Regardless of our age, gender or sexual preference, anyone who has had sex in the last 30 years knows about condoms – they prevent HIV and STI’s, they prevent unwanted pregnancy, wear them, wear them, wear them! We have heard the message, we know how to use them, we know why to use them and we know that we should use them.
However, the more that I am out in the community, the more I hear confusion about “the others”. In 2015, not only do we have a variety of colours, flavours, sizes and textures of condoms, we have a variety of different condoms and barrier protections which can be confusing for those who haven’t used them before.
Welcome to Condom 101 – Your guide to condoms and barrier protections.
Also known as a rubber, franger, dinger, conny, male condom.
Regular condoms are made from latex and worn on the penis to protect against HIV, STI’s and unwanted pregnancy. Regular condoms can be used for vaginal or anal sex, oral sex or on sex toys, and should be used with a water-based lubricant (not oil-based). If used correctly, the condom can provide up to 98% protection1.
Regular condoms come in a variety of sizes, colours, flavours and textures; they are relatively inexpensive and easy to find in all chemists and grocery stores. Variations include: small, regular, large, ultra-thin, ribbed, glow in the dark, flavoured, extra thick… and the list goes on. Regular condoms can also be made from polyutherane; though these are more difficult to find, they offer an alternative for people with latex allergies.
These are the condoms that we all know about. But now for the lesser known, the female condom and oral dams – not to be confused with each other, they are two very different barrier protections which are used for completely different sexual acts.
Also known as a femidom, internal condom or bottom condom.
The female condom is made from nitrile, making it a latex-free alternative to regular condoms. Because nitrile is stronger than latex, water-based or oil-based lube can be used with the female condom.
The female condom is 17cm long and has an inner and outer ring; though otherwise looks like a larger version of a regular condom. The female condom is inserted into the vagina where the inner ring will sit against the cervix; the outer ring will sit around the outside of the vulva for added protection against STIs. The efficacy of a female condom against pregnancy and STI’s, when used correctly is 95%1.
The female condom comes in one size and one colour only and can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex. The female condom is expensive and is difficult to find in chemists; they are usually purchased online. The FC2 is the only female condom approved for use in Australia though several other variations are used internationally.
Benefits of the female condom can be increased pleasure for both partners due to the positioning of both the inner ring (where the penis can be stimulated) and the outer ring (over the clitoris) as well as the polyutherane that blends with body heat making it feel more natural.
The female condom is also being used by gay men for anal sex. To be used for anal sex the inner ring is often taken out and the condom is inserted into the anus using a finger or by placing it over the insertive partner’s penis and inserting as you would with a regular condom.
Also known as a dam or a dental dam.
The oral dam is a thin piece of natural latex approximately 26cm x 15cm. Though it is not technically a condom, it is an effective barrier protection that can be used to cover the anus for rimming, or the vagina for oral sex. It cannot be used for any type of insertive sex.
Dams come in a variety of flavours and colours and can also be made by cutting the tip off a regular condom and cutting down the side to create a flat square of latex. Lubricant is not necessary when using a dam as it is not to be used for insertive sex, however a small amount of water-based lube can help to keep the dam in place against the skin, and for additional pleasure. Oral dams can be difficult to find in chemists, but can be found online.
Like regular and female condoms, oral dams are single use only, and the expiration date should be checked on all barrier protections before use.