Barrier Methods

Barrier methods are the most reliable way to prevent STI transmission between sexual partners, and can also be used as a form of contraception. Select a method below to learn more about it:

What Are Insertive Condoms?

Insertive condoms, also known as male condoms, are barrier methods that are used by the insertive partner during sex. They are the most common barrier method in use today. They can be used to prevent both pregnancy during male-female intercourse and the spread of STIs between any partners during anal, oral, or vaginal intercourse. They're available in a variety of sizes, shapes, textures, materials, and also flavors for oral sex.

How do you use an Insertive Condom?

Insertive condoms are rolled over what is being inserted, such as a penis, toy, or fingers. It is important to know how to properly use insertive condoms, because not properly using them can lead to failure, increasing the chances of unplanned pregnancy or the spread of STIs.

There are three steps to follow before opening a condom:

  1. Wash your hands (oils—such as those found in lotion, pizza, and naturally on skin—degrade condoms).

  2. Check the expiration date.

  3. Feel for the air bubble in the package to ensure that the condom isn't compromised.

Once you've done that, you can open the package (be careful not to tear the condom and practice if you plan on using your teeth).

To put on the condom, first make sure to do the thumb test. Condoms can only go on one way and there is an easy trick to make sure you put it on the right way the first time. To do the test, place the condom over both of your thumbs and try rolling the condom down over them. If it can go all the way down the thumb, it's the right way; if not, then you just need to turn the condom inside-out. If you do happen to put it on the insertive object the wrong way, make sure to get a new condom and start over.

Once this is complete, begin rolling the condom onto the penetrative object. Make sure to leave room for fluids to collect inside the condom by pinching the tip while you roll it on. Leaving some extra room also decreases friction, lowering the chance of breakage.

If using a condom on a penis, make sure to pull out right away after ejaculation. If a penis goes flaccid before you pull out, the condom can slip off and expose you and your partner to unwanted fluids. Once out, turn away from your partner, slip the condom off, and throw it away. Condoms are one-time use only and should always be tossed in the garbage, as they will clog toilets.

Also, remember not to double bag: the increased friction between two condoms can increase the chance of breakage.

How Effective are Insertive Condoms at preventing Pregnancy and STI Transmission?

An insertive condom, when used properly, is 98% effective at preventing pregnancy and fluid-spread STIs, such as chlamydia or HIV. However, they will be less effective at preventing contact-spread STIs, such as HPV or herpes, for which they are approximately 70% effective.

What are Insertive Condoms made of?

The most common material used for insertive condoms is latex. Other common materials include polyisoprene and polyurethane, which are safe for people with latex allergies.

It is important to remember that the material affects how you can use an insertive condom. Oils degrade latex and polyisoprene, increasing the probability of breakage. Therefore, make sure you are using a water- or silicone-based lube. Oil-based lubricants or massage oils can only be used with polyurethane condoms.

If you're using insertive condoms with toys, it is also very important to consider what material the toy is made of. Many sex toys are made of silicone and cannot be used with silicone-based lubricants, as this will degrade the toy. Many condoms are pre-lubricated, so be sure to use condoms with water-based lubricants. There are also non-lubricated condoms available at the SOL office.

What Are Receptive Condoms?

Receptive condoms, also known as female condoms, are a barrier method used by the receptive partner during sex. They can be used to prevent both pregnancy during male-female intercourse and the spread of STIs between partners during anal or vaginal intercourse.

How do you use a Receptive Condom?

Receptive condoms are inserted into the vagina or the anus of the receptive partner during intercourse. It is important to know how to properly use receptive condoms, because not properly using them can lead to failure, increasing the chances of unplanned pregnancy or the spread of STIs.

There are three steps to follow before opening a condom:

  1. Wash your hands.

  2. Check the expiration date.

  3. Feel for the air bubble in the package to ensure the condom isn't compromised.

Once this is complete the receptive condom can be inserted into the vagina or anus. Receptive condoms include a ring on the inside for vaginal use. This holds the condom in place against the cervix. To insert into the vagina, twist the ring into a figure-eight and begin feeding it into the vagina. Once inserted, there will be material left outside of the vagina, covering the vulva. To use anally, the ring should be removed. After this, the condom can be inserted into the anus using a finger or two to feed it in. Some material will remain outside the anus covering the area around it.

