Street » Sexpert
I’ve never had sex before, but I have been hearing a lot from my friends about their experiences so far this year. One of my friends was telling me about how the condom broke when she was having sex with this guy she has been seeing and how freaked out she had been afterward. Ever since she told me about her experience, I have been really worried. I want to have sex, but I am scared about the condom breaking. Does it happen a lot? How do condoms break? Please help!
Dear Trojan Horse,
Because of the risks of pregnancy and STIs, it is very scary when protection fails. When a condom breaks, it is important to take further steps to protect yourself. The emergency contraceptive pill, Plan B, is available for a subsidized cost at UHS. Plan B is time-sensitive (best if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex) and decreases in its effectiveness against pregnancy thereafter. However, it is not necessary to take Plan B if you are already properly using a hormonal birth control method. STI testing and HIV testing are also available at UHS — STI testing is $14, and HIV testing is free. But let’s talk about why condoms can break, and how you can try to avoid such a situation.
To reduce the risk of breakage, condoms must be handled properly before using them. They could weaken and become susceptible to breaking if not stored at room temperature, away from heat and sun. Do not carry condoms in a wallet or pant pocket, as friction and folding can wear down the material. Before using a condom, always read the expiration date and check that the package has not been opened. A trick to check that the package is sealed is to gently pinch the center of the package to feel if there is an air bubble. Be careful when tearing open the condom packaging; never use anything sharp, like scissors or teeth. Also, avoid “natural” condoms, such as “lambskin” condoms, which do not protect against STIs. Latex condoms are the most widely available, but polyurethane condoms are also available in the case of a latex allergy.
When putting on a condom, always make sure to pinch the tip of the condom while rolling it on to the penis. This ensures that there is somewhere for the semen to go when the male ejaculates. Be sure to smooth out air bubbles as you roll the condom down to the base of the penis, because if there is air in the tip, the force of ejaculation could cause the condom to break. Furthermore, condoms are not a one-size-fits-all. Both length and circumference of the penis affect fit. The average length of an erect penis is 5 to 7 inches, and the average circumference is 4 to 5 inches. Men with either a smaller length or circumference penis might need a “snugger” fit condom. Loose condoms will not only hinder sensation but also risk simply falling off. On the other hand, men with a larger length or circumference penis should opt for “large” or “XL” options. Condoms that are too tight can be uncomfortable, and if the condom is too short, there is an increased risk of STI transmission between the exposed part of the penis and partner. For males, the sizing of condoms is important. However, female condoms, which can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse, do not require sizing.
Proper lubrication is important not only for more enjoyable sex, but also safer sex. Too much friction can weaken the condom and cause it to break. Never wear two condoms at once, as this causes friction. Lubricated condoms are a great option for this. You can also buy KY jelly or water-based lubricants at a drug store. Do not use oil-based lubricants such as massage oils, baby oil, lotions or petroleum jelly with latex condoms. They will weaken the condom, causing it to tear or break. Lastly, always remove the condom while the penis is erect, facing away from the partner, and dispose of it properly in the garbage.
I hope that this guide to proper condom usage is helpful. Consistent and correct condom use greatly reduces the risks of both pregnancy and STIs. If condoms are your preference, make sure to speak with your partner about proper condom handling and use so that both of you can help reduce any risk of breaks or tears. Ensure that your partner puts on the condom properly, or offer to lend a hand (so to speak!) and do it yourself. One final note — condoms are always available for free at UHS. Simply go to the front desk and ask.