Condoms are very important. They are the single most effective method of preventing the spreading of sexually transmitted infections between sexually active people. There’s always abstinence and masturbation if you really don’t want any risk of getting a STI, but for those of us who prefer to have sex with other people, the condom is the way to go.

I could pretend that condoms are perfect and always enhance the sensation of vaginal, oral and anal sex as well as keep you from getting herpe-gono-syphi-chlam-itis, but they don’t. Sex with a condom is a different sensation than sex without one, and a lot of people (particularly the guys who have to wear them) think that it feels better to go “bare back.” It’s a pain, they say, to have to wrap their tools.

But you’ve really got to do it anyway. In a relationship that’s been monogamous for a long time (think six months to two years), it might be OK to stop using condoms if other birth control methods are being used. But if you’re just dating around or hooking up and want to stay safe, you’ve got to bite the bullet and lay on the rubber.

So what do you do if rubbers are getting you down, literally or figuratively? Do you stop using them? In a word, no. It’s important to use a condom every time you have sex for the whole time you are having sex. That doesn’t mean, though, that you have to suffer through discomfort or disappointment just because of your little latex friends.

If you want to enjoy your condom use, find condoms that fit. Every guy is different, so it makes sense that every penis would be different. Experiment with different kinds of condoms to find the one that you like, and then keep a stock of that kind around in case you need them.

There are lots and lots of brands of condoms and each brand sells a variety of products: extra-large, ultra-thin and even snugger fit. Don’t be afraid to try something new; finding the right size and shape of condom is really important for enjoying sex to the fullest.

When you’re using condoms, use lube. Not only will lube help to make sure that the condom doesn’t dry out and break, it can also make sex feel great for both parties. Everything is better when it’s wetter. Silicon and water-based lubes are safe to use with condoms – do not ever use anything oil-based like Vaseline or olive oil with a condom because it will erode the latex and cause it to break. Put a couple of drops of lube in the tip of a condom before you roll it on – this will increase sensation and even warmth because lube transmits heat better than latex.

You can buy lube in the condom aisle of pretty much any drug store. Some are better than others so, when buying condoms, shop around until you find one that you like.

When you’re fooling around and you know you’re going to have intercourse, put the condom on a minute or two before you’re planning to insert your manly bits into anything. Condoms can cause a little, ahem, shrinkage when you first put them on. The rubber will take some time to warm up to skin temperature, and you can continue playing around for a bit with the condom on before you take it to the next step. This can help those of you who have trouble maintaining your “attention span” once the condom goes on.

Keep in mind that using a condom can have some real benefits. Condom use can prolong intercourse, which many young people will tell you is a bonus. There are ribbed and studded condoms that can give you new sensations while you’re going at it, and condoms make great balloons if you ever want to surprise your lover with a sexy gift.

In the end, sex is at least partly about pleasure, and safer sex is about staying safe while you’re feeling good. The trick to using condoms well is figuring out how to do it and still have a sheet-tossing, neighbor-waking good time in the process.

Waddill is a member of the class of 2009.

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