Condoms and lube
Condoms and lube
Condoms used with water-based or silicone-based lube are the surest way to protect you or your partner against HIV infection – and many other sexually transmitted infections too. Condoms, when used effectively, will prevent exposure to HIV as they will stop HIV-infected body fluids (such as the cum or anal mucus of an HIV-positive man) from coming into contact with the mucous membranes (in the arse, the foreskin, urethra and head of the penis) of his partner. It is through mucous membranes that HIV usually gets into the body during sex.
What condoms to use
Research has shown that standard strength condoms, used properly, are just as reliable for anal sex as the thicker ones.1
This means that there is a wide variety of condoms that gay men can choose from. You can get condoms in different shapes and sizes, as well as different thicknesses.
Some gay men prefer to use the thicker condoms and many of the free condom distribution schemes for gay men in the UK only distribute these condoms. Everyone's cock is different so it's good to know you can shop around until you find the kind of condom that fits you best.
Use condoms that carry the British Standard kitemark, as these are checked for quality. Some gay men report that Femidoms are effective and overcome some of the problems associated with condoms. Non-latex condoms, such as Durex Avanti, Mates Skyn and Pasante Unique, also work well and, like Femidoms, are useful for men who are allergic to latex or choose to use oil-based lubricants such as Crisco. These types of condoms are more expensive than the latex ones – but then a good fuck is worth a couple of quid – they are much cheaper if you order them on the web. Mates Skyn and Pasante Unique condoms are also among the thinnest available, and because they are specially designed to adhere to your skin, some men may benefit from increased sensitivity.
Studies have found that condoms with nonoxynol-9 (N-9), a spermicidal lubricant, can irritate the lining of the arse.2 This could lead to an increased risk of HIV transmission if a condom broke or you later fucked without a condom. Most condom manufacturers in the UK have stopped using N-9, but it's easy to buy condoms coated with N-9 online or when you are abroad, so it's worth checking. If you are not sure, avoid any condoms that are described as 'spermicidally lubricated'. Brands that are coated with N-9, and which should be avoided by gay men, include Mates Ultra Safe.
There are loads of condom manufacturers, and most of them have a good range of condoms of different shapes, sizes and thicknesses, which come with or without lubricant of various types. There are also specialist condoms available which can help with all sorts of problems. For example, 'delay' condoms are designed to delay premature ejaculation, and contain a mild local anaesthetic which numbs some of the nerves in the penis, making it temporarily less sensitive. Hypoallergenic condoms are designed to minimise any allergic reaction to latex.
Durex is the world's most recognisable condom brand and is more expensive than some other brands.
Mates was the first company to realise the need to develop different sizes and shapes of condoms for different-sized and shaped men. Each pack clearly shows the shape of the condoms inside.
Condomi is a well-established German brand.
Pasante is the fastest growing condom company in the UK and a leading supplier to the NHS.
You can buy cheap condoms online from www.freedoms-shop.nhs.uk.
How to put on a condom
The written instructions below teach you how to put on a condom properly. For a video demonstration starring Matthew Rush, please click this button:
Step 1: When your cock is hard, take a condom out of the wrapper carefully. It's not a good idea to use your teeth to tear the packet because you could damage the condom, but if your hands are too slippery to tear the packet, push the condom to the side before you bite the wrapper on the opposite side. Squeeze the air out of the teat on the tip of the condom (if there is one) and put it over the end of your cock. Don't stretch it and then pull it over your cock as this will make it more likely to break.
Step 2: Roll it down the length of your cock – the further down it goes the less likely it is to slip off. Put some water-based or silicone-based lubricant over your condom-covered cock. Make sure you use lots of lube (you can't use too much) and put plenty around his arse too. Don't put any lube on your cock before you put the condom on, as this can make it slip off.
Step 3: Check the condom occasionally while you're fucking to make sure it hasn't come off or split. Water-based lubes tend to dry up, so if you fuck for a long time you will need to keep adding more. When you pull out, hold on to the condom and your cock at the base, so that you don't leave it behind (it happens!). Pull out before your cock goes soft.
Some newer condoms and Femidoms are used slightly differently to traditional condoms. Femidoms can be put into place inside the arse (this can be tricky as they are designed for women), and Pasante Unique condoms have special tabs which you hold to help you slide the condom down your cock. There are detailed instructions on the packs but if you are not confident about using them, you should stick to brands you can put on easily.
