When's the right time to put on a condom?

Originally Published: April 2, 1999 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 24, 2013
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Hey Alice,

Please tell me at what stage a guy should put on the condom?? Should he put it on or should I?? I need to know. Thank you.

— despo

Dear despo,

If a play were a metaphor for a sexual encounter, the condom intermission can happen at any time before the intercourse act. A condom needs to be put on after the penis is erect and before it makes any oral, vaginal, or anal contact with a partner — other than this stipulation, there is no right or wrong time to put on a condom.

To maximize safer sex with condoms, each time you have sex, always put a new condom on an erect penis before there's any genital contact. If intercourse begins sans condom, pulling out and putting on a condom before ejaculation may not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy, since there may be bacterial and viral content, and possibly sperm in pre-ejaculate semen (pre cum). Instead, a condom could be put on in the opening act of foreplay, rather than waiting until it's time for penetration. Having extra condoms around, in case a condom is put on too soon or he loses his erection, is also a good move.

Which actor in the sex play equips the penis with a condom is completely up to you and your partner. A man can put it on himself, or his partner can put on the condom — as long as it's put on properly and before genital contact or intercourse, it is not important who takes the initiative. Having a condom put on by a partner can be an erotic opportunity, loaded with creative potential. Making use of the mouth and tongue is sure to add some spice to dressing the penis with a condom. Just be sure that some space is left at the tip and the condom is always rolled all the way down to the base of the penis, no matter how you decide to "suit up." For further instruction on condom use (and removal) guidelines, check out How to use a condom properly — avoid breakage and slippage! in the Go Ask Alice! archives. Also, if you are a Columbia student, check out the Safer Sex Supplies @ Columbia University map for locations to get all your safer sex supplies!

Whenever you choose to take that condom intermission, stick to the playhouse rules: condom before contact and you are assured a standing ovation!

Alice