Studies of condom use offer great insight into why we continue to have a high rate of unplanned pregnancies in this country as well as continued problems with sexually transmitted diseases. In “perfect use” situations the failure rate of condoms is about 3%, however, perfect use is sadly not the norm.

With that in mind, here are the top 10 errors men make with condoms and 10 excellent reasons why all women should be educated how to appropriately use condoms so they can take over if a fatal error appears imminent:

1. Failure to check condom for visual damage.

2. Failure to check expiration date

3. Putting condom on AFTER starting sex (43% of men report doing this 50% of the time they use condoms!)

4. Failed to hold tip and leave space

5. Put condom on wrong side up (had to flip it over)

6. Didn’t use lubricant *

7. Took condom off BEFORE sex was over (15% of men report doing this 50% of the time they use a condoms, come on guys!)

8. Condom slipped off while withdrawing penis

9. Started sex before condom was rolled on all the way

10. Used a condom that had been stored in a wallet for >; 1 month

The study that reported these errors also reported a condom breakage rate was 29% and a slipping off rate of 13%, so a 42%terminal event rate. Given the frequency of these errors and the resulting catastrophically high rate of breakage/slippage, it is clear that more education efforts are required regarding correct use of condoms and that relying on condoms alone for contraception is just not sufficient for one-third of users.

Women should be educated regarding appropriate use of condoms (from opening the package to withdrawal) and if they are not also using hormonal contraception (pill, patch, ring, shot, or implant) or an IUD, they should most definitely have Plan B on hand for back up.

*The effect of lubricant on condoms effectiveness appears controversial. Certainly, oil-based lubricant is an absolute no when it comes to latex condoms as it increases the risk of breakage; however, some studies suggest water-based lubricants reduces breakage although I also found a few studies that suggest lube is associated with an increased rate of condom slippage. Currently, the CDC recommends a water or silicone based lubricant with condoms.

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  1. hi…i’ve purchased ultrathin condoms last month, the issue is that it often slips off from my husbands penis during the act (this feels really annoying) coz of this he has to wear a new one again. Plz suggest us…is he wearing a wrong type of condom and which one should we buy? His penis’ girth/width is less. We have already tried 3 or 4 types of condoms. plz help!

  2. Is it possible to get a girl pregnant if u come inside the condom n clean ur self up with a towel n then keep having sex

  3. Although: I participated in #3 quite a lot when I was younger and did not get pregnant from that — perhaps we were just very clever and consistent, I do not know.

  4. Great article Jen but I query your use of the phrase “if a fatal error appears imminent”. You would have to be getting it seriously wrong to kill yourself or your partner with a condom. They are used in desert survival packs as they can carry a truly huge amount of water (try it!) so leaving it at home might kill you in that event I suppose 🙂

  5. Durex condoms do actually have the size in mm(diameter, i think) on the box. The different varieties are different sizes. I wish other brands did the same. mostly i’ve had slippage issues with guys, and i think being able to choose slightly slimmer ones without guesswork could help.

  6. I wasn’t taught how to put one on in high school either, but the instructions in the box are actually pretty clear – and I read them, and used one for practice so I could figure out how it should work and what it should look like once it was on. (Female here – I believe I used a banana for practice. *g*)

    I also prefer to buy/use my own condoms, and put them on the guy myself. That way, I know for a fact that they have been stored properly and haven’t expired.

      1. If only different brands, shapes, and sizes of condoms existed. Then poor Jim, Mr Super Spooge, could have safer sex with confidence.

  7. The one problem with a condom is that the ” bulb ” that takes the semen is too small .

  8. Thanks for this. I remember when I went through high school all they taught us about condom use was “do it,” and pretty much left us to our own to figure out how. I think it was something like five years after I lost my virginity that I learned you were supposed to pinch the tip to keep room for the semen.

    I think the number one problem with regards to condom slippage is men who overestimate the size of condom they require. If you have a small penis don’t buy the “Magnum XXL” box of condoms, they’re not going to stay on AND they’re going to slip around a lot and probably feel rather mediocre.

    I have noticed a marketing trend by condom manufacturers to glorify their biggest condoms as something special. I think it’s a problem. If I were controlling condom marketing I would have the condoms sold in numerical sizes and I would also make available sizing charts that you could cut holes out of so guys could go “if you can put your penis through this hole but not this hole you need a size three!” I think that would help a lot because really, how else would you know which size is right for you? I’m pretty sure most straight guys haven’t seen a lot of other guys’ penises.

    1. This is a good topic to explore, thank you. I tried to talk to my 17-year-old son about the importance of buying the right size. He initially felt insulted because he thought I was telling him his penis was too small. So we talked some more so I could explain further that it is a problem with many guys who instinctively want to feel normal. I’m not sure a number would be the right way to identify size, since numbers are competitive in the minds of many people (3 is bigger than 2, so therefore “better”). Perhaps letters would be less of a trigger to fear of being thought of as “small?”

    2. Putting the size on condoms has the natural tendency for men to purchase ones that are too large. Society expects bigger is better. There is a similar problem with sizes of women’t clothes except women want the smallest number. What the heck is a 5, 6, 7, 8 size anyway? Women want to say they fit into a 5. They get into using these meaningless small numbers for marketing instead of inches or centimeters that says someone is actually 27 inches instead of a 5.

    3. I couldn’t agree more. Condom manufactuers also don’t cater for the extremes – I’ve found that even the “snugger fit” condoms are too loose. I’ve found ordering online easier than asking shop assistants about smaller condoms.

  9. Many years ago when I was at university, there was a guy in my dorm who fancied himself a real ladies man – he actually (non-ironically) attempted to use “what’s cookin’, goot lookin” for a pickup. He was also very proud of himself for having broken condoms on at least 2 occasions while having sex – he considered it a sign of his virility .

  10. If you realize you’re making mistake #4 then you shouldn’t continue and make a mess, you should stop there and do something else!

  11. I’ve done number 4 and number 10 and when you do number 4 you don’t notice it until you’re about to finish and you realize that there is 0 space for anything. You end up having to pull out and make a mess.

  12. Question re. “The study that reported these errors also reported a condom breakage rate was 29% and a slipping off rate of 13%, so a 32% terminal event rate.” Is the 32% terminal event rate attained by adding the other two figures or is there some kind of “correction” for the fact that these two things are sort of mutually exclusive? Just wondering because 29 + 13 = 42, right? Which is, of course, even more horrifying!


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