condom.  Sometimes you won’t need to say anything at all.  Or, as suggested by Robin Mandell at Scarleteen, when you feel the heat turning up and sex might happen, take a quick break and retrieve condoms from wherever you keep them (ideally with easy access).  You can say something as casual as, “No pressure.  I just wanted to get these out just in case we need them.”

Condoms do not keep people from getting close- Silence does

Asking someone to use a condom is to show care for the well-being of you both. Communication really is key and talking about sex might mean explaining what you like, what’s your favorite position, or how to use condoms and use them in ways that work for you both.  Talking together about these things will cultivate intimacy and deepen your bond (not hinder it!), because you are sharing the responsibilities of sex and caring for each other.

Great sex is about sharing control  

As Heather Corinna explains, this is something that safer sex can help support.  Learning how to discuss condom usage and exploring sexy ways to put on a condom and what feels good together will make talking about other facets of sex a lot easier, such as how you’d like to try something new.  This also means that both people are making decisions and choices which are fundamental to both amazing sex and healthy sexuality.

Take turns putting on barriers

Related to the above- condoms can be a lot more erotic when one partner puts it on the other.  There are many ways to turn up the heat with a condom.  When done in a deliberately slow manner with some stroking, teasing, eye contact, putting on a condom can be exciting.

You can put the condom on together.  For example, one person takes the condom out of its package and places it over the head of the penis (make sure that you unravel it the right way down, not inside out).  The other person pitches and holds onto the reservoir tip of the condom as the other unrolls it down the shaft of the penis with one (or two hands).  This can also help ensure that the condoms is put on correctly.

Practice Makes Perfect

Learn how to put it on.  You can use the ol’ fashion banana, or the aid of a dildo or willing partner to practice how to unravel the condom.  It should unroll downward to the base without too much pulling or stretching.  If any exertion is needed to get the condom to the base then it is probably the wrong size.  Practicing by yourself will relieve any worry about losing an erection or the uncomfortable pressure of being judged on your condom skills.

Ladies and guys, you can always practice when you masturbate.  This will also help you learn your pleasure spots and what feels best with protection.  Or practice with your partner.  When the time is right, either you or the other can put on the condom, so it’s good for everyone to know how.  For many couples, this also helps to naturalize the process. It’s not about “making” a guy do something; it’s about something people do together for each other.

Be Prepared

One of the great advantages to condoms is that they are readily available for anyone to buy without a prescription or an age limit, and they are relatively cheap- even free at some health clinics like Planned Parenthood.  So equipping yourself with this contraceptive takes far less time, research and planning.

Also, it will help things run a whole lot smoother and greatly reduce the buzz-kill if you can reduce condom-hunting time.  So keep condoms (and lubricant) in a dedicated, handy place next to your bed where you are sure to find it.

Be playful

Keeping condoms in an easily accessible place is helpful, but that does not mean that it’s always best to rush through the process of putting one on. Great sex is to have fun with it.  When you introduce condoms have a sense of play.  And if things get awkward as you’re learning how to do safer sex, let yourself laugh about it.  This helps take the pressure off.

Buy some glow-in-the-dark condoms and leave your partner in suspense until the lights go out!  Or incorporate condoms into erotic foreplay.  Try slipping it on his penis with your mouth. If you are using gloves, get some props and play “Doctor”. Spice it up by carrying a condom with you in your handbag or pocket and discreetly show it to your partner to hint what’s on your mind.

Lubricant

This is really important. Especially, if you or your partners complain about reduced sensitivity, lubricant will improve sensation immensely.  Put two drops of water-based lubricant inside the tip of the latex condom before putting it on.  Even if dryness is not a problem for a person, lubricant that is made for condoms will lasts longer than the natural stuff.

Experiment with different lube samplers and flavors.

Know Your Condom Size & Experiment

Two points here.  First, make sure your condom fits well.  Condoms aren’t one-size-fits-all, and a condom that’s too small or too big is likely be difficult to put on, very uncomfortable, and much more likely to malfunction.  If you are not sure what will fit, check out our Condom Size Calculator or view this handy trick provided by Lucky Bloke (you’ll need a empty toilet paper roll).  If you experience certain discomforts, such as condoms being too tight, or too long, we have suggestions at our condom guide.

If you’re providing the condoms, it is useful to have a variety of types and styles so you and your partner can choose what feels right. Variety sample packs can be found online, and at some drugstores.

Second point, if you are in a longer-term relationship, you have the advantage to experiment with different types of condoms and lubricants together to discover what suits you both best and have fun while doing it!  There are many different styles of condoms out there from thin, to thick, to wider in certain spots, snugger in other spots, etc.  There’s variety in texture: ribbed, studded, contoured, pouched; variety in non-latex condoms; and there is plenty of variety in lubricants that can enhance sensation dramatically.  You could buy a variety pack of condoms to find the best ones.  Or make a date out of it and visit a sex shop and choose together (like this Condom Monologuer).

