Safer Sex

Safer sex means protecting the health of both you and your partner by preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy. Here is some helpful safer sex information from Health PROs.

Latex Condoms 101

Careful attention can maximize protection and increase confidence when using latex condoms. Condoms generally break because of incorrect use so proper use can substantially increase effectiveness. These instructions may make latex condom use easier and more pleasurable.

The Basics

  • As a general rule, latex condoms should be stored away from high temps (above 40°C or 104°F), moisture, and humidity. Certain types of light can weaken latex condoms within just a few hours so if the condom wrapper is transparent or see-through, keep condoms away from light.
  • Check the condom expiration date.
  • Put the latex condom on before any contact or penetration.
  • Consider using a water-based lubricant with your condom. It can make latex condoms less likely to break and is compatible with silicone sex toys.

The Steps to Use

  • Push the condom away from the package edge before carefully tearing on the side or edge.
  • Pinch the space at the end of the condom. If the condom has a reservoir tip, pinch that. Plain end condoms need a half-inch pinched space at the end. If you’re using a sex toy, no need to pinch the space.
  • Place the unrolled condom at the tip of penis with the condom rolling up on the outside, rather than tucked underneath. The condom should roll down over the penis easily. If you accidentally put the condom on inside out (tucked underneath), throw it out and start again with a new condom.
  • Unroll the condom so it covers the entire erect penis. If uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin before rolling the condom on the penis. Smooth to eliminate air bubbles or creases.
  • If using extra lubricant, add it to the outside of the condom before penetration.
  • After sex, holding the base of the condom, withdraw gently to keep ejaculate inside. Wrap the used condom in toilet paper or a tissue and throw it in the trash. Do not flush them down the toilet.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Always have at least two condoms available in case one breaks.
  • Putting a little water- or silicone-based lubricant inside the condom tip before putting on the penis can help prevent air bubbles at the end.
  • If the condom doesn’t reach to the penis base or feels tight, the condom is too small. If the condom slips off during intercourse, the condom may be too large. Proper condom size is important for effectiveness.

Condom Problems and Solutions

Problem Solution
The condom slips off The condom may slip off if too much lubricant has been used. Remove the condom, dry off a bit, then put a new condom on. Also, condoms have a tendency to slip off after ejaculation, so grab the condom at the base of the penis and withdraw after ejaculation. Always have a replacement condom available.
The condom breaks As soon as you notice the condom has broken, pull out, dry off a little, replace the broken condom with a new one. If the tear is near the base of the condom (the elastic ring) there is less to worry about. If the condom breaks after semen has been released, pregnancy or infection is a possibility. Always have a replacement condom available.
The condom is discolored, dried out, brittle, or just ‘looks funny’ Condoms with these qualities were not stored properly. Heat and light weaken latex; rough handling tears condom packaging. Try to store condoms at ultimate shelf temp: between 50 and 90 degrees F.
The condom won’t unroll on the penis Condoms may not unroll if they are being put on inside out. When getting ready to unroll a condom, it should start out looking like a sock that’s been rolled from the top down. Always have a replacement condom available.
The condom is torn when taken from the package Push the condom away from the edge of the wrapper about to be opened. Keep fingernails trimmed. Always have a replacement condom available.
You or your partner experience ‘rubber burn’ ‘Rubber burn’ is caused by a lack of lubrication of the outside of the condom, inside your partner, or both. Use ample lube in both places—latex requires more lubricant that bare skin. The burn may also be a reaction to ingredients in the lubricant, including the spermicide Nonoxynol-9. Switching to a water-based lubricant with no added ingredients may help.
The condom gets tighter while using it

This problem can often be solved by a dab of lubricant inside the reservoir tip before putting on the condom. Also, if the person using the condom is uncircumcised, pulling back the foreskin before unrolling the condom may help.

Safer Sex Conversations

Talking about safer sex with a partner can be difficult. What’s the best way to bring up the subject? And once you do, exactly what do you say?

Timing is important and every situation is different. The ideal time to bring up safer sex is long before you actually have sex. Bring up the subject when you’re alone with your partner, feeling comfortable, and free from tension. Avoid situations that make it hard to talk about and practice safer sex. Alcohol and other drug use can make it hard to make healthy decisions about sex.

If your partner is reluctant is practice safer sex, try to understand.  Give your partner time to think about what you’ve said. If you can’t talk about it or your partner won’t cooperate, then for the benefit of you both, don’t have sex.

At a loss for the right words? Pick one of these to get the conversation started:

“I’d like to talk with you about something that’s important. I think we need to talk about safer sex.”

“This is awkward but I think it would be good to use condoms.”

“I’m worried about STDs. What do you think we should do to protect ourselves?”

“I really care about you and I want us to be close. I brought some condoms.”

Getting a partner on board for safer sex can be tricky if your partner responds with an excuse. Be ready for the conversation and pick one of these answers.

  • When you hear “I’m on birth control. You don’t need to use a condom” you can say, “I’d like to use one anyway so we’re both protected.”
  • When you hear “I can’t feel a thing when I use a condom” you can say, “Some of the new condoms actually can make sex feel better. Let’s try some!”
  • When you hear “It ruins the mood if we stop and I put it on” you can say, “I’ll help you put it on—that will help you keep things fun.”
  • When you hear “Just this once…” your answer can be, “Once is all it takes.”

Safer Sex Tool Box

The best safer sex tool boxes have more than one tool. Check out these suggestions:

External (Male) Condoms

  • Latex or polyurethane
  • Can be used for vaginal, anal and oral sex
  • Lubed or non-lubed

Internal (Female) Condoms

  • made of polyurethane plastic
  • great for latex allergies

Finger Cots

  • made of latex
  • used for finger play; looks like baby condom
  • keeps partner’s body fluids away from cuts on fingers
  • available in the aisle by bandages

Latex Dam (sometimes called dental dam)

  • square latex safer sex barrier used during oral sex or oral-anal contact
  • stretched across your partner’s genitals to prevent contact with body fluids
  • can be purchased or made from a non-lubed condom

Latex or Non-Latex Glove

  • for whole hand protection
  • or cut to make a dam (cut off fingers, thumb, and the elastic base to leave a square)

Need condoms or dental dams? Student Health Services Pharmacy and the Health Education office at Minnesota State Mankato sells a variety of name brand latex, non-latex and non-lubricated condoms as well as latex dams at low prices.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually transmitted infections are a great reason to practice safer sex. Common STIs include: HPV, chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, pubic lice, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B, HIV, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Signs of a possible STI include:

  • sores, bumps, or blisters on or around the genitals, rectum, or mouth
  • burning or pain when urinating
  • unusual discharge or smell from penis or vagina
  • fever, chills, and aches
  • swelling, itching or redness in, on, and around the genitals
  • pain in the pelvis or deep inside vagina during sex

Often there are no signs or symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection. If you’ve had sex, a test from a clinic or lab may be the only sure way to tell if you’re infected. Students can get tested on campus at Student Health Services. Call 507-389-6276 to schedule an appointment.