Teaching Condom Use: When Hands-On Is Necessary

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

Dr. Karen Rayne, who writes about teacher and other sex educator issues, talks about when condom demonstrations are necessary in the classroom. Some school districts do not allow teachers to bring condoms to school. In Mississippi, for example, sex educators are forbidden from demonstrating how to put on a condom.  To get around this, Dr. Karen provides YouTube videos to her students. This article is for sex educators, parents and young people who want productive tips on both teaching condom use and learning about condoms in general.

Here are her key points:

  • Offering hands-on activities is important because it gets students familiar with condoms before they engage in sex, increasing the chances of consistent and correct condom use.
  • Students not only need hands-on demonstrations to learn how to put on and take off a condom; this teaching model is effective at debunking the myths that 1) condoms decrease pleasure and 2) that condoms don’t fit well.
  • There is a wealth of age appropriate online videos that teachers can share with students. Check out her suggestions below.

BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

Being a sex educator with my face and my e-mail address out on the Internet sometimes means I get crazy notes from people. I’ve had someone posing as a student e-mail me asking for details about my classes, suggesting he wanted to enroll in the fall. After several back and forths, he wrapped up thusly: “Do professors ever assign hands-on activities?” I said no, that hands-on activities don’t happen in college classrooms, but there are other places that offer hands-on instruction. He replied with: “There’s so much more I’d like to talk about but I can only imagine how busy you are!” I declined to respond.

But there are occasions when hands-on is the right way to go, and condom education is one of them.

A quick side note: There are many places where hands-on condom education just isn’t possible for political or other reasons. In many school districts around here, for example, teachers aren’t allowed to bring condoms into the school. If you’re a teacher and face similar requirements, don’t beat yourself up over it or do something that might get you fired. I provide links to YouTube videos below that can stand in, when necessary, for doing the actual activity.

So many young people have their first experience with a condom when they are in the dark, trying to figure out how to use the silly thing, aren’t fully aroused, feel embarrassed, etc. It’s not the most conducive experience to figuring out something new, even something relatively un-complicated like a condom. To combat this, I like to provide students with an activity that will provide them with lots of opportunity to figure condoms out. I divide the class into four groups and then rotate them through four stations. In general, having one educator at the demonstration model and one educator to monitor the other three stations works well. However, having more than four or five people per group can become unwieldy, so you might benefit from adding anther station or providing two of each kind of station so you can have smaller groups. Provide a big pile of condoms at each station. If they can vary in kind, brand, color, size, etc., even better!

The stations are as follows:

1. Demonstration Station: I prefer to use a realistic looking dildo, but everyone has their own preference here. Taking students through all the steps – from checking the expiration date to taking the condom off after ejaculation – is important. Relevant YouTube video:

2. Lubrication Station: “Wait, which kind of lube can’t you use on a condom?” The kind that gets all hot and breaks them when you rub it on. Nothing drives this point home further than trying out different kinds of lube and seeing what happens! Relevant YouTube video:

3. Sensation Station: Even after saying that you can feel through condoms, many students either don’t believe it or end up believing someone else rather than trying it out for themselves. Get a few feathers (I use turkey feathers from the free-range turkeys in my yard…) and have students put the condom over their hand and see what the feather feels like when brushed over the condom-covered hand vs. the non-condom-covered hand. Telling them there’s no difference is silly, but letting them actually feel that there’s still substantial sensation is important. I couldn’t find a good YouTube video for this.

4. Maximization Station: How big can a condom get? This station, in particular, works better if you have a range of condom sizes on hand (so to speak) for the students to explore and discuss. The stated goal is for them to see how big they can get the condom. I’ve had students do all kinds of funny things, from putting condoms on their heads, feet, backpacks, and more. When they’re in a space that allows for it, they love filling them up with water. Relevant YouTube video:

Please note that the YouTube videos may or may not be available for your group of students, depending on the age you’re working with. There are lots of videos out there – if you go the video route, find one that is appropriate for the age and development of your students!

Engaging with condoms at this level helps to dispel additional condom myths, building on yesterday’s blog post, but in a very personal sort of way.

I’ve decided that it’s Condom Week around here at Unhushed. 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.unhushed.net/blog), I found that I had written terrifyingly little about condoms. So here I am, rectifying that problem with Condom Week, on both sites. At KarenRayne.com, I’ll be writing about teachers and other educators’ issues about condoms in the classroom. At Unhushed.net, I’ll be writing about parental concerns about condoms. Interested in receiving KarenRayne blog posts as they happen? Sign up here. You can sign up to receive Unhushed blog posts here.

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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