If we haven’t convinced you yet about the sensual side of condoms, take this with you:  Everyone needs to accept this reality.  If you’re sexually active and not practicing safer sex then you are likely to transmit an infection and/or get pregnant.  To prevent this from happening, to experience healthy fulfilling sexuality, you have to learn how to use protection.

condom ad condoms too tight

condom-monologuesCONDOM MONOLOGUES Affirming safer sex and sexuality one story at a time… Condom Monologues dispel harmful myths about safe sex and sexual stereotypes that permeate our ways of understanding what is “healthy sexuality”. They accomplish this through sex-positive, pleasure-focused approaches to sexuality that affirm the diversity of people- genders, sexualities, kinks and relationships.
Find them on twitter @CondomMonologue

Breastfeed? How to Make the Switch from Birth Control to Condoms

Photo by Chris Alban Hansen

Photo credit: Chris Alban Hansen

This August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month- a time to empower and support women who have committed to breastfeed. The practice provides many health benefits to a mom and her baby, which is all the more reason mothers should take special care of themselves during this time. Choosing an appropriate birth control is often an important part of this process.

Doctors recommend an IUD or the “mini-pill” (a progestin-only birth control) starting right after birth.  For many reasons, another popular option during breastfeeding is condoms because 1) it’s non-hormonal; 2) in your new, sleep deprived schedule you don’t have to keep track and adhere to taking a pill everyday at a specific time; and 3) it’s inexpensive and, with no prescription required, it’s hassle free!

Considering the vast market, switching to condoms may seem like a daunting task. How do you choose a proper condom? How do you know which will fit right?

Melissa White, CEO of Lucky Bloke and a SheKnows expert, explains three basic steps to condom shopping. She also recommends condoms that will dramatically improve your new-found intimacy.

There are key steps to becoming a condom guru:

  • Know how to find your condom size. All you need is an erect penis and a toilet paper roll!
  • Experimenting is the best way to find the right condom that you and your partner enjoy. Sampler packs are the best, most cost effective way to explore the condom world.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of lube! Especially when your body is going through hormonal changes you may experience dryness more frequently. Lube is fundamental for increased sensitivity and pleasure. Use lube samplers to experiment.

Read Melissa White’s full article here at SheKnows.com

What Lube Should I Use?

Team Sex Ed! Kate & Louise

Team Sex Ed! Kate & Louise

Confused about personal lube? Should you use lube? Which ones should you choose? What are the different types? What is best matched with condoms

All the answers are made easy and accessible by sex educators Kate McCombs and Louise Bourchier in their video below. They explain why you should use lube, the different types of lube out there, and what each type is good for. Remember, one great way to explore different lubes is by trying sampler packs. Lucky Bloke offers a wide range of samplers from water-based to flavored to arousal lubes and more.

Here’s Team Sex Ed’s important lube tips:

  • You should use lube, especially with condoms because it helps the condom last longer and prevent breakage.
  • Lube also helps prevent small tears that can cause infection inside the body.
  • Lube is crucial for anal sex because, unlike the vagina, the butt is never self-lubricating.
  • Watch out for the ingredient glycerin in water-based lubes. It can cause irritation and yeast infection for some.

This video was originally posted on the Team Sex Ed channel.

BY KATE MCCOMBS & LOUISE BOURCHIER | Team Sex Ed! Kate & Louise

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kate_mccombsKATE MCCOMBS is a NYC-based sex educator, writer, and maker of puns. Ultimately, all of Kate’s work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex. She believes that meaningful conversations + accurate information can help us create a healthier and more pleasure-filled world. Kate writes articles and teaches workshops about sexual health, pleasure, and communication.  Follow Kate on Twitter @katecom

 

louise bourchier 150 150LOUISE BOURCHIER, MPH is a sex educator who knows health and pleasure. She teaches workshops to adult audiences throughout Australia and New Zealand, where her mission is to facilitate access to information that allows people to experience healthy and pleasurable sex lives. She works closely with D.VICE: the toy shop for grownups and is a proud emissary of Sex Geekdom Melbourne.  Follow her on Twitter @louiselabouche

How to Safely Have Sex with a Yeast Infection

yeast infection“My girlfriend sometimes has yeast infections.  Is it bad to have unprotected sex?”

This question was posed to the CSPH (the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health) as part of their weekly Q&A series. It is a common misunderstanding that sex causes yeast infections. The fact is that sex alone is not the culprit. However, shifting from oral or anal sex to vaginal sex without changing protective barriers (or not using barriers at all!) can initiate the spread of bacteria and cause an infection. As explained below, there are multiple reasons why a yeast infection occurs. Also, vaginas aren’t the only ones susceptible to infection. All genitals, as well as the mouth, can experience yeast infections.

