The poor old condoms cop a bad rap (sorry, not sorry) as far as contraception goes. Notorious for being sex interrupters, sensation dullers, and having a nasty habit of breaking, not fitting, or basically being an epic pain in the ass... It's no wonder that folks avoid using them.
The thing is - most of the negative stuff that condoms are lambasted for is totally avoidable.
For something as simple as a latex sheath that goes over a penis, there's a lot that can go wrong with the humble condom. Even in my own personal experience, I've had condom breakages and malfunctions due to "user error"
So let's start with the important stuff, how can we best ensure that condoms do what they're meant to do; that is, prevent bodily fluid contact, the spread of STIs and well, unwanted pregnancy.
When used correctly, condoms are 98% effective. You need to be able to put it on without damaging it, or creating risk of the condom popping (yeah, that can happen) or tearing.
Check the date and use the right size
Effective use means using the right size condom for the penis it's going on. Making sure it's IN DATE!! (Can't believe how many people don't check this) and applying it properly.
Don't store your condoms in hot cars. Hot conditions destroy condoms. And destroyed condoms don't work.
Lube is basically essential for effective condom use, and can improve sensation, and prevent breakage; however it's not that simple. Latex condoms and oil based lube do NOT go together. If you're using a latex love glove, make sure your lube is water based.
A couple of drops of lube on the inside of the condom is a game changer as far as sensation is concerned. Or so I'm told, I don't have a penis, and really I can only speak from the other side of the discussion so to speak. And frankly, I am a lube advocate. #allthelube
Put it on properly
Applying the little sucker takes practise, and frankly it's a bit hard to learn how to put a condom onto a cucumber or banana - because as phallic as they are, they're nothing like a real penis. If you have your own penis, practise practise practise. If you don't have access to your own penis, it doesn't hurt to ask your partner nicely 😉
Pinch the top, squeeze air out and leave space for the cum to end up in the condom. I've seen folks somehow manage to create a little air balloon at the end of their condom, only to have it "pop" at an awkward sexy moment, negating any safety or contraceptive benefits of the damned thing.
There isn't much less sexy than a burst, broken, condom; let me assure you.
Roll the condom down the whole length of the penis. This is NOT a time to use your teeth. Structural integrity is key here!
I'm informed by several penis possessing folks that mentioning teeth and dicks in the same sentence doesn't really need a warning, but you never know who hasn't been told, or what others are into.
Lube and the right size can solve most sensation issues. But let's be honest, they ARE a barrier between skin contact, so there are going to be sensation differences.
Take it off properly
It should go without saying that the contents of the condom, once you're finished with whatever sexy act you're engaging in, is the exact stuff that you don't want coming into contact with your partner.
Make sure your penis is completely out of your partners body. And move to a position where you're not going to splash your fluids all over them.
Tie it up and dispose of your condom in the bin. Toilets aren't a condom disposal receptacle. They get stuck. They clog drains. It isn't sexy. Also, think of the sea turtles...
Other things you probably should know
There are lots of brands and varieties of condoms. Try a bunch and work out what works for you and your body. Try the flavours, try the sensations, try the sizes!
Some people are allergic to latex. Latex allergies and sexy time are not cute, and you should definitely communicate.
If you're embarrassed to buy them in supermarkets etc (And you totally shouldn't be, rock on with your safer sex awesomeness) you can order condoms online.
No, you should absolutely NOT use two condoms at the same time. More is not more in this particular scenario.
And as a final thought, condoms create a barrier and need to be changed between each sex act. So if you're switching from oral to vaginal or anal, a new condom is needed, even if you haven't cum.