By: Lucas Nelson, Sexual Health and Healthy Relationships Topic Coordinator
The lights are dim, the candle is flickering on the wall, your jacket is tossed somewhere on the floor by the bed, and you’re soaring about a thousand feet above Cloud Nine. You finally brought home that girl you’ve been crushing on, or the guy from your math class, or your girlfriend of six months. Things are moving at just the right pace, and you both know what you want. You’re comfortable with each other, so there’s no real need to use a condom, right?
We are in the middle of an epidemic. Not by the scientific definition, but one that nevertheless needs to be taken seriously. The CDC reports that over 110 million Americans are currently infected with a sexually transmitted infection (aka STI), with 20 million new cases every year. What’s even worse is that 50 percent of these new STI cases occurs in people 15-24 years old.
What does that mean for us college students? It simply means we need to be careful when it comes to sex. Nobody can expect us all to abstain (although abstaining from sex, or choosing to not have sex, is totally okay), but we have a responsibility to be safe about it. The severity of STIs might be minor, but certain infections are life altering – and not in the same way that winning the lottery might be. When it comes to sex, condoms are a panacea; condoms and abstinence are the only reliable STI preventers. In fact, condoms are the only contraceptives that also prevent STIs.
Depending on where you look, you’ll find different lists and sets of instructions for condom use. Project Health advocates eleven steps to proper male condom use, which are:
- CONSENT. This is ALWAYS the first step. Consent is defined as “voluntary, positive agreement between participants to engage in specific sexual activity.” (For a helpful visual aid on consent, check out “Consent Tea” on YouTube.)
- Check the expiration date. If your condom is stored in a cool, dry place without being disturbed, it’s probably good for 2-5 years. If it’s been jostling around in your wallet since freshman year, toss it.
- Squeeze the condom package. This serves two purposes. One, it evenly distributes the lubricant. Two, it proves the package is still intact. If you don’t feel an air bubble, don’t use the condom; no air bubble means the foil has ruptured.
- Carefully tear open the package. No, don’t use your teeth (or anything else sharp). There’s nothing sexy about a ripped condom.
- Pinch the tip of the condom. This is one nobody knows about. Squeeze the air out of the tip before putting on the condom. Sperm is released at roughly 28 mph, and that ejaculate needs somewhere to go. Failing to pinch the tip can send sperm out of the condom’s base or even break the condom.
- Unroll to base. Skin-to-skin contact is a common method of STI transfer. Protecting the entire length will decrease this contact.
- Intercourse. This means whatever you want it to mean. Man and woman, woman and woman, man and man, person and themselves, anal, vaginal, oral, etc.
- Ejaculation. Self-explanatory.
- Hold on to base. Go ahead and catch your breath, but be careful; you’re not done yet. While still erect, grab the base of the condom. This prevents the condom from slipping off in the next step.
- Withdrawal. Remember, this should be done while still erect.
- Tie up and throw away. Yes, college budgets and eating ice sandwiches often seem millimeters away, but don’t reuse condoms to cut costs; condoms should be used only once. And when I say throw away, I mean IN THE TRASH. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to call maintenance at 2AM to fish a used condom out of your clogged toilet.
I hope you leaned something new today! Project Health also advocates 13 steps to female condom use. Ask an intern for more information!
Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats/sti-estimates-fact-sheet-feb-2013.pdf
Northwestern University: http://www.northwestern.edu/womenscenter/issues-information/sexual-assault/defining-sexual-assault.html
Tea Consent Video: