Sex Talk

How to go from Friends to Potential Lovers

Q Students from many universities want to know.....about condoms.

Dr. Caron's Answer: February 14-20 is National Condom Week - so I'd like to focus today's column on several questions I have received about condoms from college students around the country - whether you go to college in Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana or elsewhere, I'd like you to take a moment to think about the issues related to condom use. Let me start off by saying: Vows of abstinence break far more often than condoms. Having said that, I would like to point out that the simple truth is that, for sexually active couples, condoms are the best means we have of preventing HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). For a couple who is committed to having sexual intercourse and who have any concern regarding any of the STIs, latex condoms are the best means of preventing infection. Abstinence and a mutually faithful monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner, few would argue, are even more effective; but if sexual intercourse is going to occur, whatever the reasons behind the decision, condoms are the best approach to preventing an infection.

For condoms to work, they must be used correctly and consistently. The following instructions will help ensure effective use:

  • Use latex condoms every time you have sexual intercourse; this is the key to any kind of successful contraception.
  • Use spermicide containing nonoxynol-9 with the condom. Foam and film are both easy to apply. Spermicide protects against pregnancy and a number of STIs.
  • Do not put a condomless penis into a vagina or anus. Even if a man has great "control" there is always the possibility of accidents.
  • Leave about a half-inch of space at the condom tip, and roll the condom all the way down to the base of the penis.
  • Soon after ejaculation, the penis should be withdrawn. Make sure someone holds the base of the condom firmly against the penis as it is withdrawn.
  • Do not re-use condoms.
  • Keep condoms in a cool, dry and convenient place.

If you and your partner are uncomfortable with condom use, consider the following:

  • Communication is crucial. It may seem "unromantic," but planning your contraception/STI protection strategy before you are sexually entangled is essential. Sex is too important to be left up to your genitals. Giving or getting a disease or worrying about pregnancy is about as unromantic as you can get. Explore your feelings together; share your knowledge. Consider visiting your local health center for information - together. Neither partner should be forced to use a form of birth control he or she is truly unhappy with. But the issue of protection must be dealt with - by both of you.
  • Don't forget your sense of humor and playfulness. Condoms can actually provide lots of laughs; laughter and sex go well together. Fancy condoms - lubricated, ribbed, flavored, colored (have you seen the black "tuxedo condoms" for formal affairs?) - are popular for their entertainment value. Let yourself be entertained.
  • Stand your ground. Unless you want to be pregnant and are sure your partner is free of STIs, you need protection during sex. If your partner says "no" to using a condom, you can just tell them: "None of my other partners have minded. What's wrong with you?" If your partner cares about you, he'll want to use a condom. If he really is against wearing a condom, she can wear one - the female condom offers great protection from pregnancy and infection as well.

© 2008, Sandra L. Caron

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It is not sex that gives the pleasure, but the lover. - Marge Piercy

American teens have the worst of all worlds...Our children are bombarded and confronted with sexual messages, sexual exploitation, and all manner of sexual criticism. But our society is by and large sexually illiterate. Faye Westheimer

Dr. Sandra L. Caron is a professor of human sexuality at the University of Maine. To submit a question to Dr. Caron or chat with your peers visit Got a question for Dr. Caron? Visit and ask away! Get a guaranteed personal and confidential response to your question: or E-Mail

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