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How to Use a Male Condom

Although not difficult, using a condom can be a tricky thing if you have not used one before, and it is very important that you use them correctly. If a condom is not put on in a correct manner it can increase the potential risk of contracting or transmitting an STI, reduce the effectiveness of its birth control properties, and can cause varying health complications. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get started. Practice putting one on so that when you are in a situation you are already comfortable with the process.


  • Before opening your condom, be sure to read any special information that is provided on the packaging of your condoms. Be aware of the type of condom that you are using and the material it is made of.  If you have known allergies (especially to latex), it is important that you know what your condoms are made from to reduce the risk of any reactions to the condom and/or lubricant that is used. It is also very important to be aware of the expiry date on the packaging of your condom. Never use a condom that is expired.  Make sure you store your condoms at room temperature and never in your wallet or glove compartment. 


  • Once you have read the packaging, remove the condom from the box. You will notice that each condom is individually wrapped, as they are a single use device.  Again, it is important to read the packaging on the individual condoms noting anything specific prior to opening it. Once you have read the packaging, most condoms have a spot that makes opening easier or instructions on where to open the package. You want to make sure that you open it from its packaging carefully.  Do not use your teeth, fingernails, or any sharp objects (such as scissors or a knife) to open the package – you do not want to damage the condom inside.


  • When you remove most condoms from their packaging, you will notice there may be a liquid like texture. This is called lubricant and is used to keep the condom moist during sexual intercourse to help prevent possible irritation. Lubricant also helps reduce the risk of your condom breaking. If you have a condom that is not pre-lubricated, you can purchase some separately and apply it yourself when you are ready to use it.  Never use oil-based lubricants like petroleum jelly, mineral oil, baby oil, or vegetable oil. They can damage the materials of the condom and affect how it works. 


  • Place the condom on the erect penis. If the penis is not erect, the condom will not fit properly or stay on. You will notice there is an opening on one end with a ring around it – this ring is to help keep the condom in place.  The other end of the condom has a pointed tip (reservoir) to collect any bodily fluid that is ejaculated from the penis. When placing the condom on the penis, make sure the ring is on the outside, and place it on the tip of the penis leaving a little room in the reservoir to collect the semen.


  • Once the condom is on the penis, gently squeeze the tip on the outside to remove as much air as possible inside the condom. Hold the tip of the condom and gently roll the ring all the way up the shaft of the penis. If you experience any difficulties rolling the condom, throw it away and try a new one. Difficulties rolling a condom may indicate it is damaged, it may be too old, or it was stored incorrectly.  Never use a brittle condom.


  • Once the condom is on correctly it should not move around or feel too tight and uncomfortable. It is extremely important to ensure you have the correctly sized condom for your penis.  If it is not the correct size it could cause the condom to break or fall off during intercourse, increasing the risk of pregnancy or transmission of an STI.


  • Once you have ejaculated, it is important to immediately remove the condom while the penis is still somewhat erect. Carefully and securely keep the condom in place while removing it from the penis. Be sure to always hold the condom by the ring end to ensure the collected semen does not fall out. Once you have removed the condom, properly dispose of it by twisting the ring end and wrapping it in a piece of tissue or paper and putting it in the garbage.  Do not flush the condom down the toilet.

Putting on a condom is not difficult; however, it may take a few tries to put one on properly and comfortably.  


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History of Condoms


Condoms have been around for centuries in one form or another.  Cave drawings found in French cave paintings from sometime around 10000-13000 BC and an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic from around 1000 BC are some of the oldest known records of condoms.  And everything between then and now is a colorful and controversial history.

Condoms through history

History shows that people were making condoms out of many different items in their attempts to have safer sex.  Animal intestines, linens, tortoise shells, silk, fish bladders, and many other unique, some quite gross, things were used to make condoms.  The 1700s saw the beginnings of widespread sale of contraceptives with the large number of European slaughterhouses.  The discarded organs were repurposed into sheaths for the prevention of pregnancy.   These “skins,” as they were called, became the most affordable and accessible form of contraception at the time.   Archaeologists have even found animal-membrane condoms dating back to the mid 1600s. 

Condoms and Casanova

Casanova is regaled to be the greatest lover of all time.  It may be his own claim to fame, but one thing he did do for sure was to help to remove the stigma of condoms during the late 1700s.  Yes, even then there was a stigma attached to condoms.  Casanova kept detailed notes about his escapades and the fact that he used condoms to help prevent getting any diseases, specifically syphilis.  He was definitely ahead of his time with this one!

The Rubber Revolution

The big turning point in the access to and production of condoms came in the mid 1800s.  Charles Goodyear figured out a method of rubber vulcanization that single-handedly kick-started modern latex technologies. By 1870, condoms were available almost anywhere in the US you could buy day to day staples.  But still condoms were mainly thought to be for protection against unwanted pregnancy and not as much for disease prevention.  That changed with World War I.

The War on STIs

During WWI gonorrhea and syphilis were both rampant amongst the troops. Condoms were handed out to many of the troops in Europe but were not standard issue for North Americans. The fight against STIs became more scientific as the number (and cost) of infections rose.   By WWII condoms were regular military issue so that “the boys” didn’t bring home something unexpected.  The messaging on the condom tins and foils were focused on fighting disease no differently than fighting the war.

Condom Today

Condoms have come a long way. They are now available in all different sizes, colors, flavors, shapes. They glow in the dark.  They have different shaped tips. They can be tattooed.  They can be latex or non-latex.  They are available online, in grocery stores, pharmacies, adult stores, corner stores, gas stations - pretty much anywhere you can think of.  Today condoms are recognized as both a barrier method for pregnancy prevention and to help reduce the transmission of infections.  They are scientifically tested and controlled as medical devices to ensure that they meet certain criteria for safety.  They are advertised on TV, online, in magazines and other marketing formats.  Throughout history they have rode the waves of controversy, no different than many other sexual health products.  But condoms have withstood, and continue to withstand, the test of time because they work!  

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