Here are the must-know basics about yeast infections:

  • Yeast infections are incredibly common and almost every woman will experience at least one in her life time.
  • They are caused by a number of factors including stress, diet, menstruation, hormonal changes, autoimmune diseases, some medications.
  • While they are incredibly uncomfortable to endure, yeast infections are easy to treat.
  • Sex alone, including sex with multiple partners, does not cause yeast infections.
  •  They can pass between partners during unprotected oral and penetrative sex. So it’s important to use barrier methods when one is experiencing a yeast infection.

This article was originally published on the CSPH.

BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org

Yeast infections, sometimes known as “thrush”, are the result of an overgrowth of the candida albicans fungus.  Although Candidiasis can occur throughout the body, the infection is prone to occur in warm, moist areas, such as the mouth.  In particular, vaginal yeast infections occur when yeast, which already exists within the vagina in small amounts, overgrows, resulting in an infection.  Vaginal yeast infections are actually quite common, occurring in as many as 75% of vagina owners throughout their lifetime. They are also easy to treat, usually only requiring an antifungal cream, vaginal suppository, or oral medication.

Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include burning, itching, redness around the vagina and/or vulva, pain when urinating, pain during sex, and a thick, white discharge like cottage cheese.  Many factors can raise the risk of yeast infections, such as stress, illness, lack of sleep, poor dietary habits, pregnancy, menstruation, hormonal changes, certain medications (such as oral contraception, antibiotics, and steroids), autoimmune diseases, and poorly-controlled diabetes.

You can help avoid vaginal yeast infections by practicing habits that result in a clean, healthy vagina.  These habits include:

  • Avoiding douches, which disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina
  • Avoiding scented hygiene products, such as perfumed genital powders, sprays, pads, and tampons, which disrupt the vagina’s natural balance of bacteria and can result in irritation, especially in those with fragrance sensitivities
  • Changing tampons and pads often during one’s period, because menstrual products can be a breeding ground for bacteria.  Changing tampons often also helps prevent Toxic Shock Syndrome
  • After using the toilet, wiping front to back in order to prevent the spread of fecal bacteria into the vagina
  • Avoiding underwear made of synthetic fibers, which provide poor ventilation and trap moisture
  • Wearing cotton underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch, which will allow one’s genitals to “breathe”
  • Changing out of wet swimsuits and exercise clothes as soon as possible, because warm, moist body parts and clothing are perfect hosts for bacteria
  • When switching from anal sex to vaginal sex, always using condoms and changing condoms between acts to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria into the vagina
  • Unless the product is glycerin-free, steer clear of using flavored condoms and lubricants in/with a vagina.  Glycerin (also termed glycerol) is a sweetening agent that, when introduced to the vagina, can trigger yeast infections, especially among those who are prone to them.

Yeast Infection As an STI?

Although yeast infections are not known as sexually transmitted diseases, it is in fact possible for yeast infections to pass between partners during unprotected oral and penetrative sex; this is why yeast infections are often discussed alongside STIs in classes.  Furthermore, it is important to note that any type of genitals can get yeast infections, not just vaginas.  Therefore, I recommended that someone who has a yeast infection use barrier methods when engaging in sex play.  These barrier methods include external condoms, internal condoms, dental dams, and even gloves, which are ideal for manual stimulation.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that sex itself is not to blame for yeast infections, nor is there a relationship between the number of sexual partners and the occurrence of yeast infections.  That said, those who are prone to vaginal yeast infections may find that oral sex without a barrier method is a contributing factor.

Lastly, I want to stress the importance of using barrier methods during sexual activity.  Not only are barrier methods useful while a partner has a yeast infection, but they’re also great at offering protection against STIs as well as preventing pregnancy.  This protection can be especially meaningful to those whose concerns about STIs and pregnancy are distracting during sexual activity, hindering full enjoyment.  Furthermore, barrier methods, along with sexual lubricants, can add variety to one’s sex life due to the vast array of textures, slickness, and flavors available.  I suggest using lube not only outside the condom, but also placing a drop of lube inside the condom, which can add/heighten sensation for the penis-owner.  That said, I recommend steering clear of spermicidal lubricants, which shorten the shelf-life of condoms and can result in irritation and micro-tears that increase the risk of STI transmission.

Finally, I want to share my personal favorite condom trick, which I learned during Megan Andelloux’s Study Sex College Tour: how to put an external condom on with one’s mouth!

1. Make sure the condom is safe to use by checking the expiration date and pinching the middle to feel for an air bubble, which will ensure the package has not been punctured.  When the condom is opened (with one’s hands, not with teeth or scissors), the condom should not be sticky or brittle.  If it is, throw it out and get a new one.

2. Sit the condom on the tip of one’s finger.  Do not unroll it.  The condom should look like a little hat, with the brim curling outwards.

3. Put the tip of the condom in one’s mouth and hold it in place by lightly sucking on it.  Use one’s tongue and the suction to keep the semen reservoir flat, as to not trap in an air bubble.

