#Tweet4Condoms Update: @Twitter is Not Protecting Users

61- tweet 4 condomsIn June we launched a petition demanding that @TwitterAds remove condoms from it’s blacklist.

The results? A force of support from thousands of people and numerous organizations who want to see sexual health messaging promoted, not shamed.

Currently, Twitter’s confusing policy continues to block a whole spectrum of sexual health advocates. Their policy views condoms as something to protect from it’s users, outlawing condom ads that contain or link to any mention of sexual pleasure.

But condoms are inherently sexual. How can you- more importantly, why should you- disconnect condoms from sex and pleasure? As we told RH Reality Check, promoting pleasure is more effective at increasing consistent condom use than any fear-based campaign.

Together we stand to put condoms in the public conversation as both a fundamental and pleasurable component to sexual health.

SIGN OUR PETITION
Other organizations and companies such as The STD Project, Bedsider and Momdoms have come forward sharing their struggles of censorship. Numerous sex educators continue to speak out against Twitter’s policy that has excluded them from the platform including Elle Chase, JoEllen Notte, Megan Andelloux and The Center For Sexual Pleasure & Health, and many others.

Twitter’s irresponsible approach to sexual health is riddled with hypocrisy. Health organizations are stalled by confusing automated messages stating they violate Twitter’s restrictions on “adult content”. Meanwhile, suggestive images of sexy clad women can show up in one’s Twitter feed.

Here are the #Tweet4Condoms campaign most recent developments:

This month a 7-year old government funded condom distribution program, Rubber Revolution DC, was blocked from promoting their campaign to fight HIV/AIDS. @FreeCondomsDC received an automated message informing them that their tweet violated Twitter’s policy on “adult or sexual products and services.”

The good news is that DC’s Department of Health was able to get the ban lifted for their campaign. In response to media coverage of the ban, Twitter spokeswoman Genevieve Wong stated: “We allow advertisers to run campaigns that promote condoms and safe sex.”

Great news! We thought.

And we checked to see if the ban lifting applied to us as well. No luck.

Since the launch of #Tweet4Condoms, we’ve reached out to Twitter numerous times with absolutely no response from them, we figured Genevieve Wong might have some answers for us too.

So, we promptly contacted Wong.

Unfortunately, we were greeted with a copy and paste message of Twitter’s automated reply reading:

Thanks for checking in. I connected with our Ads Policy team about the status of your account, and wanted to pass along their response:

Thanks for your question about the status of your Twitter Ads account. We’ve reviewed your account and confirmed that it is ineligible to participate in the Twitter Ads program at this time based on our Adult or sexual products and services policy at this time. Violating content includes, but is not limited to, nudity, partial nudity, sexual aids and toys, as well as adult/sexual language. If the violating content has been removed, please respond and we will re-review your account for policy compliance.

You can learn more about this policy at twitter.com/adspolicy/adult.

For those following along, you may remember our entire account has been deemed ineligible and has been blocked from TwitterAds entirely.

The tweet we submitted that put us on the blacklist did not contain or link to any sexual language or erotic images.

In fact, we do not talk about condoms and/or sex in a more sexual or explicit way than DurexUSA.com (who do advertise on Twitter).

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Durex’s home page vs. Lucky Bloke’s homepage.

While it is positive that Durex and RubberRevolution are now able to use Twitter’s outreach- the platform continues to be unequal. Most companies and organizations are banned by default. Consequently, important voices in the field of sexual health are excluded from one of the world’s most powerful communication channels.

We are committed to standing up for sexual health and demand that Twitter change it’s faulty policy.

Sign our petition to change Twitter advertising policy. Join us as we #Tweet4Condoms! For public and global health.

Because sexual care is health care!

SIGN OUR PETITION

(Please note, you can sign the petition without displaying your name. Your privacy is important to us too!)

All the ways to support the cause and share the campaign

  • SIGNING: our petition asking Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo to remove stigmatizing and harmful restrictions on condom advertising. http://bit.ly/LBpetition
  • SHARING: the campaign’s media coverage!
    • ThinkProgress: Twitter Is Being Pressured To Stop Censoring Ads About Condoms
    • RH Reality Check (Our op-ed): Twitter Banned My Company From Promoting Safe Condom Use
    • RH Reality Check: Twitter Bans Company From Advertising Condoms, Citing ‘Adult or Sexual Products’ Policy

Here are some tweets. Copy/paste your pick!

