How can I put a condom on without ruining the mood? Should I really put one on with my mouth?

Good question—it’s great that you’re taking control of your sexual health and thinking about how to use condoms!

As we’ve talked about before, magazines, TV shows and movies usually leave out all the normal, non-sexy bits of sex, like talking about sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and putting on condoms. Unfortunately, because we live in a sex-negative culture without inclusive, comprehensive sex education, there aren’t a lot of open conversations about sex and how to deal with questions like this.

All of this puts a lot of pressure on young people (especially women) to “not ruin the mood,” as you put it. This is an understandable anxiety, especially if sex is pretty new.

But it’s not up to you to keep the mood.

The truth is that sex includes a lot of potentially awkward, funny moments—and that’s ok! People and their bodies make weird noises during sex. You might have to tell your partner to get off your hair. Your partner might get a cramp and have to call time-out. You may have to take a second to figure out a new position.

All of this is totally normal, and you shouldn’t be afraid of it or try to avoid it. Sex should be fun! If you’re worried about the mood, it’ll keep you from actually enjoying sex. Chances are that your partner will barely notice any of these so-called mood breakers, and if they do they most likely won’t think anything of it.

Taking a moment to put on a condom will not kill the mood. It’s a crucial part of safer sex, and if anything it should make you and your partner more in the mood—sex is usually a lot more fun if you’re NOT worried about getting an STI or becoming pregnant.

If you’re still really worried about keeping the mood, though, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Know how to put on a condom in the first place. This way, you can take charge of your own sexual health, and you don’t have to wonder if your partner is doing it right.
  2. Remember that while there are a few steps to putting on a condom (and it’s really important to use them right EVERY TIME you have sex), the process is actually really fast. If you’re still really worried about doing it right or taking a long time, you can practice with a cucumber.
  3. Keep your condoms in a place that’s easily accessible, like a bedside drawer. This minimizes the amount of searching you’ll have to do in the moment.
  4. It might be easier to talk about safer sex and using condoms before things get hot and heavy.
  5. If you still feel weird about putting on a condom with your hands, there’s no medical reason to not use your mouth. Just make sure you start rolling the condom on with your hands, so you can keep the tip of the condom pinched. Also double check that the condom is rolled all the way down to the base of the penis (or sex toy)—you’ll probably have to use your hands to finish the job.

But the important thing is that you’re making sure sex is as safe as possible. In addition to using condoms, get regularly tested for STIs and talk to your partner about when they were last tested. If appropriate (when sex involves someone with a penis and someone with a vagina), use another method of birth control like the pill, implant or intrauterine device (IUD).

Penis in vagina (PIV) sex isn’t the only type of sex that should involve condoms. Oral and anal sex also put you at risk for STIs. Consider using flavored condoms for oral sex. We talk more about condoms here. Using lube also decreases the chance of getting or passing on an STI (and makes sex feel better for many people).

If a partner ever accuses you of “ruining the mood” or reacts badly to using a condom, remember that you are NOT in the wrong. It is not your responsibility to keep the mood. Your partner needs to respect your boundaries. It is NOT ok if they make you feel bad or pressure you to do anything you’re not comfortable with. This is coercion, and potentially assault.

If you’re 10-22 years old in NYC you can get free, confidential STI testing and treatment, birth control, condoms and other sexual health services at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center.