Essential Condom FAQs, According To A Sexual Health Expert

Look, I’m gonna preface this story with a disclaimer: we’re all for recycling and reuse goods here at Syrup. Whether it’s beauty products or sustainable jeans, we really can’t get enough of that shit. Aaand, we are 100 percent advocates for safe and healthy sex, whether that’s with a toy, vaginal, oral or anal, any of the above or none of them. But, for the love of Lorde, please—I cannot believe I’m saying this—don’t recycle and reuse a condom. Let alone, 345,000 of them, like this one woman in Vietnam did.

According to Reuters, per CNN, police in the province of Binh Duong were tipped by a local resident that a woman was, well, reclaiming old reused condoms, cleaning them in what can only be described as a horny capitalist witchy cauldron and making a profit. I’m not kidding. On Saturday, they raided a warehouse and confiscated nearly 360 kilograms worth of bags full of 345,000 ‘recycled condoms’. Condoms that had been “boiled, dried, reshaped with a wooden prosthesis,” per The Cut, and resold as brand dick-spanking new goods.

I don’t even know if there’s ever been a law out there for reusing and trying to resell someone’s old dirty condom—I guess it comes under The Competition and Consumer Act 2010???—but officers soon arrested the warehouse owner, a 34-year-old woman who was apparently being sent a monthly delivery of used condoms from an unknown person, and was paid 17 cents for roughly every 900 grams of condoms that she recycled. 

Now, why am I imagining this person to look a little like this?

Anywayyy, while that might be a tale of what NOT to do with condoms, this here is a story of what you should be doing, Syrup spoke with a sexual health expert at University of New South Wales, Professor Juliet Richters, about every other myth and frequently asked questions about condoms and condom practices. Y’know, so you don’t try to swallow or recycle your own, or whatever, idk.

Frequently Asked Questions About Condoms Answered

Can you reuse a condom?

“It’s physically possible, but you shouldn’t do it,” Professor Richters tells Syrup. “The latex of a condom is very thin and not designed to withstand the stress of being washed and dried.”

“Dispose of a condom after one use by putting it in the ordinary garbage. Handle it as little as possible and wash your hands. Otherwise you could spread semen or an infection to your partner and defeat the purpose of preventing pregnancy and/or STIs. Use a fresh condom if you have intercourse again in the same session.”

Do condom sizes matter?

“Yes,” says Professor Richters. “Some men find condoms uncomfortably tight or too loose—or too short. Try different sizes and shapes until you find one that is comfortable. The measurement on the packet is not the only thing to look for, as some condoms feel more stretchy than others.”

Can someone be too big for a condom?

“Google ‘condom stretched over head’ and you will see images that suggest condoms are certainly stretchy enough to allow for even the largest penis.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BFk1zCCJ-WR/?utm_source=ig_embed

“When condoms are laboratory tested they are inflated until they burst, and this usually doesn’t happen until they’re filled with more than 20 litres of air. Note that this is destructive testing of samples of condoms taken from large batches, not the electronic testing of every condom sold. Don’t blow into your own condom before use!”

“However, it’s true that some men find that condoms don’t fit well. For example, if a man has a penis that is very wide at the base, he may find that the condom tends to roll up during use. He may need to keep checking that it is in place during intercourse. If it rolls down too far it can come off inside his partner.”

Is it safer to use two condoms than one?

While Professor Richters admits “there is no evidence that it is,” she clarifies, “wearing two condoms may actually put more stress on the latex when they rub together, but there doesn’t seem to be any decent data on this.”

“The myth keeps popping up that condoms have tiny holes in them that sperm can leak through, but most condom failure is due to non-use, and occasionally tearing/breaking. If a condom is found in two pieces inside a woman after sex, she should take the morning-after pill if she is not on any other sort of contraception.”

Do condoms break easily?

“No,” she says. “Some people break condoms more than others. If you are new to using condoms you may find it a bit awkward and break or tear one or more while you are getting the hang of it. It’s best to practise on your own before using one with a partner.”

“Condoms can tear easily if they have been badly stored. Don’t leave condoms somewhere hot like the glove box of your car. Throw them out when they are past their use-by date, which is stamped into the foil or plastic wrapper of each condom.”

Is any type of lube fine when wearing a condom?