When gay men don't use enough lube, or use the wrong kind of lube, the likelihood of condom failure is increased, making transmission of HIV and other STIs possible. Why not buy a big bottle of lube to put by your bed, instead of scrabbling to rip open those little packets in the middle of fucking?
Water-based lubes and silicone-based lubes work well with condoms. Water-based lubes include K-Y, Wet Stuff and ID Glide. Silicone-based lubes include Eros Bodyglide and Liquid Silk.
Oil-based lubricant is bad for latex and can cause condoms to break. Don't use products such as Crisco and Elbow Grease (creams), baby oil, cooking oil, butter, moisturisers and sun lotions when you're fucking with a condom. Oil-based lubes can be used with non-latex condoms, like Durex Avanti, Mates Skyn or Pasante Unique. Don't use spit with condoms, as it will dry up and increase the chance of your condom tearing.
Although most manufacturers in the UK have stopped using it, be careful to avoid lubes that contain nonoxynol-9 (N-9), a spermicide that can damage the mucous membrane inside the arse and make it easier to catch or pass on infections, such as HIV.
How to reduce condom failure
Condoms may be a gay boy's best friend, but even they can let us down now and then. Here are some of the reasons why condoms fail and what you can do to make sure that condoms work for you.
Lack of practice: If you've not had much experience using condoms then they're more likely to fail. If you hardly ever use them, then practise putting one on yourself when you're going solo. Then when you get another man in your bed, you'll be a pro.
Unrolling the condom before putting it on: The condom is designed to roll down the length of your cock. If you unroll it beforehand and try to pull it on, it's more likely to be weakened and to tear when you fuck.
Oil and latex don't mix: Oil-based lubes (such as baby oil, massage oil, lotions, hand creams, butter, Utterly Butterly, etc.) can damage the condom and make it much more likely it will tear during sex. Only use a silicone-based or water-based lube like K-Y, Wet Stuff, Liquid Silk or the hundreds of others available. Some creams and sprays sold as anal relaxants, to help make anal sex easier, also contain oils so they may damage condoms.
Not using enough lube: Don't be mean with the lube. Boys just aren't as slippy as girls are downstairs, so you'll need to use loads of lube (the silicone-based or water-based variety). A spit and a shove won't keep you slippery enough for long enough. In fact, spit is a rubbish lubricant for using with condoms.
Lube in all the wrong places: OK, we know we just said you need to use plenty of lube, but the lube needs to be over the outside of the condom and up and around the arse. If you put lube on your cock before putting the condom on then there's a good chance that the condom will slip off.
Overworking the condom: Even if you're a complete stallion, and can keep going for hours on end, a condom can't. If you're having a long session (and any fuck of over half an hour counts as a long session), then take a break and change the condom (a cup of tea wouldn't go amiss either).
Check the sell-by date: It's there for a purpose. "I've been saving this one since school for someone special" isn't a line that's going to impress anyone.
The wrong size condom: Contrary to popular rumour, one size does not fit all. Fortunately condoms come in a range of shapes and sizes, so find one that suits you best. Condoms for bigger cocks are usually called 'extra large' and condoms for the smaller cock are usually called 'trim' or 'snug'.
Where to get condoms and lube
Most gay bars, clubs and saunas in London are part of the Freedoms condom scheme, so you can pick up free condom and lube packs if you need them in an emergency. But the free scheme isn't able to supply enough condoms for every time a gay man in London gets lucky, so rather than go without, it's sensible to buy your own condoms and keep your own supply.
Most HIV and sexual health clinics can also provide condoms if you need them, when you go for a sexual health check-up or an HIV test. You can pick up condoms at any high street chemist, and many newsagents and late night petrol stations. You can also get great value by buying your supplies online from www.freedoms-shop.nhs.uk.
Looking after your condoms and lube
Condoms last for about five years, so if you've not had much action of late, or if you've been hoarding your supplies, check the date on the packaging. Keep your condoms away from heat, bright lights or direct sunshine. If you carry condoms around with you in your trouser pockets, it's worth checking regularly that the packaging is intact otherwise your condom can dry out and is more likely to tear. Pasante Unique polyurethane condoms come in a credit card sized pack which is specially designed to be carried in your wallet and should be more durable.
1 Golombok S, Harding R, Sheldon J. An evaluation of a thicker versus a standard condom with gay men. AIDS, 2001;15(2):245-250.
2 Phillips DM, Sudol KM, Taylor CL, Guichard L, Elsen R, Maguire, RA. Lubricants containing N-9 may enhance rectal transmission of HIV and other STIs. Contraception, 2004;70(2):107-110..