4. Place one’s pursed, closed lips against the head of the cock, and slide one’s head down.  Feel free to use a hand or two to aid the process and unroll the condom fully.

condom ad condoms too loose

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: Wait, There’s Good News?

silver liningSome of the most contagious STIs are chlamydia and gonorrhea. The good news is that both are preventable and curable. The trick is knowing and planning to avoid them as well as getting regularly tested. This article by Corinne Rocca from Bedsider, walks you through the steps of how to deal with two of the most common STIs today.

Here are her main points to being a healthy sexual citizens:

  •   Clear communication about sex with your partner keeps you both emotionally and physically safe. Before you have sex with someone, ask them if and when they have been tested. If you may have an infection, tell your partner.
  • Use protective barriers like condoms and dental dams. When used correctly, a condom cuts the chances of getting chlamydia or gonorrhea by more than half.
  • Even if you don’t have symptoms, get tested. Testing is simple and there are apps to help you find a free clinic near you.
  • Follow through with treatment. Untreated bacterial STIs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility.
  • Remember, there is nothing sexier than taking care of your sexual health.

This post was originally published at Bedsider

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

With the right action-plan, two of the most common STIs are preventable and curable.

Two of the most common STIs (sexually transmitted infections) in the U.S., chlamydia and gonorrhea, are caused by bacteria. We know that the large majority of people who get chlamydia and gonorrhea are under age 26. It’s difficult to know exactly how common these STIs are because lots of people who have them never have symptoms and never get tested—which means they may be more common than we think. That said, we know that each year at least 1 in 50 people aged 15-24 get chlamydia, and about 1 in 200 get gonorrhea. Yup, that’s millions of Americans each year getting one of these STIs.

Part of the reason these bacterial STIs are so common is that they’re really contagious. Remember the pink-eye or lice epidemics that went through school when you were a kid? Bacterial STIs are that contagious, though fortunately they only spread during sex, not during recess. Unfortunately, if you have sex with somebody who’s got a bacterial STI and don’t use a condom or dental dam, chances are good that you’ll get it too.

Nothing takes the sexy out of sexy times like worrying about STIs, but having a plan to avoid or deal with them will keep you healthier and sexier in the long run. And, bonus, some of the most common STIs can be prevented—and, if you get one, cured.

Plan A: Prevent

Talk about it before anybody’s pants come off. It’s a lot easier to focus on a conversation about STIs before your heart is racing a mile a minute. If you’re considering having sex with someone new, ask them when they last got tested. If they haven’t been tested recently, tell them they’d better get to the clinic if they want some action. For tips on having this conversation, check out ‘It’s Your Sex Life.’ There is also this great article on why and how to talk about health with your sexual partner. You can even make getting tested together part of your extended flirtation, or share your testing results with each other using Qpid.me.

Condoms help. Can your birth control help protect you from STIs? If you use condoms, the answer is yes. (Other types of birth control are great at preventing pregnancy but don’t help with STIs.) When used correctly, a condom cuts the chances of getting chlamydia or gonorrhea by more than half. If having the talk about getting tested didn’t happen in time, you can insist on using a condom. If you need some tips for convincing someone to use a condom, check out this post for effective comebacks.

What does it mean to use a condom correctly?*

  • First, put the condom on before the penis touches the vagina, mouth, or anus.
  • Second, make sure that the condom will unroll in the right direction before it touches the tip of the penis. If the condom is already touching the penis and it’s not unrolling in the right direction, don’t flip it over—discard it and start with a fresh condom.
  • Third, pinch the tip and roll it down to the base of the penis. Use a condom the whole time you’re having sex to make sure you’re protected.

I heard I can’t get it if we only have oral sex. Sorry, not true. The bacteria that cause STIs can’t tell the difference between a throat and genitals. Kissing, on the other hand—even serious French action—seems to be safe territory.

He’s circumcised, so he’s clean, right? Nope. Recent research has shown that circumcised men may get and spread HIV more slowly compared to men who are not circumcised. But there’s no evidence that being circumcised makes any difference for getting or spreading a bacterial STI.

I’m gonna wash that STI right out of my… No dice. Washing the genitals, mouth, or butt after sex does not protect against any STI. Neither does douching.

But he/she looks totally healthy… and delicious. There’s no way to know if somebody has an STI by looking. Many people with a bacterial infection don’t even know themselves that they have it, which is one reason the CDC recommends that everybody in the U.S. under age 26 get tested for chlamydia every year.

Plan B: Get tested—and treated, if necessary

Maybe the hook up has already happened and you need to know what you can do now to protect your health. Even if you don’t have symptoms, it’s important to get tested. In women, an untreated bacterial STI can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause pain and scarring in the fallopian tubes. Scars can also block the tubes and make it difficult for some women to get pregnant when they’re trying to.

Luckily, chlamydia and gonorrhea are easy to detect and easy to treat. Testing is painless. Find a clinic near you, pee in a cup, and hand it over to the clinic staff. They may be able to tell you a result right away or within a few days. If you live in certain areas, you might be able to get a home test kit for free in the mail. Getting treated is easy too—you just take the prescribed antibiotic pills.**

What about that awkward moment when you have to tell somebody else they may have an infection? ‘It’s Your Sex Life’ has more good tips for talking about it. If you can’t bear the thought of a face-to-face conversation, try sending an anonymous e-card with InSpot.