@Twitter condom policy is hypocritical & ineffective at “protecting” users http://bit.ly/LBpetition #Tweet4condoms

#Tweet4Condoms because sexual care is health care: http://bit.ly/LBpetition #Tweet4condoms

A #condom a day keeps the doctor away!  http://bit.ly/LBpetition #Tweet4Condoms

Condoms are a global health necessity. I stand w/ @theluckybloke to change @Twitter‘s ad policies http://bit.ly/Tweet4Condoms #Tweet4Condoms

You can start a revolution for your country on @twitter, but no ads for #condoms. So, we’re starting a pro-condom revolution! #Tweet4Condoms

#Tweet4Condoms because if you restrict the distribution of condoms, you are restricting efforts to save lives http://bit.ly/LBpetition

Put an end to @TwitterAds restrictions that impede condom access. Sign #petitionhttp://bit.ly/LBpetition #Tweet4Condoms

Link to our petition: http://bit.ly/LBpetition  OR share our other images below!

on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram…actually, anywhere you’d like…


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condom_bird_LB_logo

 

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Quick Tips on Talking Condom Use with Your Teen

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

Most parents are not comfortable talking to their teens about sex, and some make the mistake of relying on school education to teach their kids how to protect themselves using condoms. The fact is that teens often name their parents as the number one influence in their decisions about sex. According to Planned Parenthood, teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners and use condoms and birth control when they do have sex. So this is one of the most important topics a parent can engage with their child.  And seriously, it doesn’t have to be awkward.

Dr. Karen Rayne offers practical tips for parents to cultivate a conversation with their teens about condom use. In this article she emphasizes:

  • Create a time to talk with your teen one on one.
  • If you know your teen is sexually active, the conversation will be easier. Before you have the conversation, reflect on what you do and don’t know about your teen’s sex life.
  • Your teen may have a different definition of “sexually active” than you. Unpack this term with him/her and actively listen to their opinion.
  • Consider starting the conversation about condoms with the simple question: “What do you think about condoms?”
  • Seek resources to support your conversation. There are many great websites and videos online such as Laci Green’s channel, Scarleteen and Sex, Etc.

This article was originally published here

BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

Melissa White over at Lucky Bloke recently asked if I wanted to provide content for her new safer sex education website, and of course I was delighted! But when I went back to look through my blogging archives (both here and at www.karenrayne.com), I found that I had written terrifyingly little about condoms. So here I am, rectifying that problem with Condom Week, on both sites. Here at Unhushed I’ll be writing about parental concerns about condoms. At KarenRayne.com I’ll be writing about teachers and other educators’ issues about condoms in the classroom. Interested in receiving Unhushed blog posts as they happen? Sign up here. You can sign up to receive KarenRayne.com blog posts here.

Starting a conversation about sexuality with your teenager generally can be tricky – but a specific question about contraception and condoms can be both simpler and more stressful. You know what you’re getting at, but how to bring it up delicately?

As with all conversations about sexuality, just diving in at an inopportune time can be problematic, and your teenager can shut down. So find a time when it’s just the two of you and you’re both relaxed. If need be, if your home life is such that these moments don’t come around often, then fabricate one. If you struggle with this, find a YouTube clip or a movie that talks about condoms and watch it with your teenager as a way of introduction. (For example, Juno, where condoms aren’t used, or one of the many condom fashion shows with clips on YouTube.)

When you bring up the topic of condom usage, don’t hedge around the topic, just bring it up like you would anything else you want to have a conversation about. There’s no reason to treat sexuality as a forbidden or taboo subject matter, just a sensitive and potentially emotional one.

Before you start the conversation, it’s important for you to consider how much you know about your teenager’s sexual activity because they require slightly different approaches. Do you know if your teenager is sexually active? Do they know you know? Do you suspect, but don’t have any actual proof? Do you wonder, but aren’t really sure? Do you think not, but you want to start these conversations earlier rather than later (and good for you!)?

If you know your teenager is sexually active – and your teenager knows you know – then the conversation is easier. You can jump directly to contraceptives, but remember that it’s a conversation, not an interrogation. Offer support in obtaining condoms. Make it clear that sexual health is a value that you have and that you will follow through on.

If you don’t know for sure whether your teenager is sexually active – or they don’t know that you know – the conversation is a little trickier. Making any assumptions about your teen’s sexual activity level can feel presumptuous to them and make them shut down. Give your teenager enough room for plausible deniability around their sexual activity. For the context of this conversation, whether your teenager is actually having sex is less important than an upfront conversation about contraception: what it does, how to access it, how to use it, how to talk with a partner about it, and more.

You don’t need to know the answers to all of these questions yourself, but you do need to know where to find the answers. I recommend Scarleteen and Sex, Etc. as the best places to go with your teenager or to send your teenager to find sexual information online. Facilitating a conversation about condoms is really the most important part of this process. And it can start with this question, regardless of any other part of your process: “What do you think about condoms?”

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

Why Changing the Meaning of Consent Is Good

Image by Condom Monologues

Image by Condom Monologues

BY LARA WORCESTER | Condom Monologues

**trigger warning: This post references sexual assault and abuse.

Condom negotiation is often framed in a very particular way: a lady convincing a guy to wear the condom despite all his excuses not to. This very limited view overlooks (or simply reduces) the meaning of consent to an action that only happens at a certain point during sex. A contributor on Condom Monologues shared how her permission and safety was derailed while her sexual partner assumed absolute consent.

“I know fundamentally I cannot give consent without feeling safe. One time during sex (however safe I felt) the guy took the condom off without telling me. He figured, once we got this hot and heated there were no cues that I was saying “no”. I feel guilt sharing this story because I know people will judge me for having sex with this guy even after his display of Jerk-Assness; even after he breached my consent.” – a Condom Monologuer

Experiences like this are rarely represented in daily media. And yet, her story explicitly illustrates a fundamental component of consent that activists have been pushing for years: consent is an ongoing process.

