The Female Condom: Will It Get Stuck Inside Me?

Photo credit: Micheal Grogan

Photo credit: Micheal Grogan

The FC2 female condom (a.k.a. the “internal condom”) is one of the most recent innovations in safer sex technology. The FC2 is the only insertable contraceptive available that protects against both STIs and accidental pregnancy. However, because it is so different from traditional roll-on condoms, many are weary of using female condoms.

One of the most common concerns is that the female condom will get stuck inside the body. Melissa White, CEO of Lucky Bloke, to the rescue, assuring us that it is impossible for the FC2 to disappear inside your body. In fact, she explains, there are many reasons to choose the FC2 over traditional latex condoms.

This post was originally published on Your Tango.

BY MELISSA WHITE | LuckyBloke.com

While the female condoms seems a bit confusing, it’s a great option for many women. We tell you why.

At Lucky Bloke, our mission is to lead you to the land of amazing sex with condoms. With a selection of the world’s best condoms at our fingertips, we’re here to prove that the right condom can actually improve your sex life. Got a question for the Lucky Bloke: Condom Experts? Let us answer your sex education inquiries so you can concentrate on having the hottest sex possible!

Dear Lucky Bloke,

I’ve heard that there is a female condom that you insert in your body and protects just as effectively as a regular condom. But why does it seems so large? And can it get stuck inside my body?

—Signed Perplexed in Pittsburg.

The FC2 female condom, which we prefer to call the “internal condom,” might seem oddly shaped at first, but that’s because it’s radically different from what we understand condoms to be. A female condom is actually similar in length to standard male condoms, but is a little wider.

When inserted, the condom forms to your internal walls and allows for movement of the penis inside the sheath. This is one of its many benefits. One size, actually, fits all!

Thus, penis size (nor knowing what condom size your man requires) is not a factor with female condoms making it an excellent option for those who find that traditional, roll-on male condoms never seem to fit quite right.

So contrary to your concern, there is absolutely no risk of the FC2 getting stuck or disappearing inside you. And you do not need to be fitted before use. There is an inner ring on one end that slips under your cervix. Then there is an open end with a soft ring which remains on the outside of the vagina. To remove the FC2, you simply twist the outer ring and gently pull the condom out.

The FC2 is growing in popularity. Many people like the advantage that condom size is not a factor for comfort and safety. Plus, it can be inserted up to four hours prior to sex, so no need to pause for intimate donning in the heat of the moment. And it’s latex free!

Another great bit of news is that the FDA is currently considering reclassifying the FC2 as a “class II” device. Why is this important? Currently, the FC2 is not in the same class as traditional condoms.

They are considered a “class III” medical device, putting them under the same safety restrictions as pacemakers and replacement heart valves, states the National Female Condom Coalition.

Moving FC2 into the new class would enable invention and testing of new and different female condoms designs. While the FC2 has made huge advancements in terms of non-latex offerings, it remains the only female condom currently available.

As we all know, product variety means safer sex option for all of us to choose and best suit our lives. What better reason than that?

Unsure what size

7 Condoms that even a Condom Skeptic would Love

Photo credit: Onyana Rose

Photo credit: Onyana Rose

These Sexy Condoms Will Completely Revolutionize Your Time In Bed! Guaranteed. 

Are you someone who hates condoms or has a partner that struggles with condom use? You’re not alone. In her Global Condom Review, Melissa White, CEO of Lucky Bloke, found that most people are unaware that condoms come in different sizes and shapes. Hence, many are wearing the wrong condom.

She argues that condom pleasure boils down to knowing what size you need and experimenting with different types and shapes.

Basically, if you dislike condoms it’s because you haven’t found the right one yet.

In this article, Melissa White recommends seven top-selling boutique condoms based on condom size needs. Take her advise and everything you thought you knew about condoms will improve.

This article was originally published on Your Tango.

BY MELISSA WHITE | LuckyBloke.com

Sure, contraception gets a bad rap. And, sometimes quite deservedly so.

However, to date, Lucky Bloke has matched over 45,000 happy condom users (in 28 countries) with a condom they love.

Isn’t it time that you and your partner launch over condom mediocrity and spend your future days (and nights) in condom nirvana?! Yes, with a little savvy and a few tips you’ll be there in no time.

Do you know what size condom you need? This is the first step to condom bliss.
And this handy trick will help you determine your partner’s condom size in no time. No measuring tape required.

Next read up on these seven condoms –all have something special to offer and each are worth a test drive:

1. Okamoto | 004

Okamoto (the leading brand in Japan, as well as the makers of Crown and Beyond Seven), continue to rock the condom world with stellar advances in latex technology. While, Japanese condoms are known for their ability to be ultrathin without compromising on strength and durability, the Okamoto 004 (Zero Zero Four) pushes all pleasure boundaries. It’s rumored to be the very thinnest latex condom available in the US. Until we are shown otherwise, we absolutely agree!

Because of the classic shaft this condom works best for the 50% of men who require a standard sized condom.

2. Unique Pull Condoms

Aptly named, their innovation is guaranteed to be nominated for the Pleasure Hall of Fame. When using UNIQUE PULL for the first time, many say they have to check to see if the condom was in place because they really could not feel it during sex. The thinner the condom, the greater the pleasure. Made from high-tech synthetic polyethylene resin, odorless, non-latex condom UNIQUE is 3x stronger AND 3x thinner than conventional (latex) condoms.

This condom works best for both men who require a standard sized condom, as well as men who need a larger condom.

3. SKYN | Intense Feel

Last year, when the good people at Lifestyles told us (on the down-low) they were going to introduce this new masterpiece in condom innovation: SKYN Intense Real Feel, it was hard not to shout about it from the rooftops. A bit dramatic you think? Well then, you’ve likely never tried a polyisoprene* condom. New condom materials (read: non-latex condoms) are the next direction for increased safer sex pleasure. And mind you, you don’t need a latex sensitivity to begin enjoying polyisoprene condoms.

SKYN Intense Real Feel is what happens when LifeStyles takes their already fantastic non-latex condom, SKYN, and adds a wave pattern of texture — Intensely deep studs on the areas along the condom that (studies have shown) maximize stimulation and pleasure.

*Polyisoprene — a scientifically formulated non-latex material that offers the strength of latex while delivering ultimate sensitivity — provides a softer, more natural feel than latex. While polyisoprene condoms are ideal for people with latex allergies or latex sensitivities, many couples prefer them to latex condoms altogether.

This condom works best for both men who require a standard sized condom. If your man needs a larger condom, try SKYN Large.

4. ONE | Tantric Pleasures

Ah, Tantric Pleasures. Of course, you want a condom that’s interesting, that feels great inside and out. Meet ONE’s answer: Tantric Pleasures, the first condom in the world created with tattoo-inspired texture for increased pleasure and an easy-rolling flared shape for added comfort. Pleasure shape meets pleasure texture. Pleasure, indeed. There are 3 separate designs: Maori, Tribal, & Titan.

When choosing ONE you’re helping people in need, as a portion of every purchase supports HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts in Africa.

This condom works best for both men who require a standard sized condom, as well as men who need a slightly larger condom.

5. GLYDE | Slimfit Strawberry

When creating the tastiest flavored condoms (and dams) in the world, GLYDE ignored cheap chemical concoctions and sourced the highest quality food-grade natural and organic fruit and nut extracts on the planet. Combining this with a red premium secure fit condom, GLYDE Slimfit Strawberry surpasses international quality standards with ultrathin comfort and increased sensation for any connoisseur in the mood for vegan, sugar-free strawberry deliciousness. It also smells absolutely divine!

This condom works best for the 35% of men who require a tighter fit, more secure condom. If you need a standard fit, try Strawberry Ultra.