If you would prefer to go to a healthcare provider or clinic you already know—maybe a place where you’ve gotten prescription birth control or condoms in the past—you can talk to your provider about STI testing without shame. It doesn’t have to be about whether you’re worried you have an STI—it can be as simple as, “Hey, I heard I should get tested for this every year. How about it?”

Bacterial STIs are too common to ignore, and nothing’s hotter than being on top of your health.

*Check out Bedsider’s page on how to put on a condom for more detail, or download “Condom Pro” to your iPhone to practice putting one on correctly.

**You may have seen headlines recently warning of of strains of gonorrhea that are resistant to all antibiotic drugs. While this is something to keep an eye on, fortunately at this point it’s not a problem in the U.S. The CDC has more information about these strains if you want to learn more.

condom ad condoms too tight

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

I May Have Herpes. Now What?

Photo credit: Vratislav Darmek

Photo credit: Vratislav Darmek

Did you know that the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is so common that many health professionals believe people should assume everyone has herpes and act accordingly?

Yet, as common as Herpes is, it is surprising that most of us remain misinformed about how the infection spreads and how it can be prevented. One prevalent myth is that there is a “good” type and a “bad” type of herpes, the latter being consider a result of irresponsible and careless sex. The truth is that there is little difference between the two strains. Having HSV of either type is not shameful, nor is it indicative of your worth as a sexual being.  As demonstrated in the article below, Herpes is at its core simply a skin condition.

If you are concerned that you’ve recently been exposed to Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), this article by the CSPH (the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health) will help you navigate what are the next best steps to take.

Here is a summary of important facts everyone should know about HSV today: 

  • While there is no cure for Herpes, it is considered a minor, yet reoccurring skin condition.
  • There are antiviral medications that may help manage outbreaks and treat or relieve symptoms.
  • HSV-1 is the most common form of Herpes and many people contract it through non-sexual contact. The majority of individuals affected HSV-1 contract it during childhood.
  • Like Human Papillomavirus (HPV), HSV can be transmitted even when condoms are used due to exposed skin at the site of contact.
  • Two thirds of people with HSV have no symptoms.  Furthermore, HSV may be transmitted even when there are no symptoms and between outbreaks. Check out this article for more about when different STIs are transmittable and when is the best time to get tested.
  • You can protect yourself from HSV by using barrier methods (condoms and dams) consistently and correctly, washing after sex with soap and water, and using lubricants during sexual activity to help prevent microtears (tissue damage that increase the risk of HSV transmission and triggering an outbreak).
  • Specifically ask for an HSV test when get STI testing. Most doctors will not test for herpes if no symptoms are present. Testing is crucial to prevention, especially considering that an estimated 80% of people with Herpes are undiagnosed.
  • For more information about living a healthy and fulfilling sex life with herpes, check out the resources at the bottom of this post.

This article was originally published on the CSPH.

BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org

Image from the CSPH

Image from the CSPH

So I received oral sex from someone yesterday. Today that person has a cold sore. My understanding is that oral and genital herpes are caused by different strains, hsv-1 and hsv-2, and there’s also a strain that can cause both. So if it’s just hsv-1, I probs won’t get genital herpes, and if it’s the evil one that causes both, I could. This is clearly something that I should talk to my doctor about, but I was hoping you could give me some more info/tell me whether my info is at all factual. Thnx!

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, with HSV-1 infecting some 50 to 80% of people and HSV-2 affecting a projected 30% of adults.  Despite its prevalence, however, many misconceptions about this STI exist, and I hope my response will address most of these.  One herpes myth in particular that I hope to debunk is the idea that people are sexually and romantically “ruined” following HSV, which resources such as Love in the Time of Herpes help disprove.  For more information on living and loving with herpes, you refer to the resource list at the bottom of this Q&A.

If you’ve had a recent hook-up and are now concerned about having contracted HSV, feel free to skip to the final section of this article.

What is the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)?

Herpes Simplex is a category of sexually transmitted viruses that oftentimes results in infections of the skin and mucous membranes, manifesting itself in blisters/sores.  Following infection, HSV will establish latency within the nervous system, meaning the virus will attach itself to the cells of one’s sensory nerves, making it one of the few STIs for which there is no cure.  Despite this, HSV is in fact a relatively minor infection; it is literally a simple, yet recurring skin condition.

There are two strains of herpes: HSV-1, also known as “oral herpes” and “cold sores,” and HSV-2, which most often affects the genital and anal region.  Despite this colloquial distinction, it is in fact entirely possible for both strains to affect both the mouth and genitals, as well as other parts of the body such as eyes, fingers, and thighs.  Vulva-owners may also experience sores on the inside of their vaginal canal and on their cervix.  HSV-1 in particular is also associated with potential complications such as oracular herpes and conjunctivitis (pink eye).