This storyteller’s candor is a bold response to a “consent culture” that has made significant gains in recent years to legally redefining the term, particularly on US college campuses. Just this May 2014, the White House launched a website to inform students of their rights and guide schools on how to prevent and deal with sexual assault cases. The initiative also redefined consent as a “voluntary agreement” in which “silence, or absence of resistance does not imply consent.” This means that the government has finally dropped the problematic “no means no” model- an approach which implies that sex can happen as long as no one says “no”.

What is replaced with this new definition is “yes means yes.” In other words, real sexual consent happens only once there is an obvious and enthusiastic “yes”.

This is a big win for activists who are cultivating a “consent culture” that push hashtags like #ConsentIsSexy or market condom packages that read sobering messages like “My Dress Does Not Mean Yes.”

Catchy slogans are useful and have made great waves. However, the nuances of sexual relationships can get lost in their wake. Consent becomes reduced to an absolute end, with no discussion of the process or means, not dissimilar to how condom negotiation is taught in sex education as I mentioned earlier. In reality, however, consent is not isolated or all-encompassing. It is an on-going, never-ending process in which all parties must engage.

What the “enthusiastic yes” model does is shift the perspective to emphasize consent as a collaborative navigation. When consent is understood as fluid, experiences like the one shared at Condom Monologues, can be acknowledge without victim-blaming or shaming. Promoting consent in this way abandons the myth that we have to be mind-readers and just know what pleases the other. It reinforces the requirement for considerate communication. After all, isn’t that what human intimacy is all about?

For great sex tips on how to navigate consent and talk with your partner, read more from Elena Kate of Rad Sex.

LARA WORCESTER is co-founder & editor at Condom Monologues, and a Lucky Bloke contributor. She’s a published social researcher with a Master’s in Gender & Sexuality studies and has worked with various HIV/AIDS organizations including Stella and the HIV Disclosure Project.

Study Finds Men Who Use Condoms Can Still Enjoy Sex

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Studies in the past have falsely argued that male sexual health and condom use are incompatible.

Researchers from the Section of Adolescent Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Center for Sexual Health Promotion noticed that these studies simply compared “pleasure” reported by test subjects with and without condoms with no consideration for the other circumstances of their sexual encounters.  They proposed a different kind of study. The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health takes a look at their results.

Here are the important findings from the Indiana University study:

  • Earlier studies ignored other behaviors involved when using condoms— what sex acts men engage in, how they feel about the sex they have, their demographic characteristics, etc.
  • A number of factors in the span of a sexual event shape whether or not the experience itself is pleasurable.
  • Lower levels of sexual pleasure were associated with erection difficulty, perception of partner discomfort during sex and perception of penis width and hardness.
  • One limitation of the study is that it does not allow for any comparison between the beliefs, behaviors or reported pleasure levels between men who do and do not use condoms.

This original article is published on The CSPH website.

BY The CSPH | theCSPH.org

Researchers from the Section of Adolescent Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University noticed that there was a void in the current sexual health literature on condom usage with regards to sexual pleasure. In general, studies tend to just compare the pleasure reported by men who either do or do not use condoms, and often wind up with results claiming that condom usage is not compatible with male sexual enjoyment. However, these studies ignore the other components of sexual pleasure or the various other characteristics and behaviors of men who use condoms, such as what sex acts they engage in, how they feel about the sex that they have, or their demographic characteristics. To combat this deficiency in data, the investigators of this study proposed this research to examine the association between condom use and sexual pleasure when all participants use condoms consistently, correctly, and completely, allowing for an understanding of the range of factors that affect sexual pleasure and enjoyment.

Participants were enrolled as a subsample of heterosexual-identified men from a larger US-based study of event-level condom behavior (a phrase used to indicate condom usage for one act of intercourse), with representatives from all fifty states. Of the 1,599 participants, 83% were white; about half had received some college or technical education; about a quarter were married, with 30% partnered and 41% single; and the average age was 26 years old. Diary reports of sexual behaviors and condom use were requested of participants, and then “complete condom events,” where the condom was applied prior to intercourse, used for the duration of intercourse, and removed only after intercourse had ended, were analyzed according to measures of subjective rating of sexual pleasure and a number of predictor variables. Some of the important considered variables included: partner type (casual/main); sexual-situational factors like intercourse duration, intensity, and lubricant use; physiological factors including perceived penis width, length, and hardness; ejaculation; and perception of condom comfort.

A number of factors were found to be correlated with higher reports of sexual pleasure during complete condom use. Ejaculation had the strongest association, with a four-fold increase in reported sexual pleasure. Other strong correlations with sexual pleasure included higher intercourse intensity (41%), longer intercourse duration (40%), performing oral sex on a partner (34%), receiving oral sex from a partner (21%), and receiving genital stimulation (13%), as well as a modest increased association with older age (4%). Additionally, lower levels of sexual pleasure were strongly associated with erection difficulty (75% reduction) and perception of partner discomfort during sex (72% reduction), while perception of lower penis width and hardness were also linked to lower sexual pleasure.

