This article was originally published on March 14, 2016.
Among American women, condoms are currently the third most popular
form of contraception (after the pill and sterilization). While condoms are certainly a great option — they're 98% effective
at preventing pregnancy and protect against STIs — there's a whole plethora of lesser-known sexual barriers out there that are worth considering for the sake of sexual education.
Not every single barrier method protects against STIs, so it's important to learn about your method of choice to make sure you know what kind of protection you're getting. Many people use more than one form at a time, depending on their needs (kind of like using hormonal birth control pills in tandem with condoms). For others, if partners have already been tested or STIs aren't a concern for another reason, they may just need an external barrier for contraception (if they don't have an IUD, ring, implant, patch, or aren't on the pill). Then, there are people who are just looking for STI protection for oral sex. Oh, and don't forget those with latex allergies.
Moral of the story: People have unique needs when it comes to sexual protection and standard male condoms are not the be-all and end-all for everyone out there.
So, we’ve rounded up five alternative sexual barrier options that people may not hear about very often. Keep in mind, these offer varying levels of STI protection, but depending on your situation, they may work better than what you're currently using. Ultimately, knowing more about what's out there gives you more power to choose the best method (or combination of methods) for you.
The gap between what we learned in sex ed and what we're learning through sexual experience is big — way too big. So we're helping to connect those dots by talking about the realities of sex, from how it's done to how to make sure it's consensual, safe, healthy, and pleasurable all at once. Check out more here.