The condom's primary use is to protect against pregnancy and the transfer of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is like a long, thin, uninflated balloon, made of thin latex rubber which is put on the erect penis before intercourse and which catches the semen and sperm after ejaculation, preventing it from going any further. They come in varying sizes and shapes and you can even get different flavours to spice up (or sweeten) sessions of oral sex.
You can buy condoms from any pharmaceutical shop or supermarket. There are also machines which sell them in the loos of some restaurants, clubs and pubs. Family planning clinics, hospitals, and some schools provide them free of charge, all in the name of safer sex.
Always check the expiry date on the packet and check that it is within the date given - otherwise it may be weak and break. Also don't think that by wearing two at a time it will give you double the protection - it does the opposite, increasing the risk as the friction between the two condoms can cause them to break. Never combine condoms with massage or baby oil, as this will weaken and break the condom. If using a lubricant, make sure it is water or silicone based.
How to buy one
All you have to do is pluck up the courage - simple! The shops mentioned sell condoms to people of all ages on most days of the week, so it's no big thing to them - don't be embarrassed. If you're worried about it flashing the word 'CONDOMS' in big green letters on the till then don't: usually it will come up under 'family planning' or some such product - so don't keel over with shame when buying them! You should be comforted in the idea that you (or your girlfriend, if you're a boy) won't be going along to the abortion clinic, or putting yourself at risk of STIs. Basically, if you're big enough to have sex, you're big enough to buy condoms. Go figure!
How to put one on
First off, boys, you practise alone - makes sense, huh? - and consider this a sexy way to masturbate. (Really, has anyone not done that?)
When having sex, putting a condom on can't be done before you get together with your partner. Unlike female methods of contraception, which can be applied in advance, this must be put directly onto the erect penis - so incorporate it as part of your foreplay!
Undo the packet, taking care so as not to tear the condom that's inside.
Remove it but don't unfold/unroll it!
Squeeze the tip to expel the air in the end to create space for where the semen will end up.
Place it on the erect penis like a hat and unroll it on to the erect shaft. Don't unroll it before and try putting it on like a sock to a foot - that really wont work!
After orgasm, as you remove the penis from the vagina, hold the condom at the base so it doesn't stay inside her. Then peel it off - well away from her.
Dispose in a suitable bin - wrap it in tissue if need be. Avoid flushing it down the loo as this may block some systems - or it may refuse to flush and float around waiting for others to find. Not fun!
But not tacky. Say hi and ask what they're doing this weekend - and have a plan to suggest you think they'll like.
Relax and think: getting to know you. Rather than: getting it