Better to be safe than sorry

Sarika Jagtiani

Keeping condoms handy is a good — no — great idea

To me, condoms have always been a man’s responsibility, like taking out the garbage or shoveling the walk.

And then I realized how ridiculous that was.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from past relationships, it is that you have to protect yourself. Let’s face it: You might think you know what the other person is thinking or doing, but can you ever really be certain?

I have plenty of friends who’ve been surprised to find out that their boyfriends, girlfriends or friends with benefits have been getting a little something on the side. And I don’t even want to think about where those other people have been.

Better to be safe than sorry, so better to stock up on condoms if you think you’re going to be sexually active.

To get a better handle on the wonders of the condom, I visited Jenelle O’Malley, community educator, and Jenee Garlando, director of community services, at Planned Parenthood in Akron.

O’Malley has spent many evenings with various Kent State students, informing them on the proper uses of contraception, including condoms.

O’Malley said she stresses there is no foolproof method of contraception except for abstinence. So if you’re not willing to risk pregnancy or contracting a sexually transmitted disease, just don’t do it. In fact, O’Malley said there are more abstinent students than many would imagine.

But we know this is a college campus and that people are definitely having sex, so we moved on and talked about the most popular forms of contraception for students, condoms being one of them.

O’Malley said Planned Parenthood doesn’t advocate one type of condom over another, but people should use them consistently and correctly. In case you’re wondering how to do this, pick up a handy dandy guide to contraception from any Planned Parenthood, such as the one at 152 E. Main St. in Kent, or visit the Planned Parenthood site at and search for condom use. You can also pick up a pamphlet on contraception at the DeWeese Health Center or schedule an appointment with a clinician and ask for tips on how to use condoms correctly.

And don’t feel stupid if you don’t know how to use a condom. If it makes you feel any better, I used to think that condoms had to be held on by rubber bands or some other penile contraption. There are no rubber bands involved, in case anyone’s wondering.

But back to the facts, not the fallacies, about condoms. The Planned Parenthood chart on contraception has some great tips, such as to make sure to use only condoms and lubricants dated for freshness. So that condom you keep in your nightstand for emergencies might not be good anymore if you bought it while Clinton was in office.

Another thing to keep in mind is that only water-based lubricants, such as K-Y jelly and AstroGlide, are safe for use with latex condoms. Substituting proper lubricants with things such as massage oil and body lotion can actually damage the latex, so be sure to stick with water-based lubricants.

Also, never reuse a condom! It’s unsafe, not to mention gross.

Another interesting nugget of information was that although condoms may dull sensation a little, they also may help the man last longer. Hmmm…interesting.

The chart also lists condoms as the best protection, besides abstinence, against an infection.

Carolyn Mesnak, coordinator for the Office of Student Health Promotion, made it a point to stress the importance of condoms to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, or STIs.

“Some individuals believe that if they are using contraceptive devices such as the pill, the patch, injections or spermicides that they are protected from sexually transmitted infections and HIV,” she said in an e-mail. “They are not.

“If individuals are engaging in sexual contact and not using barrier protective measures (condoms, dental dams or latex gloves) they are increasing their risk for contracting an STI/HIV/HPV-genital warts,” she said.

But don’t forget that condoms are not 100 percent safe all the time. In fact, the Planned Parenthood chart lists them as being 86-98 percent effective, but that’s if they’re used correctly every time.

I don’t know about you, but 86 percent doesn’t make me feel that safe. That makes me feel like there’s a 14 percent chance of me pushing a stroller in nine months. As I am in no way ready to be a parent, and I suspect some of you feel the same way, I would suggest using another form of birth control with condoms.

My last piece of advice is to please dispose of used condoms by wrapping them up and throwing them away. Finding one of those on your floor the next morning is something nobody wants to wake up to.

Sarika Jagtiani is a graduate student in journalism and the sex columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].