As Condom Week wraps up, resident Fuck.com writer Sienna Saint-Cyr leaves you with a little latex for thought about condom effectiveness.



Here's a tricky question, how much do condoms protect us from?  Most of us know they protect against pregnancy - though not always.  But what about STIs/STDs?

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, there's no way to measure their exact effectiveness. Even when condoms are used correctly, the effectiveness rate varies depending on the STD itself.

Bacteria, viruses, or parasites that cause the STI/STD can lead to serious health issues, so protection against them is a must. The Office on Women’s Health says that 9 million women in the US are diagnosed with an STI every year. STIs/STDs are a big problem.

While condoms are relatively effective from protecting against the big viruses like HIV, Hep B and C, it's important to understand that they aren’t as effective when it comes to HPV (human papilloma virus) and HSV (herpes simplex virus). 

OB/GYN, Dr Ricki Pollycove, says, “To be considered safe sex, disease prevention needs to be at the 99 percent level. With the correct use of an intact condom, this is possible for HIV and hepatitis viruses. Unfortunately, condoms do not do an adequate job of protecting against human papilloma or herpes simplex virus infections.”

HPV and HSV can spread even if the person isn’t symptomatic and they can also spread from non-genital areas. 


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Warning signs


HPV, when visible, usually (but not always) causes warts which can spread the virus. Or the virus can be spread from skin rubbing. Herpes can also be spread from skin rubbing or via a sore.  

The CDC says, “You can also get herpes from an infected sex partner who does not have a visible sore or who may not know he or she is infected because the virus can be released through your skin and spread the infection to your sex partner(s).” 

The release of the virus through the skin (HSV type 2 only) is known as ‘shedding’, and for many, there's no way of the carrier knowing they're shedding the virus.

Both viruses can also lie dormant in the body for many years before an outbreak. Since an outbreak is when the virus becomes known, the carrier can pass it for years without knowing they’re passing either virus.

But, hold your horses! Try not to get all paranoid and run screaming for the hills. There are things you can do:

1. Be monogamous.

2. Get tested regularly.

3. Get the HPV vaccine (if available).

Personally, I prefer the female condom. Planned Parenthood has a great video and description of how these work and they’re great in that they cover part of the woman’s vulva area as well. So, if people having intercourse are being careful and using the condom correctly, there's even less risk than with the male condom that only covers the penis.





Condomania has some good information on dental dams as well. Those and condoms during oral sex can help prevent the spread of disease to the mouth. The site also brings up the use of latex gloves or non-microwaveable saran wrap. It’s important to use the non-microwavable because the other kind has holes that allow viruses through.

Whether or not saran wrap works isn’t something I can find details on, so I suggest talking to your doctor. I’ve asked mine, and her theory was, “Some protection is better than none.” 

I asked my doctor because I had a partner with Herpes and wanted to know all of my options to prevent spread. That relationship had ended before any real risk was involved, but the saran wrap idea was good because it can also cover the thighs. 

No matter what you’re doing, condoms are the smartest choice even if they aren’t 100% effective. Unless you’re monogamous or in a closed-loop polyamorous dynamic, safe sex is the only healthy way to have sex.



Got tips and tricks for safer sex? Leave a comment below or head to the forum to see what other Fuck.com buddies are talking about.


Sienna Saint-Cyr writes erotica and blogs about kink, poly, body image, and most things relating. Follow her on her website or Twitter @siennasaintcyr.


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