Skepchick’s Guide to the Uterus – Condoms and Whaaaaa?

Recently, behind the scenes, the Skepchick Hive was discussing birth control: what we use, what we don’t use, what works and what sucks. We realized that this conversation was probably pretty useful in-front-of the scenes, too.  So I’m going to be putting together some information for you, in a series of posts, on how to avoid pregnancy – long term, short term, mid term, and oops-term.

If you have any questions about a birth control method, comment on the blog or email us a question and I’ll do my best to thoroughly Google it and post my findings.

Today’s topics are “Condoms and Whaaaaa?”. I’ll get to condoms – use, options, pros and cons – in a minute, but first I want to talk about misconceptions about how to avoid pregnancy without birth control.

We’re all familiar with the bad advice we’ve all heard (or heard that other people heard). You can’t get pregnant:

  • the first time you have sex
  • if you’re having your period
  • if you do it in high heels
  • if the woman is on top
  • if you do it standing up
  • if you do jumping jacks after sex
  • if dude pulls out

But there are a few more myths that, logically, seem to be obvious ways to avoid pregnancy… but they’re not.

So unzip your pants (if you’re still wearing any) and join me on a NSFW  journey through the warring nation-states of Getting and Not-Getting Knocked-up.

How not to not get pregnant

Anal Sex

See? You probably stopped reading to go find something to throw at your computer screen in anger, yelling “You can’t get pregnant from anal fucking sex, Elyse!”buttsecks

That’s why I’m writing this. You can. I’m not jerking your….you know. Granted, it’s a fantastic way to reduce your chances of pregnancy versus vaginal sex, but it does not eliminate the chances completely.

The problem here is not that fertilization happens up the butt; the problem is leakage. If sperm leak out of the anus, they can find their way to the vagina where they can swim up and fertilize an egg. The odds of this happening are not great. It’s far less than shooting a wad right up against the cervix, but if your goal is to avoid embroys, use a condom (which will also greatly reduce risk of STD transmission and virtually eliminate risk of male UTI from poo germs.)

Dry Humping

If you listened to the first ever Skepchick podcast, you heard me drunkenly and not so eloquently declare that you can get pregnant from dry-humping (at least I think it was dry-humping) because “you bump and bump and things swim up.”

Think of it this way, you know that rubbing together an unsheathed penis with an unsheathed vulva, even sans penetration is a recipe for disaster, right? (If not, see anal sex, but this time dart lands even closer to the bulls eye.) Dry humping is essentially doing this, but with a soft (or seemingly soft at first) denim sieve between you.

Do this test: dump a couple tablespoons of milkshake on your pants. If anything goes through, they do not protect against pregnancy or STDs.

Dry Humping tip: Your mom will know what that stain is on your pants. Do your own laundry or at least buy yourself a Tide pen.

Hand jobs, Blow jobs, and other types of -jobs

These acts will almost always be safe for pregnancy prevention. But the important thing to remember here is that anything that has touched the tip of the penis during play, the entire penis following play, and/or any semen should not touch the vulva or the vulva’s neighbors.

If you give your dude a hand job, and you have to pee shortly after, wash your hands before you wipe. And use common sense – like don’t use your panties to clean up the mess then wear them.

The moral of the story is that sperm can live up to 5 days. If you keep them warm they’re going to try to find an egg util they die. Don’t give them that chance.

Boy Condoms

(Female condoms will be discussed in a future post)

Condoms are a fantastic option for immediate-term to short-term birth control. Though, if you can cope with them, they can be used long-term as well.

In reality, I think once a couple decides they’re in it for the long haul, condoms are one of the first things to go (right before the illusion that neither partner farts). And that’s only for couples that have been bothering to use them in the first place.

Condoms get a bad rap for being uncomfortable and inconvenient. But they’re the only form of birth control that provides a physical, visible barrier of protection (so you know it’s there and can see that it’s working or not) and that helps eliminate risk of most STDs.

Using condoms doesn’t have to be an awkward burden. With styles ranging from glow-in-the-dark to flavored to enhanced-pleasure (and I don’t mean the old ribbed-style that has failed to, even once, increase any woman’s pleasure), condoms can be F-U-N! Yes, even though your penis is glowing in the dark, you’re still going to have to block out the inevitable hair-yank to come. Just try to, you know, keep your eye on the pink ribbon. (Also, if you buy fun-style condoms, check the box to make sure they are intended to prevent pregnancy and protect against STDs.)