Is There a Good/Bad Herpes?

While many people are under the impression that there is a “good” herpes and “evil” herpes, the distinction is minor: both varieties of HSV may be contracted both orally and genitally, and while HSV-1 in particular is known as “oral herpes,” it is quite frequently transmitted to the genitals.  However, it’s less common for HSV-2 to be transmitted to the mouth.

Furthermore, under the microscope, both strains are almost identical.  HSV-1 and HSV-2 also manifest themselves similarly and, following infection, becomes latent in the nervous system. Neither type of herpes is curable.

So, if the strains are so similar, why is there the misconception that there is a “good” virus and a “bad” one?  The stigma likely lies in the sheer prevalence of HSV-1, which the majority of affected individuals contract during childhood.  Due to the fact that a majority of individuals have HSV-1, it’s easy to write off the STI as “only a cold sore,” whereas the much less common genital herpes is vilified as a “sexually transmitted infection.”

What are HSV Symptoms?

Upon initial infection, HSV may cause small, painful blisters or sores at the site of infection, enlarged lymph nodes of the neck or groin, decreased appetite, muscle aches, general malaise, burning while urinating, and fever.  The first outbreak generally occurs within two days to two weeks after transmission or contact with infected areas, and symptoms can be quite severe should they occur at all.

A second outbreak may occur weeks to months following the first.  Subsequent outbreaks are often less painful and disruptive, and symptoms may grow more mild over time.  Some individuals, particularly those with HSV-1, may not experience outbreaks for months or years at a time.  The average rate of outbreaks for HSV-2 is four times a year.

With that said, not all people who have contracted HSV experience symptoms.  Indeed, estimates suggest that two thirds of people with HSV have no symptoms or mild enough symptoms that the infection goes unnoticed.  Furthermore, HSV may be transmitted even when there are no symptoms and between outbreaks; one study shows that more than half of asymptomatic HSV-2 carriers exhibit viral shedding.  Viral shedding is how HSV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact even without contact with open sores or bodily fluids.

Finally, symptoms of an oncoming outbreak include fatigue and itching, tingling, and discomfort at the site of the outbreak.  HSV outbreaks can be triggered by a number of sources, including but not limited to: physical and emotional stress, sun exposure, injury, a compromised immune system, surgery, hormone changes such as those that occur during the menstrual cycle, and even the common cold.

How is HSV Contracted?

Herpes Simplex is transmitted through direct contact with a lesion, or from the body fluid of or skin-to-skin contact with an individual with HSV.  Unlike most other STIs, HSV may be contracted through kissing and even sharing drinks; it’s this reason that half of children under the age of six are infected with HSV-1.  Furthermore, like Human Papillomavirus(HPV), HSV can be transmitted even when condoms are used due to exposed skin at the site of contact.

As I previously discussed, many people who come in contact with HSV do not, in fact, show symptoms, or otherwise have symptoms so mild they go unnoticed.  However, whether the individual is asymptomatic or between outbreaks, there is still a risk of transmission.  Indeed, it is suggested that up to 70% of HSV-2 transmissions occur in the absence of symptoms.

It is also important to remember that while HSV-1 and HSV-2 are technically two distinct viruses, oral herpes may be contracted from the genitals, and genitals may contract oral herpes. Research suggests that HSV-1 in particular is commonly transmitted through unprotected oral sex, with up to half of all new cases of genital herpes occurring as a result of HSV-1.

Finally, it should be noted that vagina-owners more easily contract genital HSV than penis-owners.  Studies also suggest that HSV increases the risk of HIV transmission, due to the existence of open sores.

How Can I Prevent HSV Contraction/Transmission?

There are three main ways people can help prevent the contraction and transmission of HSV: use barrier methods during sexual activity; know your status and communicate it with sexual partners; and if you’ve already contracted HSV, consider managing future outbreaks through antiviral medication.

Other ways to help limit the possibility of HSV-2 contraction and transmission include sexual abstinence, washing after sex with soap and water, and using lubricants during sexual activity to help prevent microtears (tissue damage that increase the risk of HSV transmission and triggering an outbreak).

Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of HSV-1, it can be incredibly difficult to prevent transmission.  However, if you are concerned about contracting or spreading oral herpes, you can avoid kissing people as well as avoid sharing items like kitchen utensils and lip balms, namely when a cold sore is present or you feel one forming.  With that said, I understand that kissing for many people is an important component to sexual activity, but not kissing doesn’t have to be unsexy or awkward.  Whether you’re in a monogamous relationship or the type to hook-up casually and participate in orgies, you can sexualize preventative measures by incorporating an intentional “no kissing on the mouth” policy in your play, which may encourage some creative measures, or even using gags.

