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We think doing whatever you can to make sex safer is so damn sexy. You can’t quite focus on your pleasure if you are worried about the risks of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. It really is worth understanding what methods of protection and contraception are out there so that you can find the solution that is likely to work best for you and your partner.

What methods protect against both STIs and pregnancy?
Condoms—we will discuss both regular and internal condoms in a bit—are the only methods that can serve as protection against both pregnancy and STIs.

Contraceptives like birth control pills, the copper-T and the hormonal IUD—only protect against pregnancy. So if you and your partner haven’t been tested for STIs, it’s best to use a barrier method like a condom during intercourse, even if you’re on some form of birth control.

And even during sexual activity that cannot result in a pregnancy—such as anal sex and oral sex—if both partners haven’t been tested for STIs, using barrier methods like condoms and dental dams is very important, because STIs can be contracted from pretty much any activity that involves the sharing of bodily fluids.

Rather than scaring you though, this information is intended to equip you to make safer choices as far as possible—because, luckily, it’s pretty easy to significantly reduce these risks.

Here’s what’s out there in terms of barrier methods of protection:

Regular Condoms

 Worn on the penis. Can be used during:

· penetrative vaginal sex

· penetrative anal sex

· when a penis-owner receives oral sex. (Yes, it’s advisable to use condoms even during blowjobs—that’s why flavoured condoms exist!)

Internal Condoms

Worn inside the vagina or anus.

Can be used during:

· penetrative vaginal sex

· penetrative anal sex

Sometimes also called ‘female condoms’ because they are conceptualized to be worn internally rather than over a penis, they are a great option for people with vulvas seeking to take control of their own protection. They are typically wider than regular condoms, and have a larger outer rim that is meant to remain outside the vagina or anus, as well as a small inner ring, which helps in inserting the condom and keeping it in place

Dental Dams

Essentially a small sheet of latex or polyurethane plastic, dental dams were actually used to isolate teeth from saliva during dental procedures—hence the name. But then people discovered they could also be used as barriers held in place to make cunnilingus (oral sex performed on a vulva usually with a particular focus on the clitoris) and annilingus (oral sex performed on an anus) safer. Since dental dams are kind of hard to find at stores, it’s easy to make one yourself using a regular condom. With a clean pair of scissors, simply cut off the ring and the tip of a condom, and then cut along the length of the condom. You now have a rectangular piece of latex—your very own DIY dental dam!

Condom FAQs

What type of condoms should one use?

Condoms are available in a bunch of different sizes and they generally come pre-lubricated. You can buy a few different brands and sizes to figure out what feels most comfortable and pleasurable for you.

Textured condoms—such as dotted or ribbed—are intended to enhance vaginal stimulation, and some people do enjoy how the added dimension of texture feels.

Be careful with ‘climax delay’ condoms—they are often coated with lidocaine or other similar ingredients, which numb the penis to delay ejaculation—however, if used incorrectly they can numb your partner’s vagina too.

Flavoured condoms are intended to be worn by a penis-owner receiving oral sex. They add an element of taste and flavour to make the idea of using a condom during a blowjob more fun. I would use non-flavoured condoms during vaginal intercourse as well as to make DIY dental dams, and use flavoured condoms only for BJs as the sugary coating on some flavoured condoms can disturb the vaginal ecosystem.

Are some people allergic to condoms?

Most condoms are made of latex. A small percentage of people are allergic to latex.

However, if you do have a latex allergy, worry not—really great non[1]latex condoms made of materials like polyisoprene are also available. In fact, some people without latex allergies also prefer non-latex condom brands.

How to put a condom on correctly? What if you put it on inside out?

When putting on a condom, make sure you don’t accidentally put it on inside-out. The ring should be rolling up on the outside, rather than tucked in underneath. If you do accidentally have it positioned inside-out you will likely realize it as you try to roll it on—it’s harder to roll down and it doesn’t quite sit right. Throw it away and put on a new one. (In the off[1]chance that some precum or semen could have already gotten on the condom, you don’t want to flip it around and use the same one.)

Is it okay to switch between different sexual activities while using a condom?

Change condoms before switching from anal sex to vaginal sex—bacteria from the anus can cause infections if it enters the vagina. Also, as I mentioned, use regular, non-flavoured condoms for vaginal sex.

Is it okay to keep going after you ejaculate inside the condom?

Once the penis starts to become flaccid, the condom won’t sit as taut, and semen can drip out. So it’s best to carefully remove and dispose of the condom as soon after ejaculation as possible. Wash your penis and use a new condom if you resume sexual activity.

Any other condom best practices?

Store condoms away from direct sunlight and open condom sachets using your fingers, not scissors, so you don’t accidentally damage the condom. And always check the expiry date.

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