There are two ways condoms are most commonly messed with — one is easier to spot than the other. Here’s how.
Sex is supposed to be all fun and games, pleasure and pleas.
But for that to be the case, everyone involved has to be on the same page about what sexually transmitted infection (STI) and pregnancy prevention tools are being used.
No joke of an action. Condom sabotage ruins all the fun that sex is supposed to be and replaces it with betrayal.
Condom sabotage is marked by the intentional ruination of a rubber to prevent its effectiveness at protecting against pregnancy and STI transmission.
Here, learn what to do if someone (or you think someone) sabotaged a condom without your consent.
Proceed with caution
Condom and other barrier sabotage is a form of sexual assault. As such, this article explores topics of non-consent, rape, sexual assault, and their emotional and physical aftermath.
There are two ways condoms are most commonly messed with. One is easier to spot than the other.
The first way involves puncturing a pin-sized hole into the condom — usually when it’s still curled up in the wrapper. This kind of sabotage can be tricky to spot because the rubber looks normal when you take it out of the wrapper and roll it on.
However, the pin-sized hole is large enough for semen to pass through after ejaculation, which can lead to (unwanted) pregnancy or STI transmission, says Laura Berman, PhD, host of the Language of Love Podcast and Promescent brand ambassador.
Common signs of this kind of sabotage include:
- Seeing ejaculate dribble out of the condom when it’s removed
- Less ejaculate inside the condom following use than usual for this partner
- Feeling a different fluid consistency inside your vagina or anus following intercourse
A second common kind of sabotage is when an individual snips the condom with scissors — usually when it’s out of the package. This kind of sabotage is usually easier to spot because the slit is larger than a pin-prick.
(This slit is large enough for semen and infectious pathogens to pass through.)
Common signs of this kind of damage include:
- Seeing a noticeable gash or slash in the condom
- Seeing ejaculate come out of the condom
- Seeing no or little ejaculate in the condom following use
- Feeling additional fluid inside of your body
- The condom disintegrates in your hands upon removal
Visual and physical symptoms of condom sabotage aside, condom sabotage is also often accompanied by verbal hints about wanting to get you pregnant or wanting to transmit an infection to you. Ditto goes for comments about not believing in contraception, preferring “raw dogging,” or being anti-abortion.
The below phrases are all red flags:
- “If you loved me, you wouldn’t be afraid of getting pregnant with my child.”
- “I want to infect (or impregnate) you with my seed.”
- “Only cheaters insist on using condoms.”
- “If you got pregnant, then we’d connected forever and always.”
Sabotaged condoms vs. bad condoms
For this article, we’re talking specifically about condoms that are known or thought to be intentionally sabotaged without your consent.
Sabotaged condoms are condoms that were intentionally punctured, snipped, or left in the heat with the intent of lessening the effectiveness of the condom at preventing unwanted pregnancy or STI transmission.
However, it’s worth noting that there are many things a person can accidentally do with or to their condoms that could lessen their effectiveness.
- Leaving them in the sun
- Storing them in warm places, like the glove compartment in their car, their pants pocket, or their wallet
- Rolling it on after or before applying an oil-based lubricant, massage oil, shaving cream, or pube moisturizer
- Using them after their expiration date has passed
Condom sabotage is a form of abuse
Yes, abuse and assault are big, heavy words — but they are the right words for condom sabotage.
Condom sabotage is a form of sexual assault, whether the abuser sabotaged the condom to maximize their pleasure, intentionally transmit an STI to their partner, or try to impregnate their partner.
In other words, the W-H-Y doesn’t matter because the end result can be the same: Unwanted pregnancy or unwanted STI transmission.
Condom sabotage is also a form of deception, which can have lasting emotional and mental consequences for the survivor.
First, if you notice one of the aforementioned signs of a sabotaged condom (a hole, puncture, etc.) or your gut instinct tells you that the condom was sabotaged, take a breath.
There are things you can do right now and in the coming days to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy and STI transmission.
Use the bathroom
Ideally, shut the door behind you for some privacy and peace.
Going to the bathroom will allow you to collect your thoughts, use the bathroom, and plan out your next steps.