The results of this study indicate that sexual pleasure is not simply something that cannot coexist with condom usage; instead, it is a fact that can still be very much a part of these men’s sexual encounters. As the authors of the study address in their discussion, what this data shows is that there are a number of factors in the span of a sexual event—how a man feels about his genitals, how his partner reacts, what acts other than vaginal penetration occur—that shape whether or not the experience itself is pleasurable. It is important not to permit or perpetuate the stereotype that just removing the condoms would make intercourse better. Rather, the authors of this study believe there are better solutions to decrease the negative factors linked with lower sexual pleasure, such as visiting a doctor to take care of erectile difficulties or ensuring that one’s partner is equally comfortable and pleased with the sex.

Unfortunately, this study was somewhat limited, in that by only focusing on condom use, it does not allow for any comparison between the beliefs, behaviors, or reported pleasure levels between men who do and do not use condoms. Additionally, heterosexual men are not the only individuals who could benefit from research into the pleasurable associations of safer sex. However, work like this is so important because it not only advances the importance of pleasure and safer sex, but it also shows how the two can work together. Safer sex devices like condoms are so clearly important in limiting potentially negative consequences like pregnancy and STIs, and knowing how to make such things sexy and fun—really, one of the majors draws of any sex play—is key in making sure people are willing to do what they need to do in order to keep themselves safe and healthy.

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.

Teenage Sex Myths: The Best Argument for Sex Ed

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Sex education is important no matter how you look at it. That belief can be strengthened even more just by spending a few moments looking over some of the pervasive myths that still exist among teens, particularly in the USA.

Some teens still believe things like jumping up and down in a hot tub after sex may prevent pregnancy and that condoms are manufactured with holes so won’t protect you anyway!  Lies. Throw in other myths involving Mountain Dew and it makes you want to prioritize sex education with English and Math!

In this article, JoEllen the Redhed Bedhead, deciphers 10 Common Sex Myths that illustrate why we need to teach teens (6th – 12th graders) matter-of-fact reproductive health.

This article was originally published on The RedHead Bedhead site.

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

One of the weirdest things I think about this time of year is the time a few years ago when I was talking to my middle-school teacher mother who had, over the course of the previous year, spoken to me several times about her shock at how much sexually activity was going on between her 6th-8th grade students. She was talking about her students again but this time she was shocked to find that a number of them still believed in Santa Claus. Now, I’m not going to lie, I mined this for some comedic gold (“Okay, I’ll go down on you but if I end up on the ‘Naughty List’ for this I’ll be so mad!”) but it really does highlight a huge fundamental flaw in our (and by “our” I mean “America’s”) attitude toward children and sex ed. These kids are engaging in sexual activities while still in a very, young, naive and vulnerable place, a place where they still thought it was plausible that an obese man and some reindeer magically delivered toys to the entire world every December 24th. So, what else might they believe? What they need the most is education, information and guidance but, as we live in the world of  abstinence-only education that says sex is something kids should be shielded from they are left to draw their own conclusions, with some frightening consequences.

I’ve rounded up 10 sex myths that I think really illustrate why we need to be teaching kids how this stuff works. These range from things I heard growing up, to things my mom’s students say now, to things that are making the internet rounds.  Almost half of these relate to how one can or cannot get pregnant. Now, I know there is a ton kids need to be learning about but as the country with a teen pregnancy rate that is the “highest in developed world” this seems like something we want to get on addressing.  Check it out:

“I can’t get pregnant the first time I have sex.”
Nope, every single time can get you pregnant. Particularly cruel as teenagers are extra-fertile.

Read the full article at The Redhead Bedhead.

JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE  is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting

All Barriers All The Time: Condoms, Dams, Gloves…

With permission from Scarleteen

With permission from Scarleteen. Illustrated by Isabella Rotman.

Safer sex barriers like condoms, dams, gloves, and finger cots, offer some of the most effective protection against STI transmission. However, many people feel stumped on exactly what they should be using to best protect themselves and their partners, and how  to integrate safer sex practices in a way that adds to the experience, rather than detract from it. This article, originally published at Scarleteen, answers all your barrier questions and helps you learn about every single barrier choice you have:

The main topics covered below are:

  • How much protection barriers actually offer
  • What they don’t protect you from
  • How to use both external (male) condoms and internal condoms, dental dams and gloves
  • How to protect sex toys
  • 3 ways to ease the use of barrier methods

This article was originally published on Scarleteen

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen
Illustrations by ISABELLA ROTMAN | thismighthurt.tumblr.com

Barriers-SquareHooray for barriers! Not the crummy kind that keep us from things we want, the kind that can protect us from pathogens that can be passed from one person to another, resulting in in illness and infection. Safer sex barriers do a great job reducing our STI risks, so we’ve got the best chance of enjoying the good things sex can offer without big risks of transmitting (giving) or acquiring (getting) infections in the process. Barriers keep germs out while letting us do the things we enjoy, want and which can bring us closer; to our own sexuality and to other people we may share it with.