For both HSV-1 and HSV-2, contact with the sites of outbreak and/or kissing should be stopped as soon as individuals feel the warning signs of an outbreak.  You shouldn’t touch a sore; doing so runs the risk of transmitting the infection to another body part.  If you do touch the sore, wash your hands with soap and water.  Wait until seven days after the sore heals before resuming contact with the mouth, genitals, or anus.

Barrier Methods

While the unfortunate truth is that even condoms do not completely protect against HSV transmission, studies show that condoms do, in fact, provide considerable protection, in particular to susceptible vagina-owners.  For this reason, barrier methods are an incredibly important component of limiting the possibility of contractions and transmission of HSV.

In addition to external condoms, internal condoms are a great alternative barrier method.  Internal condoms potentially provide greater protection from HSV transmission, as they also provide coverage for the vulva and outer anus, thereby reducing the amount of skin-to-skin contact.

Due to the nature of HSV, barrier methods should be used during not only penetrative sexual activity, but also any sexual activity that engages with the mouth, genitals, and anal region.  This includes skin-to-skin frottage, also known as dry-humping; stimulation with one’s hands, during which latex gloves can be used; and oral sex.  Safer oral sex consists of using condoms over penises and dental dams over the vulva and anus.

Know Your Status

As with all sexually transmitted diseases, one of the best things you can do to prevent contraction and transmission is to know your status.  This can happen by being tested at a local medical care provider.  With that said, while providers consistently test for STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, HSV is rarely tested for unless the individual is exhibiting signs of an outbreak.  For this reason, you’ll likely have to explicitly request an HSV test, which I will discuss later.

In addition to being aware of your STI status, it’s important to use that knowledge to empower you in your relationships by discussing STI testing and your status with sexual partners.  Not only is your status important, theirs is too!  Although this can be an intimidating conversation to initiate, I nevertheless strongly recommend that you do so; this shouldn’t be understood as a sign of distrust, but rather an important step in keeping you and your partner healthy.  This is especially important considering an estimated 80% of people with herpes are undiagnosed.

Consider Antiviral Medications

It’s important to note that while there is no cure for either type of HSV, there are antiviral medications that may help manage outbreaks and treat or relieve symptoms.  If, following an outbreak and/or testing, you learn that you have HSV-2 in particular, you may want to consider such medications.

There are currently three kinds of herpes antiviral drugs, all of which are available in pill form and can be taken for two purposes: treatment for outbreaks (to shorten duration and severity of symptoms), and suppressive therapy (to reduce the likelihood of outbreaks).

I’m Worried I Contracted HSV – What Now?

When it’s all said and done, it’s understandable that you may be worried about your hook-up’s cold sore.  For this reason, regardless of if you start showing symptoms of HSV, I suggest that you contact your medical care provider to discuss your situation and to get a professional opinion on the matter.

With that said, standard STI testing often does not include testing for HSV unless the patient has a blister.  This is because the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention does not currently recommend routine HSV testing for those in the general population who don’t exhibit symptoms.  If you are exhibiting sores, however, you should visit your healthcare provider as soon as possible as the test is an easy viral culture swab.  Unfortunately, false negatives are very common with this method.

If you are not exhibiting symptoms, you can still get tested.  Serologic, or blood, exams will allow your medical care provider to test for HSV.  There are two ways blood can be tested for HSV: polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and antibody tests.  The PCR test is the most accurate, and can type which strain of HSV you have.  Antibody tests are less reliable and may yield false positives, so this may be a topic you want to discuss with your healthcare provider when being tested.

Finally, I want to stress that having herpes isn’t the end of the world. Figures suggest that some 50 million people in the United States alone have HSV-2, with even more people having HSV-1.  Considering how common it is, it is unlikely that you will be the only person you know with HSV, and many health professionals are of the opinion that people should assume that everyone has herpes and act accordingly.

Furthermore, people with herpes continue to have healthy, fulfilling sex lives and happy relationships.  In the greater scheme of things, herpes is merely a minor convenience for most couples.  Having HSV of either sort is not shameful, nor is it indicative of your worth as a person or sexual being.  Herpes is at its core simply a skin condition.

If you have any other questions about HSV, you can call the National Herpes Hotline at 919.361.8488.  In addition, you can contact the Herpes Resource Center at 1.800.230.6039.
For more information on leading healthy, fulfilling (sex) lives with herpes, you can visit the following websites:

HC Support Network: the largest and most active support website for people with herpes

(H)Life: a community forum that seeks to serve as a roadmap and guide for living and loving with herpes

How to Have a Sex Life Despite Having Herpes, by Dr. Laura Berman

Genital Herpes Sex Advice and Suggestions

condom ad condoms too loose

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.

Sex School: Condoms = Cancer? Uh, No. (Part 3).

Image from the CSPH Sunday Sex School Series

Image from the CSPH Sunday Sex School Series

We’ve spoken out against the condom company, Sustain’s irresponsible marketing ploy which insinuates that many condoms cause cancer. The truth is there is no scientific evidence that any condoms are laden with harmful carcinogens.

