J is for Johnny: Illustration of a condom on an upright banana

J is for Johnny – #EndTheAwkward

Condoms are slippery little things. So if motor skills are an issue for one of you, remember it takes two to tango… you’re both responsible for safe sex.

This blog contains frank information about sex. It’s meant for people over the age of 16, please only continue if you are 16 or older.

J is for Johnny is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability.

Whether you’re disabled or non-disabled, condoms (aka johnnies) are the only method of contraception that can help protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Male condoms fit snugly over the erect penis and female condoms fit inside the vagina and loosely line it.

Many people find it awkward to talk about condom use, especially at the start of a sexual relationship, but if you’re going to have safer sex then it’s something you’ll have to talk about at some point!

Non-disabled people might worry about whether a disabled partner will be able to use condoms. Male condoms in particular can be really fiddly to handle, especially for people with physical difficulties such as not being able to grip easily.

But, there’s no reason to let that stop you, Mel Gadd from FPA – the sexual health charity – describes the various options when it comes to safer sex.

Male condoms

Many people, regardless of whether or not they have a disability, enjoy sharing the responsibility of putting condoms on. Rather than being a source of embarrassment, it can add to the pleasure of sexual intimacy and can also help maintain an erection whilst putting the condom on as you don’t lose the ‘moment’.

If you want to put a condom on your partner but have difficulties with your hands, you may find that you can put it on your partner’s penis by unrolling it gently down the shaft of his penis with your mouth. Always popular!

Or if your male partner has trouble opening a condom pack, offer to do it and put the condom on for them.

There are also condoms which come in easy-to-open packs, like this latex-free one from Pasante, which always comes out of the pack the right way up, to make putting it on less fiddly.

A condom for everyone

Just like men come in all different shapes and sizes, so do condoms – they vary in length, width and shape, some are straight, while others are flared at the end, to better fit the shape of the penis.

It’s a good idea for men to try out different sizes and see which feels most comfortable, and preferably not in the heat of the moment when it’s more likely you’ll give up and not use a condom at all if it doesn’t fit. If you need a helping hand from a partner to test out different condoms, don’t put pressure on the situation to end in penetrative sex; use it as an opportunity to experiment and remember there are lots of different ways to enjoy sex.

Female condoms

Female condoms can be much easier to use for people who have difficulties with their hands or if your or your partner’s penis doesn’t stay fully erect.

Female condoms also have the added benefit that the outer ring can rub against and stimulate external sexual parts such as a woman’s clitoris. You don’t have to be female or have a female partner to use a female condom; male partners can use them too!

Can condoms go with catheters?

Yes, you can use condoms with catheters. Male condoms are stretchy and will fit over an erect penis and a catheter tube, just use some water based lubricant to help keep it comfortable, and female condoms, although not as stretchy, are plenty wide enough to accommodate catheter tubes.

Water-based lubricants

It’s a good idea to use a water-based lube (oil-based lubes and products such as petroleum jelly are best avoided as they can damage many types of condom) to enhance the pleasure of sex and reduce any unwanted friction that may cause condom breakages.

So don’t let awkwardness stop you enjoying fabulous safer sex. Most people, disabled or non-disabled, experience some obstacles and tricky moments in finding their way to sexual pleasure, but often these can be easily overcome.

More safe sex information:

J is for Johnny is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability.