Plus, other lesser-known condom tips you probably didn't learn in sex-ed.

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How to Put On a Condom
Credit: Getty Images

Condoms are a perfect example of the flaws in our sex education system. Sure, they get brought up a lot — but what's not often talked about is how and when to use them (properly, that is).

So, welcome to Condoms 101— the one-stop spot to learn about all things condoms! Plus, some recommendations of my favorite condoms to date. 

How to Properly Use a Condom

You might be thinking, "Okay, I already know how to use a condom — thank you very much." But the truth is... You'd be surprised how many people misuse condoms and don't use them in enough situations (I'm serious). 

First things first— Sizing.

When it comes to sizing, you need to find a fit that feels comfortably snug. There's no need to get magnums if they don't fit — that defeats the whole purpose of the condom! You also shouldn't squeeze yourself into a "regular size" if it's too tight. (And while we're at it, I'll let you in on a little secret— penis size doesn't matter. It's how you use your penis — and your hands and your mouth and your body and other aids — that matters most!) 

Now, here's a little step-by-step of how to properly open and put on a condom:

  1. Carefully open the package. I say carefully just to make sure the condom doesn't accidentally get ripped. Definitely never cut open a condom wrapper with scissors— that's a no, always.
  2. The rim of the condom should be on the outside, not the inside.
  3. Place the condom on the head of the penis!
  4. Now, roll the condom down and voilà!

To make it feel even more pleasurable, you can squeeze a bit of lube into the condom before putting it on the penis— this makes the condom more lubricated so it feels even more pleasurable for the penis owner. (Just make sure that the lube or serum is condom-compatible!)

Why Use Condoms?

Condoms get a lot of hate, but they are a wonderful birth control option, even if you're in a monogamous relationship. Oral contraceptive birth control works for some, but not all. We might never know someone's reason for wanting to use condoms (maybe the vulva owner has tough hormonal periods and birth control adds difficulties to their cycle) but respecting their wishes to use condoms always trumps the wish to not. 

But there are also many other reasons to use condoms that don't just pertain to protection against pregnancy. Condoms also protect against STI's and are fabulous if you are partaking in penetrative hook-up sex. Seriously, think about it — what's hotter than having steamy sex that you know is the safest it can be?

There's no shame around STIs — they are, in fact, far more common than our culture can make them seem. More than half of sexually active adults contract an STI at some point in their lifetime! So, rest assured — there's no shame, but at the same time, we can do our absolute best to protect each other by wrapping it before tapping it.

PS: If you are having casual sex— get tested regularly and be honest with your partners! It's the best thing we can do for each other. It might seem more intimate and exciting to not use a condom, but infections and unwanted pregnancies don't exactly increase intimacy and aren't worth the risk — especially if you're sleeping with multiple people.

When to Wear or Use a Condom

Some folks think of condoms only as protection against the thing that they are personally trying to avoid. For example, STI transmission rates have reportedly been going up in retirement homes in recent years due to an attitude of "I can't get pregnant, so who cares!"

In other words, there's likely a situation where you aren't using a condom but should be. Here, a non-conclusive list of scenarios in which a condom could be super useful.

  • Penis-in-Vagina Penetrative Sex
    • Protects against STI transmission and pregnancy
  • Penis-in-Butt Penetrative Sex
    • Potects against STI transmission
  • Using a sex toy that you may share with someone else
    • Protects against STI transmission and other genital and anal infections that can come from sharing fluids
  • Penis-in-Mouth Oral Sex
    • I know, ew, but if you're unsure of your partner's STI status or are consciously trying to protect against STI transmission, this is so important. This is the one time I actually recommend flavored condoms, I specfically recommend Royal's strawberry flavored condoms.
  • Vulva-in-Mouth Oral Sex 
    • If you don't have a dental dam available and are in a similar situation to the one described above, you can cut a condom to become a dental dam! 

The Best Condom Brands to Try

Condoms are kind of like snowflakes — they are all different. If you've bought generic drugstore condoms in the past, it's probably likely that you (and your partners) might not have liked them very much.

But lucky for us, the sex tech world is growing so much and creating quality products that feel fabulous! Including condoms — which can be tricky to shop for. 

Here are some of my go-to condom faves:

  • Royal: If you have sensitive skin or are looking for a vegan condom, Royal is your go-to! They also offer different sizes, flavors, and lubed condom options. They are odor-free and organic and are my go-to latex condoms. ($13; amazon.com)
  • Skyn: My go-to non-latex condoms, Skyn has one of the OG thin condom feels. It's made from a non-latex material that helps create that skin-to-skin feel. ($6; amazon.com)
  • Cake: Not only is Cake's branding absolutely adorable, but they offer three different size options and three different texture options. They are affordable and they offer a subscription service. ($8; hellocake.com)
  • Maude: Not only does Maude have an aesthetically pleasing product design, but their condoms are also made of 100% latex, are super thin, and scent-free. Plus, they come in two sizes and come in an easy-to-open wrapper. ($12; getmaude.com)

Rachel Wright, LMFT, is a licensed psychotherapist, sex educator, and relationship expert based in New York City.