Now the greater sex education community is standing up against Sustain condoms.  The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (the CSPH) has featured a three part series that exposes Sustain’s confusing and misinformed messages. Here is the final part of that series. You can read the first part here.

In response to Sustain’s fear-mongering attempt to smear other condom products, here’s a refresher on all the wonderful things to know about condoms:

  • Condoms are the only method that protects against both STIs and accidental pregnancy.
  • Correct condom size is essential for the most pleasurable safer sex possible.
  • Adding lube both eases condom application and increases sensitivity.
  • Many condom companies are involved in socially responsible campaigns. When you buy condoms from companies like RFSU, Glyde and Lucky Bloke, you are also helping contribute to aid organizations such as UNICEF, Planned Parenthood and the Global Fund to Prevent AIDS.

This post by Erin Basler-Francis was originally published at the CSPH

BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org

Over the last two lessons, we have discussed the science of nitrosamines and their suspected link to types of cancer, dispelled myths around nitrosamine levels in condoms and their link to reproductive cancers, and ran down how we got to the point of having this discussion.

So, now let’s look at condoms in a better light: Condoms—what to do with them and what they are doing for you. Note: in this discussion, the terms internal and external condoms are used rather than “male” or “female” condoms.

Condoms: Some Basics

Image from Condom Monologues.com

Image from Condom Monologues.com

There are two main types of condoms, internal and external. Internal condoms are the latex sheath for use over a penis or sex toy that people tend to envision when they use the term. Internal condoms (i.e. the FC2) are inserted into an orifice prior to penetration. Condoms are made from a host of materials, including latex (most common), polyurethane, lambskin, polyisoprene, and nitrile.

Generally, condoms and other barrier methods are recommended as the most effective method to avoid STIs if you are choosing to have genital contact with another person. They prevent the transfer of fluid based STIs (such as HIV and Syphillis) and reduce risk of contracting STIs that spread via surface contact (like Herpes and HPV).

Condoms: What Can You Do With Them

Image from the CSPH

Image from the CSPH

Condoms come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors…and they can be used for many sexual activities beyond penile/vaginal intercourse.

For oral/genital contact, flavored condoms can be an added sexy treat. If going over a penis, adding silicone lube to the inside of the condom can keep the sensation slick, but the act safer. To make safer sex even sexier, one can put the condom on using their mouth. Flavored condoms, on a penis or cut open and spread over a vulva, can add a sweet bonus to going down.

When penetrating an anus, condoms can keep things clean. For people who are squeamish about poop, darker colored condoms will camouflage and fecal residue that might appear. Internal condoms can be used for anal intercourse by removing the insertion device (e.g. the ring in the FC2) and will offer both the security of a built in flange for the condoms and additional stimulation to the nerve endings in the anus and surrounding area. And, like a gift that keeps on giving, the ring removed from the tip of the FC2 can double as a cock ring.

If you are planning on only having sex with yourself, condoms are great for easy cleanup. Slide a condom on the penis or over a sex toy, and you aren’t scrambling for a sock/tissue/towel or a potentially awkward walk to a communal bathroom to wash your dildos in the sink. If premature ejaculation is a concern, condoms can help by changing the sensation of intercourse slightly.

On the size front, the old safer-sex educator trick of fitting a condom over the head, up the arm, or onto a summer squash (or maybe that one is just a fun party trick) gives the message that no one is too big to wear a condom. So why make them in different sizes?

Well, you can buy a suit off the rack and look incredibly dashing, dapper and nail a job interview, or you can decide to go with a bespoke suit and feel like James Bond or Tilda Swinton every time you put it on. Condom sizes are like that—they will function pretty great if you aren’t using the perfect size, but finding a condom with the optimum fit will make it feel even better.

What Are Condom Doing For You?

Many condoms companies—both distributors and retailers, participate in social responsibility campaigns. For example, Sustain, fear campaign aside, launched 10%4Women, in which the company contributes 10 percent of their pretax profits to women who lack access to reproductive health care.

Image from the CSPH

Image from the CSPH

Currently, ONE is running its #LustforLife campaign, in which the company partnered with NYC street artists to bring awareness to and raise money for Lifebeat, a NPO that provides HIV education in urban areas, through social media and an auction of original art pieces.

Glyde, aside from being a vegan, sustainable B-Corp, runs the Red Ribbon Campaign, which distributes condoms to sex workers in Southeast Asia as well as providing HIV prevention education abroad and at home in New Zealand.

Sir Richard’s Condoms employs Buy One, Give One. Global Protection (parent company of ONE Condoms) donates a significant number of condoms to reproductive health clinics and providers around the US. Durex, Trojan, Lifestyles…all of them have run significant awareness campaigns that, combined with the condoms they donate, make sure people are having safer sex.

Aside from reducing your personal risk of STIs and unintended pregnancy, it’s safe to say that when you strap on a condom, you are giving back to the world at large.

Do your part. Wrap up.

condom ad condoms too tight

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.