People used to have to deal with allergy issues hampering condom use. Nonoxynol-9 and latex being the culprits. Unfortunately, I don’t see anything overthrowing nonoxynol-9’s reign as king of the sperm-exterminators, but there are plenty of other non-spermicidal lubes. The good news for those allergic is that nonoxynol should not be used by frequent condom users anyway because it will irritate the skin, even for those not allergic. That irritation can cause abrasions, increasing risk of HIV infection.

Latex allergy sufferers used to have 2 options: something else or lambskin. Neither of those options protect against HIV and not using condoms at all puts you at risk for other STDs. Fortunately, now there are polyurethane (and similar materials) condoms. These are a little more expensive, but they’re just as efficient and they’re thinner. They are a fantastic option for someone who likes condoms in theory, but hates them in practice. The new non-latex options offer increased sensitivity for the guy. If you’ve always hated condoms, but know you should be using them, give these a try.

Condom Pros:

  • Pay-per-use. They only cost you if you use them, and at less than $1 per romp, unless you’re doing it more than once a day, it’s one of the most cost-efficient ways to prevent pregnancy.
  • Protects against disease. With the exception of HPV and Herpes, you can protect yourself against virtually all STDs.
  • You don’t have to rely on one partner or the other to be protected. Either partner can buy them and keep them handy.
  • The only form of birth control available for men
  • Over-the-counter.
  • Can be used with other forms of birth control as backup/STD protection
  • Can be incorporated into sexy time. Your partner can put it on or you can put it on… it can be applied by hand or by mouth. It’s actually way hotter to put a condom on your guy than it is for him to insert your IUD.
  • 98% effective against pregnancy when used properly (85% when used improperly)

Condom Cons:

  • Can be uncomfortable
  • Some varieties are only intended for fun use and not pregnancy or disease prevention (if you can eat them, don’t use them for protection)
  • Requires a time-out in the middle of the action
  • Dulls sensation
  • Possible allergic reactions to latex or nonoxynol-9
  • Extensive use of nonoxynol-9 can increase risk of STD transmission due to causing skin irritation.

Here is a video on how to properly apply a condom. Enjoy!

Happy sexing!


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. The best trick my gay male friends ever taught me was how to put a condom on someone with my lips. It’s really pretty easy, and doesn’t cause a “time-out” in the middle of the action.

  2. @GeekGirlsRule: While that is undoubtedly hot, it’s still not recommended, as it’s possible to tear the condom with your teeth, and a bunch of other things that I haven’t thought of because I’m not actually a sex educator.

    Sites that you guys might want to look at:
    Tiny Nibbles ( ): Violet Blue’s often NSFW site that has tons of info on just about everything you could ever want to know about sex.

    Midwest Teen Sex Show ( ): Super hilarious look at sexual health, aimed predominately at teens, but still tons of fun for the whole family.

    San Francisco Sex Information ( ): A great place to go to ask any questions you have regarding sex. They either know the answer to any question you have, or know someone who does.

    Great Job getting the info out on making sex not just fun, but safe too!

  3. There is no such thing as TMI!

    Once you know the condom is going to go on the right way – I agree, roll it down with your mouth! I dated a guy once who would sometimes lose his erection once I started putting the condom on (with my hands) so I surprised him by using my mouth. He loved it.

  4. @phuze: You use your lips, very carefully.

    As for tearing, you can do that with your hands as well. Honestly, I think I’m more careful with my lips than most guys are with their hands.

    Granted, for the most part condoms are a thing of the past. Got myself spayed a few years ago. Best Christmas Present Ever.

  5. Vasectomy. It’s fast, it’s easy. It only hurts for a few days. It will save you tens of thousands in college costs and if you are lucky the nurse who swabs you with four different kinds of body temperature antiseptic solution will be a smoking hot red head.

  6. Just don’t put the condom on with your mouth if it’s a spermicidal condom… that’s unpleasant to say the least… or so my friend who did it tells me.


