Safe sex means sex which is absolutely safe.
Lots of activities are completely safe. You can kiss, cuddle, massage and rub each other's bodies. But if you have any cuts or sores on your hands make sure they are covered with plasters (band-aids).
Oral sex (one person kissing, licking or sucking the sexual areas of another person) does carry some risk of infection. If a person sucks the penis of an infected man, for example, infected fluid could get into the mouth. The virus could then get into the blood if you have bleeding gums or tiny sores somewhere in the mouth. The same is true if infected sexual fluids from a woman get into the mouth of her partner. But infection from oral sex alone seems to be very rare.
Safer sex also means using a condom during sexual intercourse. Using a condom is not absolutely safe as condoms can break. If you're drunk or high it can be easier for 'things to happen'. You might have sex with someone and find it difficult to use a condom. You may even forget altogether.
A number of different types of condom are now available. What is generally called a condom is the 'male' condom, a sheath or covering which fits over a man's penis, and which is closed at one end.
There is also now a female condom, or vaginal pouch, which is used by a woman and which fits inside her vagina. The rest of this page is about the male condom.
What are condoms made of, and what shapes are there?
Condoms are made out of latex (rubber), plastic or animal tissue. If possible you should use a latex condom as these are the most effective against viruses such as HIV, and in most countries they are the type most readily available. Condoms come in a variety of shapes. Most have a reservoir tip although some do have a plain tip. Condoms may be regular shaped (with straight sides), form fit (indented just below the glans or 'head' of the penis), or they may be flared (wider over the glans). In addition some condoms are textured with ribs or bumps. Condoms also come in a variety of colours.
The lubrication on condoms also varies. Some condoms are not lubricated at all, some are lubricated with a silicone substance, and some condoms have a water-based lubricant. Many lubricated condoms are also now available with a spermicide (Nonoxynol 9) added (not suitable for oral sex).
The lubrication on condoms aims to make the condom easier to put on and more comfortable to use. A spermicidal lubricant also aims to provide an additional level of protection should leakage occur.
What shape should I choose? Why are some condoms flavoured?
It's up to you which to choose. All of the differences in shape are designed to suit different personal preferences and enhance pleasure. It is important to communicate with your partner to be sure that you are using condoms that satisfy both of you.
Some condoms are flavoured to make oral sex more enjoyable.
What about the condom size?
There are generally only three sizes made, and the standard size fits most men. There is just one standard length for condoms, and condoms made from natural rubber will in addition always stretch if necessary to fit the length of the man's erect penis.
The only place where there is a size difference at all is in the width of the condom. Some condoms have a slightly smaller width to give a 'closer' fit. There is also a slightly larger condom, but this is usually just two mm larger than the standard size.
The brand names will be different in each country, so you will need to do your own investigation of different names. There is no particular best brand of condom, but you should always only use those with the kite mark.
So when do you use a condom?
You need to use a new condom every time you have sexual intercourse. Never use the same condom twice. Put the condom on after the penis is erect and before any contact is made between the penis and any part of the partner's body.
How do you use a condom?
- Open the condom package at one corner being careful not to tear the condom with your fingernails, your teeth, or through being too rough.
- Make sure the package and condom appear to be in good condition, and check that if there is an expiry date that the date has not passed.
- Condoms can deteriorate if not stored properly. They can be affected by both heat and light. So it is best not to use a condom that has been stored in your back pocket, your wallet, or the glove compartment of your car.
- Place the rolled condom over the tip of the hard penis, and if the condom does not have a reservoir top, pinch the tip of the condom enough to leave a half inch space for semen to collect. If the man is not circumcised, then pull back the foreskin before rolling on the condom.
- Pinch the air out of the condom tip with one hand and unroll the condom over the penis with the other hand. Roll the condom all the way down to the base of the penis and smooth out any air bubbles. (Air bubbles can cause a condom to break).
- If you want to use some extra lubrication, put it on the outside of the condom. But always use a water-based lubricant (such as KY Jelly), as an oil-based lubricant will cause the latex to break.
- The condom should unroll smoothly and easily from the rim on the outside. If you have to struggle or if it takes more than a few seconds, it probably means that you are trying to put the condom on upside down. To take off the condom, don't try to roll it back up. Hold it near the rim and slide it off. Then start again with a new condom.
When do you take off the condom?
Pull out before the penis softens, and hold the condom against the base of the penis while you pull out, so that the semen doesn't spill. Then tie a knot in the condom and throw it away.
What do you do if a condom breaks?
If a condom breaks during sexual intercourse pull out quickly and replace the condom. Whilst you are having sex check the condom from time to time to make sure it hasn't split or slipped off.
What condoms should you use for anal intercourse?
With anal intercourse more strain can be placed on the condom. So it is sensible to use stronger condoms and plenty of lubricant.