But what about the stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms?
Okay, so we think there are a couple of different things this could mean, and we’re going to try to answer all of them.
If you’re talking about the possibility of the guy’s semen leaking out from around the base of the condom:
If you’re using a condom correctly, semen shouldn’t be leaking out from the base. A guy should pull out after ejaculating — while he’s still erect — to keep this from happening. Not sure if you’re using a condom correctly? Here’s a little refresher course:
If you’re talking about about skin-to-skin contact that happens even when you’re using a condom:
Condoms work by covering the penis during sex to prevent semen from entering the vagina. But even when you’re using a condom, there can be some skin-to-skin contact during sex. And that means there’s a chance that certain STDs — STDs that are spread through skin-to-skin contact — can still be transmitted during sex with a condom. This isn’t because any stuff — like semen or other bodily fluids — are leaking out from around the sides of the condom. It’s just because the condom only covers the penis, not the whole area around the penis or vulva.
But before you get really freaked out about giving or getting an STD even when you’re using a condom, keep in mind that you have some additional ways to protect yourself and your partner. Here are some STDs that can be spread through skin-to-skin contact (i.e., during sex, even with a condom) and some extra precautions you can take to stay safe.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Getting the HPV vaccine is one way to prevent HPV infection. The vaccine can protect women against two of the HPV types that cause 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine can also help prevent genital warts, another STD that can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. And even though condoms aren’t as effective against HPV or genital warts as they are against other infections, they can still greatly reduce your risk.
- Herpes: If you or your partner have genital herpes, use a condom between outbreaks to reduce the risk of transmission. You should also stop having any sexual contact (even sex with a condom) as soon as you feel warning signs of an outbreak (like burning or itching). Herpes treatments can also help reduce the risk of transmission.
- Pubic lice (crabs): Pubic lice are really easily spread and they like to hang out in pubic hair, so condoms won’t offer protection against them. If you or your partner has pubic lice, don’t have sex until treatment is complete.
Some people worry about HIV spreading through skin-to-skin contact. HIV is transmitted in blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. HIV can be spread if HIV-infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions get into an open wound or sore, but it’s not transmitted through simple skin-to-skin contact. When used correctly, condoms are really effective at preventing HIV. You can learn more about HIV and how it’s spread here.
So condoms aren’t perfect, and they can’t protect against everything all the time. But don’t throw your condoms away! Using a condom drastically reduces your risk of many different kinds of infections — not to mention your risk of pregnancy, too.