If we still want to engage in genital sex — like vaginal or anal intercourse, oral sex or manual sex — safer sex is the only thing yet proven to effectively reduce the STI risks those activities can present. That means regular STI testing, and consistently (not just sometimes) and correctly (used exactly as directed) using barriers. Most STIs are primarily transmitted through body fluids, so protecting ourselves against them is mostly about limiting or avoiding our contact with each others fluids. Barriers are what help us do that when we don’t also want to limit or avoid being sexual with other people.

How much protection do they offer? When used consistently and correctly, latex condoms are highly effective preventing STIs, and are the only thing that’s yet shown to be highly effective. With fluid-borne infections, like HIV, Hepatitis or Chlamydia, condoms have been found in studies to reduce the risk of infection by as much as 99%, and as little as around 50%, with both figures largely influenced by how consistently and correctly condoms are used. Specifically addressing HIV protection, the UNFPA states an effectiveness rate of 90-96%, Family Health International states a rate of 80% – 97% protection. With infections transmitted by skin-to-skin contact alone, findings for protection range from around 30% to around 90%. Again, proper use and consistency is a big player. Barriers can also help prevent infections like urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis.

Barriers protect us better from infections spread only or mostly by fluids than they do with those spread by skin-on-skin contact (like molluscum, HPV and Herpes). That’s mostly because most barriers do not cover the whole surface of the genitals of a person, their partner, or both. But the biggest player in how effective barriers are in preventing infection is just like with methods of birth control: it’s if they are used all the time, and also used properly. How effective a barrier is is far more within your control than outside of it: effectiveness has way more to do with always using them and using them right than it does with any limitations of the barriers themselves.

All you really need to use them well and get the protection they offer is to learn which ones you use for what activity or body part, how to use them properly and some practice, confidence and a commitment to the health and well-being of you and yours. We can give you most of that right here, and we can give you a good start to developing that last part for yourself.

Condom-title
Let’s start with the barrier people tend to be the most familiar with: condoms. We currently have two different options when it comes to condoms on the whole: the “male” (or outside) condom, and the “female” (or inside) condom. Outside (“Male”) Condoms are the barrier to use for any kind of intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex involving a penis. [Go here for more instructions on how to use a condom, and how to find the right fit].

How to Use outside (“male”) condoms:

whitecondom-Diagram-Scarleteen1) Use a condom that is new, and at least six months in front of the expiry date: make sure your condom is not expired. The expiration date is somewhere on every individual package. Be sure you’re also using a condom that hasn’t been kept anywhere where it could have gotten worn, or too hot or cold . We always need to keep condoms and all other barriers places with moderate temperatures, and store them only in places they won’t get too knocked around or sat upon.

2) Open the condom wrapper with your fingers: don’t use teeth or scissors if you can help it. Take it out, then roll it out a tiny bit so the edge is rolled up on the outside of the condom, facing up. Otherwise the condom won’t roll down right. Put a few drops of water-based lubricant inside the tip of the condom: that helps with getting it on, and makes condoms feel a lot better for the wearer during use.

3) Pinch and hold the tip of the condom with your fingertips to leave some space — about an inch — and roll the rest down the length of the penis while still holding the top. The ring of the condom should be as close to the base of the penis as possible. When you’re down to the base, run your fingers from the tip all the way down to press out any air bubbles: this helps keep condoms from breaking. (This isn’t necessary when using a condom to cover toys.)

4) Put some lube on the outside of the condom. The amount of lubricant already on lubricated condoms is rarely enough for the condom to feel good for everyone, and the lubrication the vagina or penis can produce by itself often doesn’t fare so well with latex: it’s easy for parts to feel dry and raw fast. Plus, a well-lubricated condom is a condom that is not at all likely to break. While you are using the condom, neither you nor your partner need to hold onto it: condoms are designed for hands-free use.

5) After ejaculation (or not, but you’re finished for now) — and before you withdraw — hold the base of the condom with your hand. Keep your hand there while you withdraw, and until the penis, or toy, is all the way out of the vagina, anus or mouth. Pull it off (slowly, so slowly: whipping condoms off fast usually ends in a mess, tears or unstoppable laughter) with that same hand on the rim of the condom and your other hand by the tip. Tie a knot near the base of the condom.

6) Throw the condom away in the rubbish bin – NEVER reuse condoms.

For those using outside condoms who’re uncircumcised, there’s a variation in putting a condom on. You, or your partner, will need to first gently move the foreskin back a bit, then put on the condom, rolling it about halfway down the shaft of the penis before letting go of the foreskin, and then rolling the condom down to the base. Because of the foreskin, you or a partner may find the condom doesn’t go as far down to the base as it does with a circumcised penis, and that’s okay. You also may find that using a few drops of lubricant inside the condom, before you put it on, is more important (or not) to your comfort than it is to those with circumcised penises. This is just another thing to practice with to find out what feels best for you.

Uncircumcised-Condom-Application

Most of this is just going to be about working out what feels best for you and your own foreskin, insofar as how much you roll the foreskin down, and when you let it slide back up. Some people with foreskins even find that putting them on the same way you would without a foreskin is what works best for them. So long as the base of the condom is firmly on the base of your penis and it all feels comfortable for you, you’re good.