6. Durex | Performax Intense

Durex Performax Intense condoms are perfect for the couple that needs support matching both of their needs. They feature a body heat-activated, desensitizing, 5% benzocaine delay lubricant on the inside for him, which helps to delay climax and prolong sexual excitement for longer lasting enjoyment. And then, there’s ribs and studded texture on the outside to insure maximum mutual pleasure for the receiving partner. As with the original Performax, the fitted shape insures that the delay lubricant stays safely on the inside.

PERFORMANCE TIP: Gentlemen, DESENSITIZING CONDOMS are highly recommended if you require additional stamina support — you will likely be pleasantly impressed by their effectiveness. On the other hand, if you don’t truly require this type of condom, numbness and a difficulty to climax are more likely to be your experience.

This condom works best for both men who require a standard sized condom. If your man needs a tighter condom or larger condom, try Ride Rock Delay Spray.

7. FC2 | Female (“internal”) Condom

The FC2 Condom offers an advantage for women who want to ensure birth control and protection from STDs. The internal condom is a strong, thin and flexible nitrile sheath inserted into (just going to get medical here) the vagina prior to sex. It has a flexible polyurethane ring on one end, a soft nitrile ring on the other and is absolutely latex-free. It is pre-lubricated with a slick silicone-based lubricant, but additional lubricant can be used as well.

The female condom can be used no matter how your man is endowed. The female condom offers a fantastic advantage for couples where a partner has a latex sensitivity. This is the only non-latex condom option for guys requiring a smaller condom (we like to call this a “tighter” or more “tailored” fit).

No matter the size, many men find the female condom more liberating. It is still “there” yet, he does not feel the same restriction, as when he is wearing the protection. Give it a try if you are (or he is) a traditional condom hater.

Once you’ve made it to the end of this list, if you’d appreciate personalized attention, Lucky Bloke offers an absolutely free Condom Concierge Service, via email. Contact us at getlucky@luckybloke.com and Lucky Bloke will assist you in identifying the condoms and lube that are right for you. (No purchase necessary!)

Unsure what size

Which of These 4 Types of Female Condoms Is Right For You?

Image by Condom Monologues

Image by Condom Monologues

There are hundreds of condom options for penis protection available today, ranging in condom size, material, texture, flavors and more. When it comes to the receptive partner, however, there is only one option. The FC2 is the only internal or female condom approved by the FDA and available for purchase. (We use the common term “female condom”, while recognizing that this barrier method can be used by all genders.)

As part of their weekly Q&A series, the folks at the CSPH (The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health) explain what is the female condom and why it may be the best safer sex option for you. They also give some insight into three other internal condoms available in the future. There is certainly a lot to look forward to!

The benefits of the female condom include:

  • Female condoms protect against both STIs and accidental pregnancy.
  • Because female condoms form to the receptive partner’s body, they are a great option to solve condom size issues.
  • Female condoms are the only barrier method that can be worn by the receptive partner.
  • Female condoms can be inserted up to eight hours before sex.
  • Female condoms protect the skin around the anus and vagina, reducing the risk of skin-to-skin transmitted infections.
  • Because the FC2 is made of synthetic rubber it is compatible with both silicon and water-based lube.

This post was originally published by the CSPH.

BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org

Each week, The CSPH answers questions that have been submitted through our website and social media outlets like TwitterTumblr, and Facebook. This week’s question:

What’s the best female condom?

Female condoms, also known as internal condoms or FCs, help prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Although these products are frequently marketed with the terms “female” or “woman,” the CSPH prefers to use “internal condom” when possible, because it better reflects the truth about gender identity—that being female or male cannot be defined by having a prescribed set of genitals. Besides, this fantastic prophylactic is an effective safer sex option for good times all around, both within and beyond the vaginal walls as it can also be used during anal sex by persons of any gender. Please note that some of the language in this Q&A may be triggering due to the fact that many brands of internal condom still market themselves using “female” specific language; however, we have included it as part of our resource set due to the fact that they are quality barrier methods even if the language they use is problematic.

