What is a condom?

The most common condom is a thin piece of latex (rubber) which is shaped to fit onto an erect penis. There is also a condom made of plastic, an alternative for people who are allergic to latex. It’s stronger than latex condoms, but it’s also more expensive.


A condom is used to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. Condoms can be used for vaginal, anal or oral sex. Anyone thinking of having sex should wear a condom or consider safer forms of sexual activity, such as mutual masturbation.

Condoms prevent the transfer of semen and vaginal fluids to a partner. Condoms must be put on before contact occurs between your penis and your partner’s vagina, mouth or anus to be effective, as pre-cum (fluid released when a penis is erect) can contain sperm and transmit infection.

Condoms are an effective barrier to prevent infection if they cover the infected area. They won’t protect against STIs if the infection is on an unprotected part of the body and skin-to-skin contact occurs.

Condoms are effective if used correctly, so it’s good to practise putting them on before you use them for real. If you are confident in using a condom it can save you embarrassing moments during foreplay. It’s good to use additional water-based lubricant to prevent the condom breaking.

If you’re in a trusting relationship and you’re confident that there’s no risk of getting a STI you may choose to stop using condoms for STI protection. But if you or your partner have had unprotected sex and have not had a complete STI check, see a doctor or clinic to get tested. STI testing is simple, often all you need is a urine test. If pregnancy is still a concern you will need to consider other forms of contraception.

Latex condoms are available in supermarkets, pharmacies, vending machines in some public toilets and you can get free condoms at SHine SA and some other health clinics. Non-latex (plastic) condoms are available at major supermarkets and some pharmacies.

Condoms come in a variety of sizes, from tighter to larger fitting. They also can come in different colours, textures, flavours and shapes for added fun and pleasure. So experiment and try different brands until you find what works best for you.

Talk to your partner before having sex. Make sure it’s something you both want. Discuss who is going to get the condoms and lubricant.

Have spare condoms in case:

  • the condom breaks or slips off
  • the condom is put on the wrong way as pre-cum may be left on the condom
  • the penis goes soft (as it’s best to withdraw and start again to reduce the risk of the condom slipping off)
  • you both want to have sex again.

Don’t open the packets with your teeth as you may damage the condom. Open near the corner of the condom packet to be safe.

Remember latex is perishable, so store your condoms in a cool place, not somewhere like the glove box of your car.

Girls can carry condoms in their purse or hand bag. Guys can carry them in their wallet or jacket pocket. Next to the bed is also very handy!

  • Check the packet by feeling the air bubble to make sure it’s sealed.
  • Check the use-by date.
  • Pre-cum can transmit infection and sperm, so avoid contact between your erect penis and your partner’s genitals, anus or mouth before the condom’s on.
  • Open the packet carefully. Make sure you don’t tear the condom when opening the packet. Don’t unroll it yet.
  • Air trapped inside a condom could cause it to break, so squeeze the tip of the condom between your forefinger and thumb and place it over the fully erect penis.
  • Unroll the rest of the condom down to the base of the penis.
  • Apply water-based lubricant to increase pleasure and reduce the risk of the condom breaking.
  • If the condom rolls up during sex, roll it back to the base of the penis immediately.
  • If the condom comes off or breaks during sex withdraw the penis and put on a new condom before intercourse continues.
  • After cumming hold on to the base of the condom and withdraw the penis before it goes soft.
  • When removing the condom, don’t allow the condom or penis to touch you or your partner’s genital area. Dispose of the condom carefully.


A female condom is also available. It is loose fitting, non-latex, and is placed inside the vagina. It costs more than male condoms and is available from SHine SA clinics, the Sex Industry Network shop (220 South Road, Mile End, tel: 8351 7626), or can be purchased online.

Sexual lubricants are water-based substances that reduce friction during sex, which prevents the condom from breaking. It also makes sex more comfortable and pleasurable. So applying lubricant should become a standard practice, especially when using condoms. Lubricant is produced in individual sachets, tubes and pump packs (great to keep by the side of your bed!).

With vaginal intercourse, females may not produce enough natural lubrication, so there’s more friction and more chance that the condom will break. With anal intercourse there’s no natural lubrication so there’s a far greater chance of breakage without lubrication. There’s also less risk of internal small abrasions to your partner if enough lubricant is used. But the biggest plus is it can increase sensation and pleasure for both people.

Adding a small amount of lubricant to the penis before rolling on the condom can add to the user’s sensation. Adding lubricant to the outside of the condom and the vagina or anus can increase the pleasure for both partners. This can be a fun part of foreplay. You can reapply lubricant as much as you want during sex.

You can find lubricants where condoms are sold. Common brand names of lubricant are Sylk, Glyde, Wet Stuff and KY Jelly. Experiment until you find a brand you like. Only use water-based products. Other products, like Vaseline, body oils or some vaginal treatments can damage the condoms.

You can contact a doctor, a SHine SA clinic or the Sexual Healthline to talk about STI checks. If there’s a risk of pregnancy a female can take emergency contraception as soon as possible, but up to 5 days after having unprotected sex.


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