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Condoms – essential wear, essential messages

November 12th, 2006

Dr Petra

Yesterday I outlined the government’s new sexual health media campaign that aims to encourage more widespread condom use and awareness of sexually transmitted infections. However, a media campaign is only one part of delivering a sexual health message. Teachers, parents, peers and journalists also play a role in ensuring we know how to look after our own sexual health. Here are a few key messages you may want to ensure get shared.

You can get condoms from lots of different places

Many young (and not so young) people don’t know that you can get free condoms from your GP, family planning clinic and GU (genito urinary) clinic. Universities, colleges and youth groups also have free condom services. You can buy a range of condoms at your pharmacy or in your supermarket, or online.

There’s loads of choice when it comes to condoms
According to condomania there are over 70 size/shape combinations of condoms. And that’s before we get onto the ranges of flavoured, textured and coloured condoms available. In the past condoms were limited in terms of size/shape and people still pass on the myth this is still the case. Nowadays there’s a lot of choice out there. Whilst some condoms you have to pay for, many services offer a good range of free ones – and if you can afford it there’s every opportunity to use a condom to truly spice up your sex life.

Condoms can make sex better
A slightly thicker condom can be a godsend if you’ve worries about coming too soon (premature ejaculation). If you think you come too quickly some brands of condoms can help you slow down, and build up your stamina. Flavoured condoms can make oral sex a lot more exciting (and increase your chances of getting a blow job). Textured condoms can increase pleasure for both parties, and since condoms protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections you can relax and enjoy sex. And if you put a drop of condom-friendly lubricant into the condom before you slip it on this can add a level of friction that can be a real turn on.

You can get different sexual health advice from different sources
Often sexual health services are blocked because people don’t use them for the right reasons at the right time. If you need contraception advice and supplies (including condoms) you can get this from your GP or family planning clinic. If you think you have a sexually transmitted infection you can be tested and treated at your GPs or a genito urinary (GU) clinic. Problems such as cystitis or thrush can be treated with the help of your pharmacist.

Anyone can carry condoms

It’s a myth that only women should insist condoms be used, or only guys should carry them. Basically we all need to take care of ourselves, so whether you’re male or female, gay or straight, you can carry condoms (if you don’t use them a friend may want them!). Don’t forget as well as the range of condoms for men there’s also the female condom, so you can choose which suits your needs. If a partner won’t use a condom you may want to consider what else they won’t want to do in bed – and also decide whether someone who doesn’t care about their health or your well-being is really worth being with?

You can practice using condoms

For many guys the first time they use a condom is the first time they have sex. This puts double the pressure on them – the worry about performing sexually, and trying a condom on in front of a partner you want to impress. The way to get over this is to practice using condoms before you have sex. Simply slip on a condom before you masturbate so you get used to the sensation of using a condom and ejaculating in one. Or if you’re feeling frisky whack on a porn film, whack on a condom, and whack off.

You can manage your own sexual health

Sometimes magazines and charities incorrectly imply that you can rely on sexual health clinics to sort you out rather than using condoms. This isn’t helpful advice since it leads to a drain on services and can put you and partners at risk from infection. Instead using condoms protects you from STIs and prevents the need to overuse services. Of course if you think you need a check-up you should go to your GP or GU clinic, but otherwise use condoms to make sure you and others stay safe.

You can also get advice from

Playingsafely for sexual health information
RUThinking advice for under 16s
Marie Stopes International*
Family Planning Association
Brook advice for under 25s
Planned Parenthood*
Advice for lesbian, gay or bisexual youth
Advice for black and ethnic minorities*
NHS Direct

*indicates site available in more than language (including English)

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