You can find condoms in pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, in clinics and health centers (often for free), or you can order them online. No barriers, including condoms, are only legal or available for people of a certain age: people of every age can purchase them lawfully.

whitebananaThere are a LOT of brands and styles of condoms out there to choose from right now. So many choices! Yay! People are going to have some that don’t work for them, some that are fine, and others that are their Best Condom of Ever. If condoms don’t feel good, fixing that can sometimes be as easy as just using a different size, style or brand.

We’re fans of everyone knowing how to use condoms, not just people with penises or people who use condoms as a method of birth control. It can make it way tougher to get and keep in the habit of using condoms if we don’t all know how, or only one partner knows. If you don’t have a penis yourself, or a partner with one, that doesn’t mean you can’t still learn! You can learn to put condoms on by using a dildo, or food items like bananas or cucumbers. (Extra bonus: it’s kind of hilarious. As it turns out, bananas look silly with condoms on.)

With any kind of barrier, it can be harder to learn to use when we only practice with partners. Even when a partner is great and we feel great with them, there’s always an extra pressure just by virtue of someone else being involved, especially if we both also want to be sexual at the time, so we can be a little hasty or distracted. Learning to use, and practice using, barriers when you’re all by yourself makes becoming a pro easier.

whiteinternal-CondomInsider (“female”) condoms

Inside condoms may be the most underrated barrier there is.They’re amazing! An inside condom can be put in in advance of sexual activity, making it great for those who feel like outside condoms are an interruption, no matter how brief, they’d prefer not to manage. The materials they are made of conducts body heat better than latex condoms. They are made of a non-latex material, so are just as good for those who can’t use latex as those who can, and can also be used with even oil-based lubricants, unlike most outside condoms. They also don’t tightly grip the penis, so for those who dislike the tight feeling of the base with outside condoms, the inside condom can be a great way to get the protection we want without the feel of a standard condom.

They cost a little more than outside condoms, and can be harder to find, but if you have never tried one, we’d say it’s worth it. Inside condoms may just turn out to be your new favorite thing of ever. If you can’t find them where you buy condoms, they can be ordered widely online. You can also ask a pharmacy if they can order some in for you.

For those who used female condoms a few years ago and vowed never to do so again, because the material they were made of made louder sounds during sex than your mouth is even capable of making- They are not made of that material anymore. The new materials are soft, smooth, and best of all, perfectly quiet.

How to Use Inside (“Female”) Condoms:

1) Just like with outside condoms, you want to first open the package carefully with your fingers.

2) Then, put a little lubricant on the outside of the closed end. As the illustration above can show you, the inside condom has two rings, an inner one in back, where the material covers it completely — where it is closed — and an outer ring in front, where there is an opening to the condom, just like with an outside condom. whiteHow-To-use-Female-Condom

3) Next, you will need to insert it inside the vagina, or anus, depending on what kind of genital sex you are choosing to do. Some put the inside condom inside while they stand with one foot up on something, or squat, or sit on the edge of a chair or toilet, or lay down. You’ll find out by experimenting what works best for you. Inside condoms can be inserted up to 12 hours before use, so if you prefer to put it in way before sexual activity, you can do that. You’ll squeeze that inner, or back ring, together with your fingers until it basically makes a line, and put it inside the body the way you’d put in a tampon or menstrual cup, pushing it gently back as far as you can. With vaginal insertion, until it reaches your cervix (which feels like a little nose inside the vagina, if you have never felt it before). When it’s all the way back, you pull the finger you pushed it inside with out, and let the outer ring of the condom hang about an inch outside the vagina or anus.

4) Then, a partner will insert their penis — or a toy — inside the vagina or anus and the condom inside. The base will not grip them like an outside condom’s base does. For those new to sex or using this kind of condom, do be sure and check that the penis, or toy, is being inserted inside the condom in the vagina, rather than to the side of the condom.

5) To remove the inside condom, you will have your partner withdraw — no need to hold anything. Then you twist the outer ring, and the part of the condom outside your body until it’s closed, gently pull it out and throw it away.

Dental-Dam-Header

Dental dams are the barrier we have to help reduce our risks of infections during cunnilingus (oral sex involving the vulva) or analingus (oral sex involving the anus). Some people have the idea that oral sex with someone with a vulva does not pose STI risks. While oral sex risks are higher when there is a penis involved, rather than a vulva, please know that does not mean cunnilingus poses no risks, or is an activity where it’s sound not to protect yourself or your partners. It does still present STI risks, particularly with common infections like Gonorrhea, HPV and the Herpes virus.

Like condoms, dams come in both latex and non-latex. Like condoms, they also are available with or without flavoring, if you have preferences in this regard.

How to Use Dental Dams:

Open the package carefully, take out the folded square and open it up — it’s like the littlest bedsheet on earth, and you just want to open up that sheet like you were making the littlest bed. You and/or the person whose vulva, or anus, is having the dam put unto may want some lube on their genitals before putting it on. Then you, or they, just place it over the genitals, and you, or they, hold it there with hands during sexual activity. whiteDental-Dam-Placement

That may sound like a stumper, until you think about how often you’re usually also using your hands anyway with cunnilingus or analingus. Basically, all you’re doing with the dam is having the edges of it stay between where your fingers might be anyway, or your partners, and being a little mindful about that to keep it in place.

