(Image courtesy of Corode)
A condom is a barrier device used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and there are versions for both male and female users. A barrier device, or barrier method, is something that helps prevent pregnancy by blocking sperm from reaching and subsequently fertilizing the egg.
The male condom is used by rolling it onto an erect penis before sexual intercourse. It works by creating a physical barrier that traps semen, preventing it from entering the body of a sexual partner. They are most commonly made of latex, though there are other forms.
Condoms are currently the only form of reversible, non-hormonal contraception for men. Male condoms and vasectomy are the only existing methods of birth control currently on the market for people with penises.
Some of the advantages of the male condom include:
However, the effectiveness of male condoms can vary greatly. With “perfect use”, the effectiveness rate can be as high as 98%. The “typical use” effectiveness rate is usually somewhere between 82-90%. This means that couples relying solely on condoms for birth control can experience a pregnancy as often as once every five times they have sex.
Examples of condom-like devices can be found throughout history. However, these were largely limited to more affluent, upper class users. This changed in the mid-1800s when rubber vulcanization was patented; the first rubber condom was produced in 1855. With the invention of latex in 1920, condoms grew in popularity due to decreasing costs as well as their perceived efficacy in preventing sexually transmitted infections and diseases.
Nuts & Bolts: Condoms
To learn more about, please visit our series of posts about male reproduction and contraception:
Barrier device/method - a method of contraception using a device or preparation which prevents live sperm from reaching an ovum.
Erection - an enlarged and rigid state of the penis, typically in sexual excitement.
Semen - the male reproductive fluid, containing spermatozoa in suspension.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) - an infection you can get by having sex. Some STIs (such as gonorrhea and chlamydia) infect your sexual and reproductive organs. Others (such as HIV, hepatitis B, and syphilis) cause general body infections. STIs used to be called VDs, or venereal diseases.
Vasectomy - the surgical cutting and sealing of part of each vas deferens, typically as a means of sterilization.
For additional terminology related to male contraception and the male reproductive system, please visit our glossary:
Hatcher, Robert Anthony; M.D, Anita L. Nelson (2007). Contraceptive Technology. Ardent Media. pp. 297–311.
Trussell, James (2011). "Contraceptive efficacy" (PDF). In Hatcher, Robert A.; Trussell, James; Nelson, Anita L.; Cates, Willard Jr.; Kowal, Deborah; Policar, Michael S. (eds.). Contraceptive technology (20th revised ed.). New York: Ardent Media. pp. 779–863. ISBN 978-1-59708-004-0. ISSN 0091-9721. OCLC 781956734.
Speroff, Leon; Darney, Philip D. (2011). A Clinical Guide for Contraception. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 305–307. ISBN 9781608316106. Archived from the original on 2016-11-14. World Health Organization (2019).
World Health Organization model list of essential medicines: 21st list 2019. Geneva: World Health Organization. hdl:10665/325771. WHO/MVP/EMP/IAU/2019.06. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
Shoupe, Donna (2011). Contraception. John Wiley & Sons. p. 15. ISBN 9781444342635.
Hatcher, RA; Trussel, J; Nelson, AL; et al. (2007). Contraceptive Technology (19th ed.). New York: Ardent Media. ISBN 978-1-59708-001-9. Archived from the original on May 31, 2008.
Sparrow, Margaret J.; Lavill, Kay (1994). "Breakage and slippage of condoms in family planning clients". Contraception. 50 (2): 117–129. doi:10.1016/0010-7824(94)90048-5.
"The Truth About Condoms" (PDF). Planned Parenthood. Katharine Dexter McCormick Library. 2011-07-01. Retrieved 2011-12-15.
Corina, H. (2007). S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College. New York: Marlowe and Company. pp. 207–210. ISBN 978-1-60094-010-1.
Steiner, Markus J.; Cates, Willard; Warner, Lee (1999). "The Real Problem with Male Condoms is Nonuse". Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 26 (8): 459–462. doi:10.1097/00007435-199909000-00007.
For additional publications related to male contraception and the male reproductive system, please visit our publications page: