Condom Basics with the SHCs

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

So you’re probably thinking: another sex column on the Daily Gazette… really? Well, yes, really and you better be excited because this column is going to rock your socks from here to Timbuktu.

The Sexual Health Counselors (SHCs) have watched as M, The Bone Doctor, and Dr. Strokes explored the far reaches of sex and sexuality. Now it’s our turn. We’re going to try and maintain our predecessors’ tradition of open-minded fun-seeking while at times going back to the basics. We’re planning on taking questions pertaining to sex, sexuality and sexual health – some more common than others – and answering them right here on Swarthmore’s finest publication, the Daily Gazette.

The column is an extension of our group mission: to provide unabridged, unbiased, sexual health-related information to the Swarthmore community. We’re not here to push an agenda. This means we are prepared to talk about sex, abstinence and everything in between or beyond. When you come visit us, we don’t assume that you’ve had sex, or that you want to. In addition, we don’t claim to be experts in the fields we’re covering. We’re not doctors or therapists. We’re just a group of students, like you, looking to help out our peers to the best of our abilities.

If you have questions about what you read here, feel free to e-mail us, call us, or chat with us in the hallways. You may not agree with everything we write. That’s to be expected. However, if and when you comment, please be respectful. Remember, these are questions that your friends and peers have asked in the past, or may be wondering about right now.

With all that said: it’s time for this week’s question! One final disclaimer: the questions we discuss here will not be directly taken from those we have been asked (unless the person specifically asks us to put the question in our column), and we’ll make sure that all identifying information is removed from questions that resemble those we have been asked in the past. Happy perusing!

Dear SHCs,

I’ve been with my partner for about four months now, and we’ve just started having penetrative sex. We’re having a major problem, though: the condoms that we use keep breaking! I don’t think my penis is particularly large, but two minutes after I put the condom on, we hear a “pop” noise. What is going on? What can we do to stop it?

Thanks for your help!

Afraid of Sperm

Well, Afraid, this is probably the most frequent question we get, so we’re glad you asked! Since you said that you’re putting the condom on your penis, we’ll specifically talk about traditional condoms, and not the reality condom (more commonly known as the female condom, although anyone can use it for anal sex).

When you put the condom on, before penetration, does it hurt or feel tight? If so, you might want to try a different condom. Just because you don’t have an enormous penis does not mean that every condom will fit you. Why not try a basic condom from another brand? Each condom company makes somewhat different sized basic condoms.

If that doesn’t work, or if your penis is significantly larger or smaller than what the condom companies call average (about 6 inches), you may need a specialty condom. If you’re on the large side, check out Trojan Magnum and Durex XXL condoms at CVS and Target. If you’re on the smaller side, you’ll also be able to find Durex “snugger fit” condoms at those stores. Make sure you try these on before intercourse, though! This will prevent problems in the heat of the moment.

If you’re certain the condom-type you’re already using fits correctly, and a different size wouldn’t help, think carefully about how you put it on. Most condom breakage comes from human error. Never use two condoms at once! This can cause condom breakage, reduces pleasure, and is overall just a bad idea.

Also: make sure that you are leaving two fingers-widths of room at the tip when you put on the condom! Otherwise the reservoir may fill with air and burst during intercourse. Are you putting the condom on in the right direction? It sounds impossible, but we’ve heard of the condom being unrolled in the wrong direction, so be careful! Ask a SHC for a helpful pamphlet, or look online for instructions on how to correctly apply a condom.

Finally, you may need to use lube, or change the kind of lube you’re using. Oil-based lubes cause latex condoms to break! If you are having penis-vagina intercourse, said vagina may just naturally produce less lubricant than is needed to prevent condom breakage. The anus and rectum do not naturally produce lubricant. To make things a bit slicker, try a water, glycerin, or silicone based lube with a latex condom.

If you’re already using water based lube and it’s not slick enough, or find that glycerin based lubes cause yeast infections, try out the miracle that is silicone based lube. Worth provides small packets of water and glycerin based lube, and you can buy bottles of all three types at CVS, or Target. I recommend Wet Platinum silicone based lube which is easy to find at CVS, and provides intense, long lasting lubrication that makes Swarthmore’s black-ice covered sidewalks look tame. Lube is great even if you don’t think you need it – it can greatly intensify pleasure for all parties involved – so try it out next time you’re in the mood.

Whew! That about sums it up. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic (and anything else related to sexual health), come to the SHC Parlor Party on Thursday, February 12th. There will be food, condoms, and lube for all!


Eric Glickman and the Swarthmore Sexual Health Counselors

The Phoenix

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