An internal ("female") condom and external ("male") condom lay on a bright pink and yellow background

Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition on Unsplash

Condoms and other barrier methods are a super important part of having safer sex.

They help prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But they can also help make sex (of all kinds!) more fun and pleasurable for everyone. After all, if you’re not worried about getting an STI, you’ll be able to relax and be in the moment with your partner.

Here are 5 quick tips for improving sexual pleasure with condoms.

1. Get condoms in advance.

This makes the safer option available in the moment! You can get free condoms at many health clinics, college campuses, and LGBTQ+ spaces, or buy them at drugstores, bodegas, gas stations and online. If you’re 10-26 years old in NYC, you can get free condoms and other barrier methods at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. You do not have to be 18 years old or show proof of age to get condoms.

2. Add lube.

Use water- or silicone-based lube both inside AND outside the condom to improve pleasure for both partners. Avoid oil-based lubes like petroleum jelly (Vaseline), baby oil, or lotions. These can wear down the condom and make it break, which is no fun at all. (If you have had a condom break, though, there are still steps you can take to protect you and your partner’s health.) Learn more about lube.

3. Try new textures!

Try ribbed, studded or ultra-thin condoms to see how they feel.

4. Experiment with flavored condoms.

For oral sex, try out flavored condoms to add another layer of fun sensuality into the mix. There are a lot of flavors out there, so you might want to try a few to see what you enjoy most. Be careful about using flavored condoms for penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex, though. Many flavored condoms have sugar, which can lead to infections. Read the fine print on the wrapper or box (or check the ingredient list) to see whether they’re ok to use for PIV sex.

5. Make it fun!

Make it fun by helping your partner put on the condom, or have them help you. You can also ask to watch your partner put the condom on (or ask them if they want to watch you).

Learn more about condoms.

Keep in mind that external (sometimes called “male” condoms) aren’t the only kind of barrier method (or even the only kind of condom) out there! Depending on what kind of sex you’re having, you can also try…

  • Internal condoms (sometimes called “female” condoms): You insert these condoms into the vagina or anus, instead of putting them on a penis or sex toy. Unlike external condoms, you can put these in place up to 8 hours BEFORE sex!
  • Dental dams: These are thin sheets of latex that you can place over the vulva or anus during oral sex (going down on, eating out, rimming). You can make one out of a condom super easily by cutting off the tip, and then cutting the condom lengthwise so it becomes a flat rectangle.
  • Latex gloves and finger cots/finger condoms: You can use these for manual sex (hand jobs, fingering, anal play that involves hands).

Condoms are an easy, affordable tool for making sex safer and more pleasurable.

But it’s only human to make mistakes sometimes. For pregnancy prevention, many people use an additional birth control method. Some folks also decide to use PrEP (short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) to prevent HIV. In addition, it’s good to get regularly tested for STIs (not just HIV). Ask your medical provider about how often you should get tested.

Communication is also an important part of safer (and pleasurable!) sex. Talk with your partner about when they were last tested for STIs, what they want and like, and what their boundaries are.


If you’re 10-26 years old in NYC, you can get free condoms, answers to all your sexual health questions, and more at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. We provide confidential, inclusive health care to young people at no cost to them. Stop by for free condoms and barrier methods of all kinds (including those textured and flavored ones we mentioned), STI testing and treatment, birth control, and more. No immigration restrictions, no insurance needed. Just call 212-423-3000 for an appointment.