    I’m getting there… relax. In the interest of being informative, I want to give each option a fair amount of face time without writing a 20,000 word post… no one wants that.

  7. I hope this series includes a guest post by one of the comment contributors to yesterday’s AI extolling the protection provided by responsible use of chastity belts.

  8. Elyse: I can’t use spermicidal condoms anyway, galloping allergy to most spermicides. I always get unlubricated, and because it’s due to my tender skin issues, I usually bring my own.

  9. I’ve found that telling the ladies about my extensive collection of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes has been a boon for preventing me from becoming a daddy.

  10. @Steve:

    Hmmm…. imagine that. A process requiring reproduction works against non-reproductive sex.

    When I was pregnant with Moose, a bunch of people at work were talking about spitting vs swallowing (yeah, that’s how we rolled). They then looked to me for some input on the matter.

    My response?

    If I were an expert on this, I wouldn’t be pregnant.

  11. @Elyse:

    This is scary girl, but as I was scrolling down to comment, I was thinking, my secret for not getting pregnant it swallowing.

    Oh, and banging chicks.

  12. @Elyse: Two things.

    1) I had sex-ed in high school in the early 90s, so it boggles my mind that any of this is information that folks haven’t already heard. How does any teenager not wind up pregnant these days?

    2) When my childhood best friend’s sister got married, I went back to my home town for the wedding. Because they were super classy, her family and friends included stuffing the passenger compartment full of inflated condoms in their plans for decorating the groom’s pickup truck.

    Unfortunately, the person responsible for buying the shaving cream, plastic wrap and other supplies picked up condoms with spermicide on. The responsibility for inflating the condoms fell to my friend, who dealt with the taste by taking a swig from his beer mug after every puff. He stood there with a condom in is left hand and a mug in his right hand, repeating the following sequence:

    *pffffff* “Bleh.” *sluurrp*
    *pffffff* “Bleh.” *sluurrp*
    *pffffff* “Bleh.” *sluurrp*

    He filled the whole cab of the truck.

  13. I have to applaud the above the fold teaser. And there’s something odd about referring to anal sex as a teaser.

    As to the evolutionary roots of the taste of semen, I thought Pharyngula covered it pretty well. There might not be any selective pressure for tastey semen, that doesn’t mean the bad taste was selected for. As the second paragraph in the article Steve linked to said, semen has to do a lot to keep sperm alive, girly bits aren’t very friendly to intruders (no one wants a thrush hotel in their pants), and presumably surviving that long enough to achieve fertilization is a higher priority than punishing naughty girls for trying to do an end run around procreation (and now “end run” makes me snicker).

  14. Can anyone explain how a properly used condom is only 98% effective? Seems to me it should be 100-how does it “not work” 2 times in a hundred? holes and breakage is improper use isn’t it?

  15. @mikekoz68:

    Sometimes the problem with a condom isn’t user error… it may just be a bum condom.

    A condom shouldn’t break if used properly, but that doesn’t mean they never do.

  16. “You can’t get pregnant while nursing a baby.”
    WRONGO – That’s how I allegedly got a nephew.

  17. Sometimes the problem with a condom isn’t user error… it may just be a bum condom.

    Does that mean it would have worked fine in the other hole?

  18. This is a excellent post, Elyse. I think that Skepchick’s Guides are the best of the content Skepchick puts out. I started reading after the Homeopathy series and joined shortly after (frequent reader, rare poster). Nice work.

  19. One problem with the synthetic non-latex condoms is breakage. I tried these three years ago and had 2 of 3 break in “normal use” (e.g. vaginal sex, no wardrobe-jumping).
    Since then we have used latex condoms without a single breakage – I would not recommend non-latex condoms.

  20. “It’s actually way hotter to put a condom on your guy than it is for him to insert your IUD.”

    Yeah, especially since a doctor’s supposed to do that. ‘Oh yeah baby, circumvent the system! Put that IUD in without a medical license!’

  21. @Elyse: You could be wrong. I can imagine the conversation.

    “Mommy, how did I get here?”

    “Well baby, when two people love each other very much become fans of Elyse’s breasts they sometimes get very excited. And sometimes they forget to be careful. And then they have a little baby named Whoops. So basically you got here becuase mommy and daddy became fans of Elyse’s breasts.”

