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Please note that some of the language in this article is sexually explicit.


Condom history

Condoms have through history been recorded the earliest being described in Egyptian history, whilst in England in the 1600’s condoms were discovered made from animal intestines. Condoms in history  have been made from a variety of materials all over the world including leather, cloth soaked in chemicals, horn, and eventually in 1844 an American  called Charles Goodyear patented vulcanized rubber and later in 1855 the first rather thick seamed condoms were produced.

Fortunately improvements to the process were made and today condoms can be purchased worldwide in all sorts of shapes, colours and sizes.

Condoms are known by many different names:

  • "Something for the weekend?"

  • French letter

  • Rubbers

  • Rubber Johnny or Johnny

  • Jimmy Hats

  • Rain coats

  • Love gloves

  • Hazmat Suits

  • Topi

  • Parda

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Condom Safety and Use

Condoms work by keeping the semen (the fluid that contains sperm) from entering the vagina. The condom is placed on a man erect penis prior to penetrative intercourse. It is unrolled all the way to the base of the penis while holding the tip of the condom to eject the air and to allow for the sperm to collect after ejaculation. After ejaculation the man should hold the condom at the base of the penis as he pulls out of the vagina. This is best done when the penis is still erect to prevent the condom from slipping off when he gets soft. Dispose of the condom carefully in a bin, not down the toilet; they are not biodegradable therefore not good for the environment.


  1. Condoms are used primarily to reduce the spread of STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections- click here to learn more about them) and to prevent pregnancy.

  2. Condoms do not prevent the spread of genital warts or genital herpes.

  3. Condoms are the only form of contraception that will protect you from HIV when used consistently and correctly.

  4. Condoms are 98% effective when used correctly.

  5. Condoms which have been properly tested and approved carry the British Standard Kite Mark BS EN 600 British Kite Mark BS EN 600

    1. or the EEC Standard Mark CE

  6. Take supplies of condoms with you if you go on holiday to make sure they meet British Standards.

  7. Condoms have expiry dates, or manufacture dates these should be checked prior to use

  8. Condoms deteriorate over time or in extremes of temperature therefore, the packaging should be checked for damage if the condom is:

    1. Tacky when you open it don’t use it

    2. Dry when you open it don’t use it

  9. Always put condoms on prior to penetrative sexual intercourse anal, vaginal or oral.

    1. Do not open the packet with your teeth

    2. Be aware of sharp fingernails and rings

    3. Do not blow up, unroll or stretch the condom before use

    4. Do not reuse!

    5. Change condoms if you change from vaginal to anal penetration or vice versa

According to statistics from the National statistics website  Contraception and Sexual Health 2005/06 the most common reason for using condoms was to prevent pregnancy 88% of men and 90% of women and frighteningly less than 39% said for the prevention of STI’s.

Unfortunately just 51 % of 16-17 year old women were using contraceptives but with age 20-49 year olds 70%-82% were using at least one method of contraception.

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Types of condoms:condoms

Condoms are available in a variety of sizes, lengths widths, colours and shapes and are down to your own personal choice which you and your partner choose to use. Some condoms are flavoured to make oral sex more enjoyable, textured and ribbed condoms are also available which can increase sensation for both partners. They also come in a variety of colours, even novelty glow in the dark! Condoms are usually made of latex or polyurethane.  There are different brands available on the market at differing prices.

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Latex condoms:

These are the most commonly and widely used condoms available and these are the cheapest on the market.

Polyurethane Condoms:

There is a type of condom, called the "Avanti" which is made of very thin polyurethane. The Avanti is a useful alternative if you or your partner are sensitive to or have a Latex allergy. The thinness appears to increase the sensitivity but it remains more expensive than its counterpart.

Female Condom:

The female condom is made of polyurethane and lines the vagina. It has two rings to keep it in place. One end is closed and is inserted into the vagina, the other end is open and the ring sits outside the opening of the vagina. Staff at a family planning clinic or Gum clinic can show you how to fit it and how to use it properly. This product gives women the control with their contraception without chemical intervention.