Internal condoms are unique because they are the only barrier method that can be initiated by the receptive partner, which may empower that individual to feel greater control over their personal health and protection. Additional benefits of internal condom use include the potential for advance insertion (up to eight hours before sex), protection of the skin surrounding the vagina or anus, and its thin, synthetic rubber material—compatible with both silicone- and water-based lubes—that may better preserve sensation.

The Fc2

Assuming that you live in the United States, the answer to your question is simple: the FC2 is the “best” option. Why? Because it is the only internal condom approved by the Food and Drug Administration and, therefore, the only one available for purchase.  Although there are hundreds of brands on the market for penis protection—in assorted colors, textures, and flavors—there are limited condom choices for receptive partners. The good news, however, is that this could change in the next few years, as there are some exciting products under development.

Seattle-based nonprofit PATH has designed a new model, the Woman’s Condom, with input from heterosexual couples in the developing world. Despite the numerous benefits associated with internal condoms, not only can they be challenging to insert, but their  physical appearance can also be uninviting, somewhat akin to a slippery windsock. To address these ergonomic and aesthetic concerns, PATH scientists gathered most of the seven-inch polyurethane pouch into a capsule about the size of an OB tampon. All you have to do is insert the compact capsule, and then the pouch unfurls while foam supports adhere lightly to the vaginal walls to stabilize the condom. The Woman’s Condom, also branded as O’lavie, has been available in China in limited distribution channels since late 2011 and clinical trials were recently completed in the United States.

Other promising advances in the world of internal condoms include the following models, which, like the “Woman’s Condom,” have been designed and tested specifically for vaginal intercourse:

The Cupid

Available in both natural and pink colors, it is the only FC that is vanilla scented. If these qualities alone do not motivate you to stockpile your shelves, consider the more user-friendly insertion method: the Cupid uses a non-biodegradable sponge, meant to be compressed between the fingers, to push the condom into the vagina. The sponge  also holds the condom in place during use, much like the inner ring of the FC2. This FC was pre-qualified in June 2012 for bulk procurement by the United Nations, upon recommendations from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Female Condom Technical Review Committee. It is currently available in India, Brazil, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and South Africa.

Origami

Made of silicone to provide flexibility and durability during vaginal intercourse, this product is folded “origami style” and inserted by pushing the folded material into the vagina. While the design is intended to minimize its size for ease of insertion, after insertion, the condom will deploy to its full length during intercourse. The Origami has the potential to be a viable, reusable condom, due to its high-grade silicone material. This possibility of re-use, if found to be feasible, could lower manufacturing costs significantly. Clinical trials will commence in the U.S. in 2014. Furthermore, if these condoms become available in select animal shapes—like frogs, swans, or tigers—I predict a new contraceptive trend!

Panty Condoms

The Natural Sensation Panty Condom® offers sexy snatch protection with a discrete design that MacGyver would envy.  A reusable cotton thong, the Panty Condom® includes a replaceable pantyliner that contains a condom made of synthetic resin. The condom can be inserted by a penis or a finger, and the panty itself can be reused with another condom for additional acts of intercourse. One great benefit of this product is that you can wear it all day and, like a Girl Scout, be prepared. Additionally, it covers the entire vulva, which eliminates direct contact with the genital area and reduces the potential for sexually-transmitted infections such as herpes or HPV. Natural Sensation is available in parts of South America and Europe, though it has not received FDA or WHO approval. This FC is under review by the WHO Female Condom Technical Review Committee, and clinical work on function and acceptability is due to be undertaken in 2013.

If you wish to support the development and distribution of these fantastic products, consider joining the National Female Condom Coalition, or donating to PATH.  Unlike traditional condoms, FCs are considered a new “medical device” by the FDA and must undergo rigorous testing and research before widespread distribution, requiring funding and advocacy. Of the products that have already been approved, much of their availability is dependent upon donor organizations, such as the United Nations Population Fund, especially within the developing world.

