There are plenty of contraception options out there, but none of them comes close to the best, oldest, and most effective of them all: Condoms.
Most are familiar with the omnipresent Trojan condom, but it’s not the be-all-end-all. There are female condoms, male condoms, expensive condoms, free condoms, latex condoms and even lambskin condoms. That last one isn’t even the weirdest!
For all of their practicality and use, there still hasn’t been a definitive one-stop-shop for all things condom. Likely, that’s due to the notion that there’s not much to know.
I tend to disagree, and so will you.
Male Condom Overview
Slow down there. First, we’ll need to talk about the birds and the bees for a brief moment. Rather simple, really: Conception means to become pregnant. Contraception is to actively try to not let that happen.
Condoms achieve that goal – and more.
Put simply: They envelop the penis in latex – but that’s not the only material they can be made of. Condom sizes vary. And, as such, their prices differ depending on how much material is used to manufacture them.
The largest, or “magnum condoms,” are on average more expensive than smaller varieties due to the amount of latex needed to produce them. Though Magnum condoms are a product name from Trojan, they’ve become a term used for any larger than normal latex contraceptive.
All of them, from the best condoms to the worst, prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from leaving its rubbery grasp. But they also prohibit the skin from touching your partner’s, and so stop Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) from infecting another victim.
While that’s great for your health, it’s not so good for the pleasure aspect of sex. In fact, many people stop using condoms because they don’t like losing sensation. This is understandable …
… but then both parties wish they had once a pregnancy or STD pops up.
Female Condom Overview
While they perform the same basic function, female condoms are a tad different. They’re more commonly referred to as “internal condoms,” and are just the inverse form of the male condom. Instead of putting the condom over-top the penis before insertion, the internal condom sits in the vagina.
They also look similar to one another, with the difference being the lack of a sperm catcher in the case of the female variant, in addition to a small amount of stiffer material on the outer ring to ensure it doesn’t slip or move.
Also, like it’s male counterpart, female condoms prevent STDs… barely.
But at least they prevent pregnancy, right?
No, not really. If used perfectly and everything goes right, female condoms are only 95% effective against pregnancy as opposed to the 99% effectiveness found with the male option. But that’s only when everything is done right.
In reality, where all of us live, internal condoms are only 79% effective. This means that for every 100 women who use them, 21 will become pregnant.
We aren’t in the habit of making recommendations on your life choices. But it might be wise to only read the instructions below on female condoms for educational purposes only. Unless that is, you’re the gambling sort.
How to Put on a Condom (Men)
Putting on a condom isn’t a complicated or confusing concept.
Step 1: Place the condom reservoir-side (that little bump) up.
Step 2: Roll it down the rest of the way.
And that’s it. You’re good to go! When you’re done, throw it in a garbage receptacle.
“What condom should I use?” If you’re confused about which condom size to go with, here’s a helpful chart for that. It includes exact sizes, condom types and varieties for those allergic to latex or looking for a specific brand!
How to Put on a Condom (Women)
This process, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as easy and is actually pretty complicated. Really, it’s difficult to see the upside of the product. I’ll let the fine folks over at Young Women’s Health take this one:
The female condom can be inserted well before penetration. Wash your hands first and find a comfortable position, perhaps squatting with knees apart or lying down with legs bent and knees apart. Hold the female condom so that the open end is hanging down. You may put lubricant on the outside of the closed side of the condom to help insert it smoothly. Squeeze the inner ring with your thumb and middle finger.
Insert the inner ring and pouch inside of your vaginal opening. With your index finger, push the inner ring with the pouch way up into your vagina, so that the inner ring is up past your pubic bone. You can feel your pubic bone by curving your finger towards your front when it is a couple of inches inside of your vagina. Be sure to go slowly and be patient. Make sure the female condom is not twisted at all. The outside ring of the female condom should lie against the outer lips of your vagina. About one inch of it should be outside of your body.
You need to guide the male’s penis into the female condom so that it doesn’t enter the vagina during sex. Once the penis enters the female condom inside your vagina, the vagina will expand and the condom will fit better.
A male using a female condom and vice versa is neither safe nor effective. Don’t do it!
Latex condoms, the type most are familiar with, only came to be less than 100 years ago. In 1920, latex had been invented. The rubber variety, which was the standard starting in 1850, was outmoded due to the superiority of latex.
Before the 16th century, pregnancy prevention was seen as the woman’s responsibility in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Meanwhile, in Asia, a small amount of material used to cover only the head of the penis was around – not quite a condom, but close.
Around that same time in Italy, anatomist and physician Gabriele Falloppio wrote up a document on a method to prevent syphilis. The disease killed vast swaths of people, and it wasn’t a painless death by any stretch of the imagination.
Falloppio described what is considered the earliest condom meant to prevent STDs. It was a piece of linen covered in a chemical solution, dried, and then tied onto the penis with a ribbon. (If you’re allergic to latex, I do not recommend that as an alternative. Not exactly a comfortable fit.)
The first discovered use of condoms for prevention of pregnancy dates back to 1605 in a rather odd place; a religious publication. Catholic theologian Leonardus Lessius described contraceptive condoms only to condemn them as immoral.
In 1666, the English Birth Rate Commission noticed a drop in fertility rates due to the use of what they called “condons.”
During the Renaissance, a huge leap in condom technology was made. Or, perhaps, a step backward depending on your point of view. They started using animal intestine and bladders with the same frequency as they did linen. Meanwhile, in Japan, “fine leather” was used, which covered the entire penis.
Lambskin condoms, as we know them today, are actually a variety made of either the intestines of lambs or a synthetic material, depending on the company. These are still widely available, albeit more expensive. Many of the manufacturers of this type note on their product information pages that they should n