Make sure the same side of the dam that’s been against the body stays on that side.(Pro-tip from one of our volunteers: use a permanent marker to put an irreversible word/letter on the corner of one side if you’re worried about spacing which side is which.) When you’re done using it, throw it away, and as with other barriers, don’t reuse: you need a new dam for any additional sexual activities, or if you want to change the part of body you are using it on, like, for example, starting with cunnilingus and shifting to analingus.

Dams can be tricky to find in some areas, or for some populations — like younger people. If they aren’t available where you already purchase condoms, they can be found online. If online ordering won’t work for you, that doesn’t mean you have to go without! You can make a dam by cutting a condom lengthwise, or by cutting a glove: check out these easy instructions for DIY dams. You also have the option of using Saran Wrap or Cling Film instead, just don’t choose the kind expressly for microwave use, since, as it tells you on the box, that kind has tiny perforations in it intended to let steam out, but which would also let germs in.

Want more information on dental dams and related issues? Take a look at these links:

Gloves-and-finger-cotsGloves and finger cots can be used to reduce the risk of infections with manual sex, like fingering, handjobs, or any kind of anal play with the hands. While manual sex poses far less risk of infection than intercourse or oral sex do, and handwashing does a great job by itself at reducing risks, gloves and finger cots still have some good things to offer. Like condoms, you can find both latex and non-latex options.

For instance, they make things feel better for some people. Genital tissue is tender, and hands, fingers, or nails can be rough, even when we take good care of them. Callouses and hangnails can cause abrasions that don’t feel good and increase our risk of infections. Gloves feel slick and uniformly smooth; that not only tends to feel mighty-nice, it helps prevent small genital tears or abrasions which do not feel mighty-nice at all. It can also be harder to wash our hands sometimes or in some settings, and gloves or finger cots give us the ability to change them, without having to run to the bathroom for another handwash, between activities easily.

You probably already know how to put on a glove: you just put your fingers and thumbs inside. Just know that hands need to be dry before using them, otherwise they can be harder to put on. You also want to avoid using the kind of latex gloves with powder inside when using gloves for genital sex. As with other barriers, lube plays a big role in things feeling good. As with other barriers, you don’t want to reuse gloves. You want to use them for sexual contact with one specific body part only: a different sexual activity means a new glove is needed. To take them off, pull from the base of the glove, at your wrist, towards your fingertips. The glove will turn itself inside out as you pull it off from the bottom. That makes getting them off easier, and also keeps all those fluids inside when you toss it.

Finger cots look like really tiny condoms: you just roll one on a fingertip (or more than one, if you like!), when you are going to use just fingertips for something. You know the drill: lube, one cot per activity or place, no reusing, roll them off and toss’em when you’re done.

Gloves are available at pharamcies, and sometimes even at grocery stores (look in the drugstore aisle). Finger cots can be found online. whSex-Toys-Header

Sex toys, like people’s bodies, can also carry, harbor and transmit pathogens. Many can’t be boiled, and are made of porous materials that pathogens like hanging out in. If you want to be safe with your toys, even when you’re the only one using them, you want to cover any toy that can’t be boiled or otherwise safely and effectively sanitized, and use a new barrier with every use. Ideally, you don’t want to be sharing most toys, but if and when you do share, or plan to, using barriers is important for everyone’s best health. Using barriers with toys also often makes cleaning them and keeping them clean a whole lot easier! Dildos-look-good-in-condoms

Condoms cover dildos and other long-shaped toys well, and you can also drop a small, corded vibrator, like bullet styles, into a condom and cover it that way. For sleeves or pumps, toys meant for the insertion of penises, you simply use a condom like you would for intercourse while using it. If you are using household objects for masturbation, they very much should be covered, but even if they are, they shouldn’t be shared. For several reasons, some pretty basic etiquette and good-neighborliness among them.

Finger cots can also cover small toys. If you feel stumped about what to use, a dam can be a good option, because you can wrap almost anything in it and have plenty of it left to hold unto. You can also use a dam (or condoms) for safer sex with toys by putting it on your body part you were going to contact with the toy.

Don’t forget lube!

whiteWater-based-lubricantsLatex barriers should not be used with oils or oil-based lubricants, as most will degrade the latex. The easiest way to be sure you’re using the right lube? If it says it’s latex safe, and/or meant for sexual (or vaginal) use, you’re good. When in doubt, stick with something water-based or, if you want to get more adventurous with your lubes, do so only when using non-latex barriers.

Barriers are usually easy to use once you get the hang of them and get into the habit of consistent use. They’re easy to learn to like once we feel confident and capable with them: when using barriers feels like a major drag, it’s often because one or more of the people using them, or thinking about it, doesn’t feel experienced enough using them, or doesn’t know how to use them in the ways that feel good yet. Learning how to use them and getting practice can not only help them to be most effective, it also will typically help people feel a lot more happy about them emotionally and socially.