For more information about the positive impact of FCs worldwide, check out the video submissions to PATH’s film contest, Female Condoms Are ________.  According to global citizens everywhere, from Bolivia to Kenya to the United States, “female condoms are sexy;” “female condoms are freedom;” “female condoms are for everyone.”

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.

Before You Stop Using Condoms….

before you stop using condomsIt is very common for couples to start off the relationship using condoms and then, as the relationship lasts, their reliance on condoms decreases until perhaps they wish to stop using condoms altogether. But there are some steps to take in order to make this transition away from condoms a healthy one. In this article from Bedsider, Jessica Morse lists things to consider and explains how to follow through when taking condoms out of your sexperience. Prepare to take yourself to a health care provider.

In summary, here are important points to consider if you plan to stop using condoms:

  • Condoms and internal (or “female”) condoms are the only form of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Many STIs do not show symptoms all the time. It’s worth taking a trip to the health clinic and getting a full-screen STI test. As well as making sure you or your partner’s Pap smear is up-to-date.
  • Depending on your test results, follow through with the appropriate waiting time until the next test and/or complete your treatment.
  • Have discussions with your partner. Is pregnancy a risk? Which birth control method should you use?  Are you quitting condoms in order to get pregnant?

This article was written by Jessice Morse, MD, MPH, and was originally published here

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Condoms are great— they’re available in almost any drug store or clinic and they protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). More than half of U.S. couples use a condom when they have sex for the first time, and over 93% have used condoms at some point.

The number of couples relying on condoms tends to go down as relationships last longer, so it’s safe to say a lot of couples start off using them and then switch to another method of birth control when they become exclusive. Starting a new method of birth control (maybe one that’s more effective for preventing pregnancy than condoms) doesn’t have to mean forgoing condoms. Doubling up with condoms and another method is a great option for many couples. But if you and your partner have been using condoms and want to stop, here are a few things to square away beforehand.

Get your test (GYT)

Male and female condoms are the only methods that can protect against STIs. That includes the ones that can easily be treated—like gonorrhea and chlamydia—and the not-so-easily treated—like herpes and HIV.

Just because neither of you have bumps or rashes doesn’t mean you’re necessarily in the clear; STIs can be there without you even knowing it. So even if you’re pretty sure you don’t have an STI, you should both get tested for common infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. You may also want to ask about a herpes test; your healthcare provider will usually ask questions to figure out if it makes sense to test for that too. It’a also a great time to make sure your HPV vaccine series (3 shots!) is done and your Pap smears are up to date.

All of these tests can be done without a physical exam:

  • For chlamydia and gonorrhea, you just need to provide a urine sample. Yup, it’s a simple as peeing in a cup.
  • For HIV, syphilis and herpes, it’s a blood test. That means providing a small sample of blood at a lab or clinic.

Then just a few days of awkward waiting and you’ll have your results!

Drumroll, please

Once you get your test results, you may have a few more steps to take before it’s safe to stop using condoms.

Positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis
These STIs can all be cured with antibiotics. You may take pills, get a shot, or both. The treatment depends on the type of infection. You may be done after one shot, one pill, or a week of pills. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you get tested again in the coming months to make sure the infection is cleared up. If you have any symptoms or concerns after you’ve finished the treatment, talk to your provider and decide what to do.

Positive for HIV, herpes, or hepatitis
These STIs can’t be cured, but they can be managed with medicines that reduce the viral load (the amount of the virus in your body) and a partner’s chance of getting the same infection. Although the medicines reduce the chance of giving the virus to a partner, they don’t guarantee it. That means that you’d need to talk to your partner about how you both feel taking this chance without condoms. (If you decide to keep using condoms, you’re in good company. About 10% of U.S. couples of all ages rely on condoms.)

All clear

If you’re both in the clear, you can have the “let’s stop using condoms” conversation.

