Dear Miss Meghan,
How do I choose the right condom to use?
Great question! There are many options to choose from in terms of types of condoms to use for birth control/STI protection. The two major categories are either male condoms (that are placed over the penis or phallic shaped object) or the female condom (inserted into the vaginal canal). There are also “finger condoms” that can be used to cover the hand when engaging in digital penetration (digits as in hands, not digital as in your cell phone).
The female condom is great for anyone who finds a male condom too restrictive around the penis or for folks whose partner does not want to wear a male condom. They are lubricated on both the inside and out and create a barrier between the vaginal canal and the inserted object. It is safe to use a water-based lubricant with a female condom. They work by trapping the semen from entering past the female’s cervix. Female condoms should not be used for anal penetration because you risk having the female condom “sucked” into the anal cavity and that just can’t be fun to remove.
Male condoms come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, and materials and are used to cover the penis or a shared sex toy for penetration of the mouth, vagina, or anus. Colored condoms only exist to make penises look “prettier” in my opinion, and do not affect the effectiveness or type of sexual activity that can be done with them. Sometimes, I think people just want to see what their penis looks like when it glows in the dark, which, if I had a penis, I would probably want to see at some point in my life.
Flavored condoms should be used for oral sex, and should not be used for vaginal or anal sex. The flavoring typically comes from a sugar based flavored lubricant, which can throw off the pH balance of the vagina or anal canal. If you are using a flavored condom for oral sex and then transition to another type of penetration, you should give the genital area a wipe down first with water to reduce the risk of a yeast infection or UTI.
As for size of a male condom, length matters less than width of the condom. If a condom does not unroll all the way to the base of the penis, you need a longer condom. However, most condoms are made long enough. As for width, you want the condom to fit snug and be a bit tight around the penis without cutting off circulation. If a condom is at all loose on the penis, you increase the risk of tearing the surface resulting in improper use. This means that, for a good percentage of men, thinking that you need to use a magnum because it is looser actually increases your risk for breakage.
Stay tuned for the second part in this series to learn about choosing the correct brand for you, what types to stay away from, and de-bunking some myths (like how many students here think lifestyles break easily).