When it comes to sexual health, the trusty combo of condoms and lube remains the single most effective way to minimise the risk of STIs and HIV.

There’s a staggering level of choice when it comes to choosing the right condoms and lube but, once you’ve found the right fit, it can lead to safer, more pleasurable sex for you and your partner.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out the sections below for more information.

Choosing the right condom

Getting a condom to fit properly is important. Too tight and it’s uncomfortable to put on and may burst. Too loose and it’ll slip off during sex.

Fortunately, condoms come in a range of different sizes to fit all men - from trim (for thinner cocks) to super king (for larger and wider cocks).

There are also different types - including latex-free ones if you have a rubber allergy, flavoured ones if you are worried about sucking and dotted and ribbed ones which can give you different sensations.

Making the right condom choice means there’s a greater chance of safer sex being more pleasurable for you and your partner, while reducing the risk of catching something.

So how do you find out the best condom for you?

The best way is to try out different types of condom on your own.

If you aren’t experienced in using a condom, then wanking while wearing one can help you master the best way to put it on and let you know which one you find the most comfortable.

It is also useful to have a range of different sizes available just in case your partner hasn’t come prepared.

Where to get them?

There are lots of places where you can get hold of free condoms and lube, including direct from SX – just drop in to either of our offices.

We're a member of the c:card scheme which you can register for to receive free, confidential access to condoms and lube at over 80 sites across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Free condoms and sachets of lube are available in Edinburgh’s gay bars, clubs and saunas, or from free NHS schemes if you’d prefer not to access the gay scene.

You can, of course, also buy condoms and lube from supermarkets, chemists and many other retailers. Just make sure that the condoms you choose have either the BSI Kitemark or the European CE mark, to make sure they’ve been tested to a high standard.

Condom failure and how to avoid it


Most guys, at some point, will have a condom fail while they’re are fucking, either through the condom bursting or slipping off.

Most of these failures occur because of a lack of basic knowledge on how to use condoms correctly. In young men condom failure rates can be as high as 40%

This can put you and your sexual partner at risk of HIV and other STIs.

If your condom has failed and you think you have been at risk of HIV you need to access PEP as soon as possible.

Using condoms correctly is the best way to protect yourself from HIV and STIs and it’s very much a case of practice makes perfect. Get to know which size and type fits you.

Here are our top tips to get the best out your condom:

  • Find the right fit for you
  • Make sure you’re hard before you put it on
  • Roll it all the way down your cock, avoiding air bubbles
  • You can never use too much lube
  • Change your condom every 30 minutes in longer sessions

There’s more detailed information on getting the best out of your condom below.

Store your condoms in a safe place: Try to keep your condoms in a cool, dark place, and out of direct sunlight. When you’re out and about, try not to keep them in your wallet or a trouser pocket for too long as this can lead to damage. Check the packaging, if it’s worn or damaged, or the use-by-date has past, don’t use the condom.

Use the right size for your penis: If a condom’s too tight, it’ll be uncomfortable to put on and may burst. Too loose and it’ll slip off during sex. Check out the Choosing the right condom section for more advice.

Open the wrapper carefully: Using your teeth to open a condom wrapper can damage it. Open it with your hands and try to do this before you get any lube on your fingers – otherwise your hands can be too slippy.

You only need to use one at a time: Using two condoms at once doesn’t increase the protection. In fact, it can cause extra friction that can cause the condom to break.

Make sure your penis is nice and hard: It's important to make sure you’re hard before putting on a condom. If you’re not circumcised and you’re able to, you should also pull back the foreskin behind the head of your penis.

Roll, don’t stretch: Condoms are designed to be rolled down your cock. If you try to stretch it, it’s more likely to break. When rolling, watch out for sharp objects like jewellery, teeth, nails or cock rings. Avoid rolling a condom using your mouth. Also make sure you roll the condom down to the base of your cock – that way it is less likely to slip off.

Avoid air bubbles: Having air between your cock and the condom may increase the risk of the condom breaking once you start shagging. To get the air out, squeeze the teat of the condom with your thumb and forefinger while you roll the condom down your cock.

Use the right lube and plenty of it: Apply plenty of lube to the outside of the condom and inside the arse of the guy getting fucked. Don’t get lube inside the condom or on your cock before putting the condom on as this will make the condom more likely to slip off. Only water or silicone-based lubes should be used with latex condoms.

Change the condom after 30 minutes: The longer you fuck the greater the chance of the condom becoming worn and breaking. So check it occasionally, apply more lube if you think you need to and put on a fresh one after 30 minutes. And if you are fucking more than one guy remember to use a different condom for each of them.