If you’re not ready for kids yet: This is a good time to talk about what other method you want to use for pregnancy prevention. Obviously whoever is using the method should have final say, but it might be nice to have both partners involved in the decision. You can also talk to your healthcare provider to help you figure out which method is best for you.

If you’re quitting condoms in order to start trying for a baby: It’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider a few months ahead of time. Even for women without health problems, there are some basic things you can do to have a healthier pregnancy. For example, taking prenatal vitamins prevents certain types of birth defects. Your provider can also give you good tips for how to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Good luck!

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

The CSPH: Difficulty Maintaining Erection with Condoms

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It’s a common tale: the minute a condom goes near a penis an erection is gone! Some just use this as an excuse to not practice safer sex, but for others it’s a genuine issue interrupting their sex lives. Difficulty maintaining erection with condoms is a common problem, but doesn’t have to get in the way of great sex.

There are plenty of options and this article by The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (The CSPH) goes into depth to talk about:

  • How the problem is more common with newer partners or when engaging with others who may have comparably less sexual experience.
  • How worry or unease may be causing the issue.
  • The need for the condom to be the right fit and how you can go about finding that with condom samplers.
  • How a drop of lube inside the condom helps increase stimulation of erection.
  • Letting your partner put the condom on.
  • Accustoming yourself to wearing a condom by using it during masturbation.
  • Using a internal condom (aka female condom) as an alternative to the penis condoms.
  • How suitable partners may be able to engage in condom-less sex if they are fluidly bonded and regularly tested for STIs.

This article was originally published on The CSPH website.

BY The CSPH | theCSPH.org

Each week, The CSPH answers questions that have been submitted through Formspring and Tumblr. This week’s question is:

So…”sexual pleasure & health” – How does a guy get both, if he wants to — or, more accurately, needs to have unprotected sex (no condom)?  No cop-out/excuse; but, the moment I or my partner even begin to try and put a condom on me – my erection is gone … for the rest of the night – gone! How do I/we get around that … and we’ve already tried all the basic “remedies”?

You may be surprised to learn that this issue—losing an erection when putting on condoms—is not so uncommon.  A quick survey of sex advice message boards reveals that many penis-owners encounter this, especially with newer partners, when engaging with others with comparably less sexual experience, and with those who have experienced some sort of change in their lives and/or sexual encounters, leading to nervousness and unease in sexual situations.  Fortunately, one does not need to choose between having sex and using protection.

To begin, I’m curious as to what “basic remedies” you and your partner have already explored.  Without knowing this, I cannot safely assume what you have attempted, since what is deemed “basic” by some may be less obvious to others.  Therefore, I am going to discuss a number of options that I hope will be helpful.

There are a few basic aspects that I attribute to your difficulty maintaining an erection while putting on a condom: ill-fitting condoms, a momentary loss of focus, the relative novelty of using condoms at all, and nervousness.  These issues may be related, but they also may not be;  what’s important here is that you take a moment to consider the root of your difficulties, which will help you narrow down potential solutions.

My first suggestion is that you make sure you are using condoms that are appropriately sized for your penis.  While most condoms are sold as one-size-fits-all, the fact of the matter is, penises come in a variety of lengths and girths, so what fits one person may not fit another.  Indeed, personal fit is essential to solving a number of condom-related issues, such as discomfort and even minimized sensitivity.  To find out your condom size, visit The Condom Review by Lucky Bloke.  The Condom Review also sells a fantastic array of condoms and sampler packs, which will allow you to better determine what brands and styles suit you and your needs. Furthermore, another condom trick is to place a dollop of lubricant inside the condom before placing it on your penis, providing extra stimulus for your erection.

Assuming your condoms fit well, my second suggestion is very simply for you to not put on the condom, but rather that your partner put it on for you.  Doing this may help circumvent potential nervousness and the momentary loss of focus that leads to softening erections.  What’s great about this option is that it can be incorporated into existing play, after it’s already been agreed upon that sex will be happening.  For example, while kissing and touching each other, perhaps with your penis being continually stimulated, your partner can roll a condom onto you.  Your partner may also want to try to put the condom on you using their mouth.  You can find instructions at the bottom of our article, Q&A: Yeast Infections & Sex.  YouTube also has a number of videos you can turn to if you’re a more visual learner, such as this one by Angel Walker.

Another recommendation is that you grow more accustomed to condoms in general by incorporating them into your masturbation.  This may help increase your comfort with this barrier method and/or otherwise desensitize you to its role in your sex life, in that rolling one on prior to partnered sex will no longer be new and strange.  Additionally, this may help if the reason you have difficulty maintaining an erection when putting on condoms is due to anxiety over what the condom represents, such as partnered play and/or the risk of pregnancy.  By re-navigating what your brain associates with condoms, you may find yourself more easily able to use them for sex with your partner.

That said, should you find yourself unable to maintain erections even after attempting these suggestions, you can also look into another barrier method: vaginal condoms, more commonly known as “female condoms.”  Vaginal condoms are contraceptive devices that fit inside the vaginal canal and over the vulva, covering a greater external surface area than condoms that fit on penises.  This makes vaginal condoms better for protecting against sexually transmitted infections such as herpes and HPV, which can be transmitted through skin to skin contact, regardless of penile condom usage.  You may find vaginal condoms to be more suitable for you and your partner, since they can be inserted up to several hours in advance of sexual activity and therefore allow for barrier-protected penetration without disrupting play time.  With that said, vaginal condoms may feel different than penile condoms for both you and your partner, so experimentation is encouraged.

Finally, depending on your relationship with your partner, it may be worthwhile to discuss having sex without barrier methods.  Partnered sex without barrier methods is best when limited to individuals who regularly get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, are otherwise using contraception (as to limit the chances of unintentional pregnancy), and who are in relationships in which bodily fluids are shared only between partners who practice safer sex.  You can read more about this in the Q&A: Sex Without Barrier Methods.

When it’s all said and done, however, just remember that sex should be enjoyable and fun, and is frequently more than a little silly. Try not to worry about the condom, and just focus on getting down with your partner!

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.

4 Effective Condom Alternatives to Latex Sensitivity

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Latex sensitivity or latex allergy causes symptoms that can range from unpleasant to— in severe cases— deadly… nothing about that is sexy. So what is one to do when it comes to condoms? Lucky Bloke, global condom experts, to the rescue with several safer sex suggestions.

This article is intended to inform you of the various non-latex condom options available and what the benefits are of each. Here is some essential know-how:

  • Condom technology presents the latex sensitive with multiple, pleasurable alternatives to latex condoms. Here is a sample pack of non-latex options.
  • Polyurethane condoms are thinner and less elastic and form fitting than latex condoms. They do, however, transfer heat better.
  • Polyisoprene condoms are stretchier and more resistant to breakage than other condom options. They are also very soft to the touch and offer an enjoyable sensation.
  • The nitrile FC2 “female condom” is the only option that works no matter the size of the penis.

This article was originally published on YourTango.

BY MELISSA WHITE | CEO of LuckyBloke.com

If you or your partner has a latex sensitivity, all hope for a fun (and safer) sex life is not lost. Condom technology has come a long way, and there are some incredible alternatives to latex available. In fact, non-latex condoms can even be more pleasurable for couples, regardless of latex sensitivities. Lucky Bloke is here to share four top non-latex condom options:

1. Polyurethane condoms. Polyurethane condoms are made from a special type of plastic. They not only prevent pregnancy, they reduce your risk of STIs.

These condoms have no odor and tend to have a longer shelf life than latex condoms; they are not as sensitive to temperature or UV lighting. Best of all, polyurethane condoms transfer heat very well between the condom and skin. As a result, many people find that polyurethane condoms offer a more intimate and pleasurable sensation than latex condoms.

