Condoms and Other Barrier Methods

We can’t say enough wonderful things about condoms. They’re an excellent way to protect yourself from STIs, as well as unintended pregnancy.

Male Condoms

Male condoms come in many different textures, shapes, flavors, thicknesses, and sizes. Choosing which one works best for you is a personal decision. However, it is important to make sure your condoms are made of latex or polyurethane, because they are stronger and more reliable than condoms made of other material, such as lambskin.

Here are 10 important steps to follow when using condoms:

  1. Store them in a cool, dry place, such as a drawer in your nightside table. If they are exposed to cold or heat, the latex may break down and be less effective. It is not a good idea to store condoms in cars, wallets, or pockets for a long period of time.
  2. Check the expiry date. It should be listed on the box and on each individual condom wrapper. Never use a condom that is expired because the latex will not be as effective (i.e. will be more apt to break).
  3. Be careful when opening the package. Wash your hands before touching the condom and be extra-careful if you have long or sharp nails.
  4. Put the condom on after the penis becomes erect and before there is any sexual contact between the penis (or sex toy) and mouth, vagina, and/or anus. Males often have pre-cum, which is when a tiny bit of fluid comes out of the penis before ejaculation. Pre-cum carries risk of STI infections and pregnancy.
  5. Pinch the air from the tip as you put the condom on. This leaves space for the semen.
  6. Roll the condom slowly and carefully over the shaft of the penis (or sex toy). If you put the condom on upside down on a penis, do not flip it over. You should get a new one because harmful organisms and sperm could now be on that side and transferred to the partner, increasing risk of STIs and pregnancy.
  7. Use water-based lubricant to reduce friction and risk of the condom breaking. Some people like to place a few drops of latex-safe lubricant inside the tip of the unrolled condom, which may increase sensation for the person wearing the condom. Never use things like Vaseline, cooking or body oils, lotions, or other oil-based lubricants because they will cause damage to the latex.
  8. The condom should be removed immediately after ejaculation, while the penis is still hard. If the penis stays inside the mouth, vagina, or anus while becoming softer, the condom will no longer fit tight, and fluid can leak out, increasing risk of STIs and pregnancy. It is also important to hold the base of the condom while pulling out, so that it doesn’t slip off and stay inside the partner.
  9. Tie the used condom up, inspect it for any tears or leaks, then throw it in the garbage. Do not flush it down the toilet.
  10. Use a new condom for every new or repeated sexual activity. Do not switch between vaginal, oral, or anal sex without also switching to a new, unused condom. Also, never use more than one condom at one time. “Doubling-up” increases heat and friction, which can damage the latex and make it less effective.

For more information about male condoms, click here: Male Condom.


Female Condoms

The female condom is a plastic pouch that is inserted inside the vagina to reduce the risk of STIs and unintended pregnancy. They are made of polyurethane. There is a flexible ring at the closed end, which is used to put the condom inside the vagina and hold it in place. The other ring stays outside the vagina and partly covers the vulva.


For more information about female condoms, click here: Female Condom.

Oral Dams

Oral dams are also known as dental dams. They are typically used for female-receptive oral sex (cunnilingus) and/or for anal-oral sex (analingus). An oral dam is a thin piece of latex that reduces the risk of STIs when used properly. They often come in different flavors such as grape or vanilla.

Most dams have a light powder coating, so you may want to rinse them off before use. Some people like to apply a water-based lubricant to the genitals where the dam will be placed because it can increase pleasure. The dam is opened up and spread over the vulva or anus. It can be held in place by you or your partner during the activity.

For more information about oral dams, including how to make your own, please visit

Latex Gloves

Latex surgical gloves can be used in activities where a barrier is desired. This may include inserting a finger into your partner’s vagina or anus. When using latex gloves, apply only water-based lubricants. Also make sure that you use a new glove for each partner and do not re-use a glove by turning it inside-out. Latex gloves should be available at the drugstore.