“No, it’s important to use water-based lubricants (read the small print on the bottle or tube),” Professor Richters explains. “Don’t use oil-based lubricants or massage oil when using a condom. (If you don’t believe me on the last point, open and unroll a condom, smear some cooking oil on it and leave it for a couple of hours. You’ll see what happens to the latex.)”

Do I still need to wear a condom if me and my partner have been tested?

“That depends on what sort of relationship you have and what you have been tested for. If you request general testing for sexually transmissible infections, you will probably get tested for bacterial STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia, and HIV as well if you have any specific risk factors such as male-to-male sex, or if you request it.”

“But clinics do not usually test for herpes unless you have symptoms. Ask the doctor about herpes if you have concerns. Remember that if you get cold sores around the mouth, you can spread herpes to your partner by kissing or oral sex. If one of you has had genital herpes, continue to use condoms unless you are in a relationship where you’re prepared to take the risk of ‘sharing’ it.”

Can condoms cut off my circulation?

“Not unless you tie one in a knot around your penis.”

Can a condom expire?

“Yes. See above.”

Is it normal for a condom to feel uncomfortable?

“Some people always find the sensation uncomfortable—including receptive partners, in vaginal or anal sex. But you can make it much more comfortable by finding a condom that is a good fit for you and using lubricant that you like. And sex with a condom is much better than no sex at all…” 

If I’m on the pill or PrEP, do I still have to have sex with a condom?

“The pill and other contraceptives such as the implant or IUD do not protect you against catching STIs. And PrEP only protects you against HIV, not other STIs. Unless you’re in a monogamous relationship and have both been tested, don’t stop using condoms. Don’t assume that a relationship is monogamous; discuss it explicitly. You may find that your partner has made different assumptions about whether sex with someone else is acceptable.”

Is it a myth that condoms can protect you from every sexually-transmitted disease?

“[Not a myth].”

Besides condoms, what other safe sex practices can help protect you from sexually transmitted diseases?

“Talking. See above re ‘monogamous’ relationships. Not having intercourse. Manual and oral sex are safer, and if you avoid getting semen on your hand into the vagina, they are also much less likely to cause pregnancy.”

Additional condom comments

“I’m aware that the ‘try different types’ and ‘throw away and use a new one’ advice is hard to follow for people, especially teens, for whom condoms are a serious expense, or people who rely on condoms distributed by a workplace (i.e. a brothel), or through an STI clinic or Family Planning, where there may be no choice of types.”

“The other issue for young people—and this does come up in qualitative research—is men whingeing about using a condom and pressuring the woman to go on the pill, or arguing that condoms aren’t necessary ‘because I’m not gay’ or because they know she is using another contraceptive method. This can also happen between men, e.g. if the guy says he’s ‘safe’ (i.e. negative test for HIV), but then gives his partner an STI.”

“I mentioned the monogamy issue because research shows men are less likely than women to regard a relationship as regular or committed. Men report more of their partners as casual, whereas women have a tendency to think they’re in a relationship (and therefore ‘safe’) simply because they’ve had sex a few times, without discussion of sex outside the relationship.”

Where To Buy Condoms Online

If you’re too shy to buy a pack of condoms in-store (look, we get it), here are a few private options online. 

Ansell

Ansell LifeStyles Regular Condoms (12 Pack) by Ansell are available for $9.95 on Lovehoney.

Durex

Durex Pleasure Me Textured Condoms (12 Pack) by Durex are available for $14.95 on Lovehoney.

Durex Invisible Extra Thin Extra Lubricated Condoms (8 Pack) by Durex are available for $14.95 on Lovehoney.

The Best Lube For Condoms

Lovehoney

Lovehoney Enjoy Water-Based Lubricant 500ml by Lovehoney is available for $29.95 on Lovehoney.

Wet Stuff

Wet Stuff Plus Silky Water Based Sensitive Lubricant 270ml by Wet Stuff is available for $19.95 on Lovehoney.

Wicked Sensual

Wicked Sensual Aqua Salted Caramel Flavoured Lubricant 120ml by Wicked Sensual is available for $19.95 on Lovehoney.

Julian Rizzo-Smith is a writer and producer. He also claims to be a vine historian, avid connoisseur of low-fi beats, indie hip hop and Kermit memes. In a perfect world, he’d be married to Tyler the Creator, own an Arcanine and a Lapras, and don his own Sailor Scouts uniform. He tweets @GayWeebDisaster, which is also, coincidentally, how one might describe him.