Three ways to make using barriers feel easier:

1) There’s no perfect thing to say to convince a person who does not want to use barriers to use them. There’s also no special way we need to ask — beyond something like, “Can you/we use a condom/dam/glove, please?” — or even can ask to make magic happen and change someone’s mind on this.

Letting go of any expectation you will ever need to say anything to someone who refuses EXCEPT, “Oh well, seeya later then,” can make you feel more relaxed pretty instantly about inviting partners to use barriers with you. You don’t ever, seriously, ever, have to have arguments about this or write a fully cited thesis to try and prove your point to a partner. You just need to offer, and if they don’t accept, just graciously choose not to have sex with them.

If your words feel clumsy or uncomfortable,the easiest, simplest way to ask someone to use a barrier is just to hold it out and offer it to them before you do what you were about to start doing. That’s it. So easy. And it works very, very well.

You don’t even need to use any words; you often won’t have to, since most people know what barriers are for. When you’re about to do something sexual and you just take out the barrier and hold it out, or start putting it on yourself, most people get that barriers are a given if they want to have sex with you, and they will just get right on board if sex with you is something they want. (Or, they may feel the same way, you just pulled out the barrier before they did!).

All people asking each other to use barriers is is just someone, or more than one someone, actively caring for their health and that of their partner in a very basic, noninvasive way and asking for cooperation with that. You may need to negotiate or adjust some things, like what style or kind of material or lube someone likes, talk about testing, or show a partner how to use a barrier. But really, just taking it out and using it or handing it over — or words as clear and simple as, “Can you/we use a condom/dam/glove, please?” — should generally suffice. Which leads us to…

2) Keep barriers (and lube!) on hand. Don’t rely on others to have them, or set things up so only one partner is responsible for getting them. Share in both the freedom and responsibility of having them yourself! If you want to offer them to partners, you obviously need to have them in the first place. Plus, when barriers aren’t used when they’re needed, it’s often because no one has them handy when they need them, and both people were assuming the other person would. whiteStop-in-the-name-of-love

3) Know and understand: a barrier against pathogens is not a barrier to intimacy, to closeness, bonding or pleasure. A LOT of people think or believe those things, and this is a case where thinking or believing a thing actually CAN make it so. We know from study that those negative thoughts influence people’s experience of condoms. People who think condoms or other barriers are a drag, or get in the way of closeness or pleasure often wind up experiencing them exactly that way because they strongly believe those things to be true. On the other hand, people who don’t believe those things, who think neutrally or positively about barriers, often experience intimacy, closeness, pleasure and bonding while still using barriers. Because barrier use also often involves communication, honesty and mutual care, it, and the skills we hone when practicing safer sex together, can actually help facilitate and support intimacy and pleasure, rather than standing in their way.

Look, we can’t always stay healthy. We’re people, we get sick sometimes. STIs are very common, especially among those in their late teens and 20s: they are challenging to avoid. Some people have already contracted an STI early, especially since so many people don’t use barriers right from the start, don’t use them with all kinds of genital sex, or have not used them consistently or correctly. It happens, and like any illness, it’s not something anyone needs feel shame around, even if and when they contracted an STI by knowingly choosing to take risks. Rather, it’s something to get better from or cope with, changing what habits you need to to better support your health in the present and future, just like with any other kind of illness.

We obviously want to avoid STIs or transmitting them whenever we can, just like we want to avoid getting or passing on strep throat. Using barriers is about doing something basic to protect our health and that of others, like covering our mouths when we cough, washing hands before eating, or staying home when we’re sick instead of giving everyone the flu. It’s also harder to feel a desire to be intimate, and to experience pleasure when we’re sick.

These kinds of barriers? Good stuff. Good stuff that even helps the good stuff stay good stuff, even. Once you know what they are and how to use them, and get some practice with them under your belt (as it were), they’ll likely turn out to be one of the easiest things you do to protect your health and also one of the things you do in your sex life that leaves you feeling highly empowered, capable and in control of your body and health.

Go to Scarleteen to read the entire post for more instructions on how to use all the protective barriers under the sun!

heatherHEATHER CORINNA is an activist, artist, author and the director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sex education and information. She is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and was a contributor to the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She’s received the The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism (2007), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region’s, Public Service Award (2009), the Our Bodies, Ourselves’ Women’s Health Heroes Award (2009), The Joan Helmich Educator of the Year Award (2012), and The Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Award(2013).

ISABELLA ROTMAN is a Chicago cartoonist and illustrator from Maine who truly cares about your genital well being. She is the author of the queer and quirky sexual health book You’re So Sexy When You Aren’t Transmitting STDs and a recent graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Other than educational comics, Isabella’s art is usually about the ocean, mermaids, crushing loneliness, people in the woods, or sex. If any of the above interests you then you may enjoy her self published comics or blog ThisMightHurt.Tumblr.com.

scarleteenSCARLETEEN is an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support organization and website. Founded in 1998, Scarleteen.com is visited by around three-quarters of a million diverse people each month worldwide, most between the ages of 15 and 25. It is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online and has held that rank through the majority of its tenure.
Find Scarleteen on twitter @Scarleteen