There are some things to consider when using a receptive condom. One is that you should "shoot for the hoop." Make sure the penetrative object is being inserted into the opening of the condom. If it goes outside the opening of the condom, that defeats the purpose of using a barrier method in the first place. Also, if the condom is being used anally, but also vaginally, make sure it is not being pushed to far into the anus or vagina to the point at which it either needs to be fished out or fluids are able to escape the condom.

Once you're done, the condom can be removed by twisting the material left outside the vagina or the anus so that fluids inside the condom cannot escape, after which is can be slowly pulled out and thrown away. Receptive condoms are one-time use only and should be thrown in the garbage. They will clog a toilet.

Also, remember not to double bag: the increased friction between two condoms, even between an insertive and receptive condom, can increase the chance of breakage.

How Effective are Insertive Condoms at preventing Pregnancy and STI Transmission?

A receptive condom, when used properly, is 95% effective at preventing pregnancy or fluid-spread STIs such as chlamydia or HIV. However, they will be less effective at preventing contact-spread STIs such as HPV or herpes. Usually, then they are only about 70% percent effective, but in theory they will be slightly more effective at preventing contact-spread STIs than insertive condoms because of the additional material covering the vulva and area around the anus.

What are Receptive Condoms made of?

The only brand of receptive condom available at Sex Out Loud (FC2 Female Condom) is made of polyurethane. It can be used by people who have a latex allergy, and is actually safe to use with oil-based lubricants.

What Are Sex Dams?

Sex dams, also known as dental dams, are a type of barrier method used for oral-anal contact, oral-vulvar contact, or any other type of oral contact on the surface of the body. They can be used by individuals of any gender or sexual identity. Sex dams are available in a variety of flavors.

How do you use Sex Dams?

Sex dams are easy to use. They are sheets of latex that are placed over whatever area of the body is being stimulated orally. They cannot be used more than once, moved to different parts of the body, or flipped over. This increases the chances a partner gets exposed to STIs. Remember to wash your hands before you use them, because oils can degrade a latex dam.

How Effective are Sex Dams at Preventing STI Transmission?

Sex dams are highly effective at preventing the spread of STIs. Latex barriers, when used properly, are over 98% effective at preventing fluid-spread STIs. Sex dams prevent skin-to-skin contact and will also be highly effective at preventing contact-spread STIs.

What are Sex Dams made of?

Sex dams are usually made of latex. However, there are many alternatives to commercial sex dams. Any type of receptive or insertive condom can be used to make a sex dam—simply cut up the side of the condom and it will spread out and make a sheet which can be used as a dam. Latex gloves can also be used to improvise sex dams by cutting up the side of the glove and removing the fingers except the thumb and it will make a sheet with a small pocket, which can be used to place a tongue into. Non-microwaveable saran-wrap can also be used (microwavable wrap is porous, and will not be effective in preventing the spread of STIs.

What Are Latex Gloves?

Well, latex gloves are exactly what they sound like: they're much like the ones you would find at the doctor or dentist's office.

How do you use Latex Gloves?

Latex gloves can be used for a variety of things. They can be used for any form of manual sex, including fingering or fisting. They're especially good if one partner has a cut or open sore on their hands or fingers, but would like to finger or fist without exchanging bodily fluids. In addition to that they can be used during kink play that may include exposure to bodily fluids that can transmit STIs. Finally, they can be used as a "do-it-yourself" sex dam. Simply cut the fingers off (not the thumb) and cut it along the side and you get a sheet of latex similar to a normal sex dam. They thumb will even create a little pouch that can be used to integrate food into your play; you can make a game of eating any sort of food (such as honey or chocolate sauce) out of the pouch.

How Effective are Latex Gloves at Preventing STI Transmission?

A latex glove will be 98% effective at preventing fluid-spread STIs and contact-spread STIs.

What are Latex Gloves made of?

The gloves provided by Sex Out Loud are all latex, however non-latex gloves are available in materials such as nitrile, vinyl, and neoprene.