After you cum: Once you have cum, withdraw your cock holding the base of the condom and gently remove the condom making sure you don't spill any fluids. Then dispose hygienically.

Using lubricant

Are you getting enough? Lubricant that is…

Using lubricant correctly is just as vital as choosing the right condom. It helps make fucking easier and reduces the risk of the condom slipping off or breaking.

Like condoms, lube comes in a variety of types and brands, whether it’s gel like; creamy; thick; watery; or extra slippery, it’s a case of finding your preference.

When it comes to using lube, more is definitely more - as long as it’s in all the right places. So get it on the condom and up your arse before you get down to it.

Below are some of the pros and cons of the main types of lube. But, before we get started, let’s make one thing clear - spit does not count as lube. It is ineffective and makes it more likely that a condom will burst.

Water Based Lube: ·
Provided free in gay venues
Suitable for use with latex condoms
Available in sachets and bottles
Comes as a clear gel or creamy consistency
Popular brands include Lite Lube, TLC, Boys Own Lubricant, Liquid Silk, KY Jelly, Aquagel and J Lube

Silicon Based Lube: ·
Suitable for use with latex condoms
Available in bottles
Claim to be slippier than water-based lubes
Can cause staining on fabrics
Expensive
Popular brands include Pasante Bullet, Pjur, ID Millennium, Gun Oil

Oil Based Lube: ·
Unsuitable for latex condoms - it weakens them and can cause them to break
Should only be used with latex-free condoms
Used by guys who are into fisting
Popular brands include Elbow Grease, Crisco, Boy Butter

Lube issues

Do you sometimes find that you get a stinging, burning or itching sensation on your cock or anal passage when you use certain types of lube? If so, it could mean that you have an allergy to that type of lube.

Try switching to another type of lube. Preferably you should try a different brand as lubes from the same company will often include similar ingredients.

 

Condom issues

Beyond the issues around condom failure there are other common issues affecting guys when it comes to condom use.

Losing your erection: Lots of guys feel that condoms are the cause of erection loss. In many cases this can be resolved by using the right condom, learning the best way to get it on and spending time enjoying foreplay. The use of erection drugs is not recommended to overcome this problem, unless it's been suggested to you by your doctor.

Loss of intimacy.
If you feel that using a condom leads to a loss of intimacy with your partner, try to talk to them about it and look at ways to make condoms a part of your sex. For example, engaging in foreplay and getting your partner to put a condom on you before you start fucking may help. If you’re into foreplay, be careful not to get any sexual fluids inside you and, if you or your partner use lube when you wank, make sure you clean it off before putting a condom on to prevent it slipping off. It’s worth remembering that condoms are there to protect you and your partner from STIs, including HIV.

Lack of Sensation:
Some guys say that using condoms reduces the sensation of sex. If this is you, you may want to try different types of condom to see what works for you. Thinner condoms are not any less safe that thicker varieties and some condoms have different sensations that can increase your pleasure.  The more aroused you are during sex, the more sensation you will feel, so make sure you spend time getting turned on or turning your partner on.

Sex without condoms

Condoms, when used properly, are the most effective way to prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs. However, many gay and bisexual men have fucked without a condom at some point in their lives.

If you do have sex without a condom, there are ways you can reduce the chance of HIV being spread.

Withdrawing: If you pull out before you cum, the risk of HIV being transmitted is reduced. However, this is still a high-risk as precum may contain HIV. Some men choose to withdraw before they cum even when they use condoms, in case of condom failure.

Fucking vs. Being Fucked: Gay and bisexual men are more likely to become infected with HIV from being fucked (being bottom) than from fucking (being top). However, the risks are considered high either way. Fisting and using dildos prior to fucking can increase the possibility of HIV transmission, as the lining of the anal canal can become damaged.

Condomless sex in a steady relationship: The most common route of HIV transmission amongst gay and bisexual men in Scotland is through unprotected sex within steady relationships.

Guys often make a decision to stop using condoms because they are in a steady relationship with one person, and both believe themselves to have the same HIV status. However, it’s worth remembering that condoms prevent STIs other than HIV.

The decision to stop using condoms is usually based on trust; for example that neither you, nor your partner, will have sex outside the relationship, or that if one does, they will use condoms. However, we're all capable of doing things we might later regret, and many men who felt totally committed to a monogamous relationship have found themselves having high-risk sex outside of it.

If you’re in a relationship and thinking about stopping condom use, you should talk things through to make sure you’re on the same page. It’s also a good idea to get a sexual health check and make sure neither of you have any other viruses or infections.

If you have any concerns you can contact SX to speak with one of our sexual health advisors.