Invisible Condoms

This product is in fact in developmental stages. Dr.Michel Bergeron a researcher in Laval University in Quebec city has developed a product which is liquid at room temperature but becomes a barrier gel at body temperature. The product contains microbicides and act similarly to spermicides acting as a chemical and physical barrier. Currently protection is against STI’s like Herpes, HPV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and pregnancy with a degree of protection from HIV. This product is in its trial period and will not be expected on the shelves for several years.

Spray on Condoms:

In Germany at the Institute for Condom Guidance Jan Vinzenz Krause has invented a product which is being developed and tested. It is a spray on condom apparently the penis is inserted into a can and sprayed all over with latex providing a snug fit for all sizes of penis. They are hoping to market the product in Germany in 2008 and are currently asking for volunteers to test the product.

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Lubricants and Spermicides:

There are a variety of lubricants often already packaged with the condoms, some are available without any but the majority have either a silicone or water based lubricant to make the condom easier to go on, and use. If you choose to use more lubricant you will need to be aware of which types of condom you are using. Lubricants should be used after the condom is on the penis otherwise if used before could cause the condom to slip off. Silicone lubricant can be used with both types of condom but may stain fabrics.

Some condoms have spermicide on them it will tell you this on the packaging or you can purchase spermicides as foams or creams to be inserted prior to penetration as additional protection. One spermicide containing Nonoxynol 9 has in studies been shown to cause small sores on the lining of the vagina and rectum increasing the chances of contracting STI’s therefore for those who have multiple sexual partners or for anal sex it has been advised that a non spermicidal condom be used.

With latex use ONLY water-based lubricants such as K-Y Jelly. Other lubricants such as baby oil, Vaseline, massage oil will damage the condom and may cause it to tear. Saliva causes the condom to dry out and possibly tear.

With Polyurethane condoms you are able to use oil based lubricants with this as the plastic is unaffected.

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Condom availability:

Condoms are widely available to all age groups and are provided free of charge from many sexual health /family planning/GP surgeries. They can also be bought from all sorts of different venues:

  • Supermarkets

  • Chemists and Pharmacies

  • Pubs and clubs

  • Vending machines in toilets

  • Internet

  • Mail order

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What do I do if my condom breaks?

If the condom is being used for the prevention of STI’s remove the condom and replace it. If the condom is being used for the prevention of pregnancy then it is advisable to consider the “morning after pill”. It is usually called the emergency contraceptive (EC) or the post coital pill (PCP). This pill can be obtained from your GP, family planning clinics, and GUM clinics and now over the counter in many chemists and pharmacies. The Pill can be taken up to 72 hours after having sexual intercourse but it is recommended to be taken within 24hrs to be at its maximum effectiveness.  

If I am on the pill do I need to use condoms too?

It is advisable to use condoms to prevent the spread of STI’s .If you are in a long term relationship and have both been checked to ensure you do not have any infections then you can dispense with condoms.  If you relationship is on a more casual basis then condoms would always be recommended.

What do I do if my partner says he won’t wear a condom?

Firstly you might consider not having sexual intercourse with someone who will not wear one; he may have an STI’s he doesn’t even know about. Or you may like to offer different points of view such as wearing condoms help prolong the sexual experience.

When can we stop using condoms?

When you can both be sure you don’t have any STI’s, you can be checked out at GUM clinics, your GP’s surgery, family planning, Brook centres etc.

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Help lines:

Click here for a list of help lines and emergency numbers of people who can offer you help and advice.

The Pope and the Condom:

In November 2006 it was reported in the Guardian that the Pope is considering the permission of the use of condoms to prevent the spread of the HIV virus between married couples where one partner has the virus. A decision will hopefully be announced early this year 2007. This would be a monumental break through for all the millions of Catholics world wide who currently have been advised by the Vatican to not to use condoms.

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