How To Put On A Condom With Confidence

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In this week's Sex IDK column, Emma McGowan, certified sex educator and writer, answers your questions about how to put on a condom.

Q: I feel like I don't feel confident when it comes to putting a condom on — sounds basic but I don't think they taught girls how to properly do it all that well.

Girls, boys, non-binary people — people of all genders run into problems with this seemingly basic (and super important!) part of sex. Even if you got the whole “condom-on-a-banana” talk in your sex ed class in school, chances are you didn’t get much practice on your own until you were faced with a real-life hard penis. So if you don’t want to end up with a condom on your toe à la The 40-Year-Old Virgin, it’s helpful to brush up on how to put a condom on.

Before we even get to the mechanics, let's talk about confidence. As you probably know, there are a lot of spots in this process where something could go "wrong." And fear of something going wrong — or looking silly or dumb or inexperienced — can really hold people back in their sex lives.But here's the thing about sex: We all have to learn sometime. Sometimes, that learning process is funny. It's OK to acknowledge that awkwardness with a laugh, then get right back to it. Whatever happens when you put a condom on, it's an opportunity to learn and grow.

Now, the mechanics. I know it sounds ridiculously basic, but you'd be surprised how tricky opening a condom can be. You might be tempted to sexily tear open a condom package with your teeth, but let me gently nudge you away from that slick move. That’s because you’re more likely to tear the wrapping and the condom if you use your teeth. Instead, grab one of the ridged edges (there are two ridged edges and two smooth ones) with the thumb and forefinger of both hands. Pull them in opposite directions and the condom package will tear open like a bag of kettle chips.

Because lubricated condoms are slippery, you might drop it when you open the package. If that happens, there’s no need to panic! If it falls on the bed or couch or your partner’s body or another clean surface, it’s still totally fine to use. And if it falls somewhere gross — or unreachable, like under the bed — then just laugh about it, grab another one, and keep it moving.

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Once you have the condom out of the package and safely in your hand, you’ll notice that there are two possible ways to roll it. To make sure it’s right side up, try rolling it down the top of your thumbs, just a little bit. If it unrolls easily, then it’s the correct side. If it seems like it’s trying to turn itself inside out, then flip it over and try again.

Then, it’s penis (or toy) time! Place the mostly-still-rolled-up on the head of the penis or top of the toy. Wrap your dominant hand around the ring and the base of the condom and move it down in a smooth stroke. You probably won’t get the condom all the way to the base in one go, so feel free to stroke as many times as necessary in order to make sure the whole shaft is covered. (Bonus: This will probably feel nice for the person with the penis, whether that’s your partner or yourself!)

Now, you might think that once the condom is all the way on, then you’re good to go. But there’s still one step that you can’t skip, and that’s making sure there’s a “reservoir tip.” All that means is that there’s a some space at the top to catch the semen once the person ejaculates. The condom is more likely tear or have semen spill out the bottom if you don’t make sure there’s so space for it go. Most condoms come with a built-in reservoir tip, but if the fit is tight you might need to pull it up a little. Even better? Just pinch the tip while you’re sliding it down in order to ensure that the space is there. (And if you’re putting the condom on a dildo and not a biological penis, then you can skip this step.)

While all of this might seem really involved when it’s written out step-by-step, once you do it a couple of times you’ll find that it’s become pretty intuitive. But before that happens, if you make a mistake — like, say, try to roll it on the wrong way — it can be a great opportunity for you and your partner to share a little laugh. Remember: There’s nothing wrong with being a little silly during sex. Flip it over, have a giggle — and get back to business.

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