Compared to latex condoms, polyurethane condoms are thinner and less elastic. They are not as form fitting as latex condoms, so it’s important to keep that in mind when you’re getting frisky. It is highly recommended that users pair a quality water-based or silicone-based lube with polyurethane condoms to reduce the risk of slippage or breakage.

Our top pick: TROJAN | Supra which offers a standard fit

2. Polyisoprene condoms. These are relatively new to the market after gaining FDA approval for preventing pregnancy and STDs in 2008. These condoms are made out of a synthetic latex material which is just as strong as latex without containing the proteins that trigger allergic reactions.

Since this material was created in a laboratory setting, it has been engineered to offer a few key advantages over polyurethane or latex condoms. Notably, polyisoprene condoms are generally stretchier and more resistant to breakage than other condom options. They are slightly thicker than polyurethane or latex condoms and as a result, are a bit more form fitting. Despite the added thickness, polyisoprene condoms are very soft to the touch and offer an enjoyable sensation.

These condoms pair very well with water-based lubricants and silicone-based lubricants, but should never be used with oil based lubricants.

Our top picks: LifeStyles |SKYN which offers a standard fit; LifeStyles | SKYN Large which offers a larger fit

3. FC2.  The FC2 (aka the female condom) offers an advantage for women who want to ensure protection from pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infection. The female condom is a strong, thin, and flexible nitrile sheath inserted into the vagina, prior to sex. It has a flexible polyurethane ring on one end, a soft nitrile ring on the other, and is absolutely latex-free. It is pre-lubricated with a slick silicone-based lubricant, but additional lubricant can be used, as well.

Many advances have been made to the FC2 condom. It is not much larger than a “male” condom and it has no latex odor. There are so many advantages to this condom that it is impossible to list them all here.

The FC2 is a great choice for any condom user who has any type of allergies or chemical sensitives. Also, as the woman wears the condom, they are the only option that works no matter the size of the man’s penis. This is incredibly important for men who benefit from a slimmer, more tailored condom. The FC2 is the only non-latex option for these couples.

The FC2 is also the ideal alternative for any couple that faces condom-related erectile challenges. And if this isn’t enough, couples who seek enhanced pleasure (better heat transmission, more stimulation, and a natural feel) should absolutely check the FC2 out.

Our top pick: FC2 | Female Condom which offers a fantastic fit, regardless of penis size

4. Natural skin condoms. Natural skin condoms are one of the oldest methods of preventing pregnancy, and are made from a thin layer of sheep cecum (which is part of sheep intestines). Due to their porous nature, lambskin condoms should only be used to prevent pregnancy. They are not effective at preventing STIs/STDs. Unless you are absolutely certain that both you and your partner are STD-free, lambskin condoms are NOT the option for you.

Many people who use lambskin condoms say that they’re extremely pleasurable due to their thin construction, and how well they conduct heat. In fact, many men who use lambskin condoms have reported that they’re barely able to tell that they’re even wearing a condom during sex. For those who are concerned about the environment, these condoms are also completely biodegradable. They’re not as elastic as latex condoms, and they’re a bit more generous in fit than latex alternatives.

Since these condoms are made from an animal by-product, they do have a certain smell that might take some getting used to. Of the three latex condom alternatives, lambskin condoms are by far the most expensive at several dollars per condom, and are currently only manufactured by TROJAN. Despite these potential drawbacks, lambskin condoms remain popular and can be used with any lubricant.

Our top pick: TROJAN | NaturaLamb which will fit all men albeit a bit differently

Even if you don’t have a latex allergy, it’s not a bad idea to keep a few non-latex condoms at hand if you’re sexually active with multiple partners. You never know when you might end up in a sexy situation with someone who has a latex sensitivity. Safe sex is everyone’s responsibility.

For those of you in a monogamous relationship, there’s a lot to be said for keeping things fresh in the bedroom; trying out new condoms might just give you the incentive you need to get busy.

condom ad condoms too loose

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