    “Oh, okay.”

    See, it’s that easy.

  22. Or your wife’s OBGYN could royally fuck up and you could be infertile after one kid. To fair, she is a really great kid.

  23. Best.Thread.Ever.

    Thrush hole, oh-so-dirty red heads, mstk3000 and anal all throwing down together. There’s something here for the whole family- even Grandma!

    On a serious note… can’t wait to read the rest of your series. I have a few choice words about switching from the patch to the pill (damn three-tier prescription drug coverage).
    <——– = “mommy’s favorite mistake”

  24. I’m not a big fan of condoms but I do use them 99% of the time. I have heard that the percent of people 18-25 who uses condoms is somewhere between 30-40% which is unacceptable in this day and age. There has been a condom in development for awhile that would just spray on the wang which looks interesting. One problem I have is that the selection of large size condoms is pretty poor. I plan on going to a sperm bank and then getting a vasectomy in the next ten years.

  25. @TomDG: Have you considered that a chunk of that 60-70% that aren’t using condoms are in fact using other forms of birth control?

    While I personally am on the pill, I have condoms around for the times when I’m not exactly well acquainted with the guy… I would most likely be included in the 60-70% that don’t use condoms even though I do use other forms of protection.

    Oh yeah, and then there are the folks that are stupid about safe sex which is the other main group that doesn’t use condoms regularly :/ That does need some fixing.

  26. Elyse: I just have to tell you something really embarrassing.

    I worship your breasts. And now I’m pregnant.

    When is the baby due to burst out of my chest? ;-)

  27. Dry-Humping is absolutely 100% safe. It’s done with the clothes on. If you are dry-humping without clothes, it’s called “oops i missed your vagina”

  28. Okay, perhaps bucksecks and dry-humping can lead to unexpected pregnancies, but just stating that it can cause pregnancies is not very helpful in and of itself. Theoretically shaking hands can make her preggers too. But what are the odds?

  29. The point is just be careful.

    Use condoms during buttsecks.

    Keep fluids from other fooling-around sessions away from the vagina… and remember those fluids aren’t intimidated by poly-cotton blends

  30. I’ve tried many different kinds of birth control. I’ve never been pregnant. What I’m really interested in is not having a monthly period. I never knew that it was okay to skip it. I either read about it here or through a link from here.

    Anyway, I’ve gone to a pill that supplies a steady amount of hormone instead of slowly building up and then down like a three phased type. I skip the 4 sugar pills and start a new pack. My doctor agrees there’s no reason to have a period and that it’s completely safe. My insurance won’t cover the new pills though that are a full 28 day supply.

    My problem is that I can’t always take them at the same time every day. Mornings are best because that’s when I have to take my other medication. But weekends I get up later and that causes a little bit of a time lag. And it causes breakthrough bleeding.

    I’m going to ask my doctor about the patch or maybe the nuvi ring, but I’m not sure if I have to have the waiting week and how insurance will handle paying for an extra week. Maybe if my doctor prescribes it that way? And it’s much more expensive for non-generics and I’m not sure how much they will cover.

    But I’d be interested in hearing any thoughts from the skepchicks about either form of birth control – comfort, convenience, anything unexpected…

  31. On a cucumber? Really? Thanks, way to set the women up for disappointment. Unless you’re dating Peter North or Mr. Ed, most dudes are smaller than that. That’s like showing a young boy how to remove a bra off of Tiffany Towers.

    Just sayin’.

  32. Ordinary Girl: Hi, have you tried the progesterone injection depo-provera? I have used it for 7 years! No period…. in 7 years!!!!!!!
    Check your insurance

  33. Can you still call it dry-humping when it’s not … you know … dry any more.

    They call it “wet dreams” for a reason too.

    So technically, dry-humping can’t get you preggers. It’s when it becomes wet-humping that you’ve got a potential problem.

  34. kmhayward, I tried progesterone injections back in the 90’s… maybe 97? The problem was that I would cry uncontrollably after receiving the injection for at least the first day, and my emotions ran the gamut for a few days after that.

    I’m not sure feeling like I’m going crazy for a couple of days is worth it. Maybe it’d be different now (as in not make me an emotional wreck). I’ll ask my doctor about it.

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