You may be tempted to try to “wash out” any ejaculate that may have made its way inside you, but there are two reasons you should do your best to avoid this.
First, the vagina and anus are self-cleaning machines. Cleaning them out can mess with the natural vaginal and anal microbiome and increase the risk of STI transmission, as well as other infections like bacterial vaginosis.
Second, the body fluids will be useful should you decide to get a sexual assault examination.
To be clear, you still can get a sexual assault examination if you do end up going to the bathroom, douching, or changing your clothes. Avoiding these things, however, makes DNA and evidence collection easier.
Plan out your next steps
While in the bathroom, take some time to gauge your safety.
- Am I in immediate danger?
- Do I feel uncomfortable staying with this person for another hour? How about for the evening?
- Will I have to have sex with this individual again if I stay any longer?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, your best bet is to leave the scene, if you can.
- Have a friend call with a fake emergency
- Tell them that your plans changed and you’d prefer to sleep alone tonight
- Fake an urgent work email
- Ask explicitly to be left alone
If these excuses do not work, you can also call your local emergency services.
Consider getting a sexual assault examination
You do *not* need to decide whether you want to file a report now!
But getting a sexual assault examination now (or in the next few days) will leave that option open if future-you decides to (within the statute of limitations).
During this exam, the following will happen:
- Any injuries you endured during the assault will be addressed
- You’ll receive a full body exam, which will likely include an inspection of your vagina or anus
- You’ll be offered preventive treatment for STIs or pregnancy if needed
Have more questions about what this kind of exam entails? Call or message The National Sexual Assault Hotline or National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Typically, sexual assault exams — sometimes known as “rape kits” — need to be administered within 72 hours of the incident.
Maybe you couldn’t take action safely the night of the incident. Maybe your gut didn’t tell you something was “off” until a few days later.
Or, maybe you didn’t take any antiretrovirals or emergency contraceptives (EC) in the following days and want to know whether you still have time. (You do.)
Here are your options for the first 72 hours.
Get PEP from a healthcare professional
If you were using condoms because you didn’t know your partner’s STI status or because they’re HIV-positive, you might be concerned about HIV transmission.
Good news: There is a medication that may help.
If taken within 72 hours of possible exposure, postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) can help prevent you from contracting HIV, explains Felice Gersh, MD, author of “PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones and Happiness.”
If pregnancy is possible, get Plan B or another levonorgestrel EC pill from your local pharmacy
If you and your partner had penis-in-vagina intercourse, and a condom was the only form of birth control you used, you could be at risk of pregnancy.
“If you do not want to become pregnant, you might consider an emergency contraceptive method,” says Berman.
One of the most common options is Plan B, which can be purchased without a prescription at your local pharmacy.
Other over-the-counter (OTC) options include:
- Take Action
- My Way
- Option 2
- My Choice
Plan B and the other aforementioned OTC options are all a type of levonorgestrel morning-after pill, which means they contain a synthetic hormone called “levonorgestrel,” which effectively stops the ovaries from releasing an egg. If no egg is released from the ovaries, there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize, and fertilization can’t occur.
Because they all contain the same key ingredient, which EC pill you buy doesn’t matter.
But generally, the best way to figure out which emergency contraceptive method is best for you is to talk with a healthcare professional.
If you don’t have access to an expert, however, please read the package to discern the following:
- How long after sex you can take the medication
- What the weight limit is for the user
- What any potential side effects are
If pregnancy is possible and you don’t take a levonorgestrel EC pill, talk with a healthcare professional about ella or ParaGard
Plan B and other levonorgestrel-based morning-after pills have been shown to be less effective when taken by individuals who weigh more than 165 pounds.
If you fall into that category, there are two emergency prescription options still available to you: ella and ParaGard.
Ella — also known as ulipristal acetate — is a prescription morning-after pill that has been found to be more effective than other emergency contraceptives for people with a BMI of 26 or more.
Paragard — also known as the copper IUD — is a nonhormonal intrauterine device that can function both as an emergency contraceptive when inserted within 5 days of condom sabotage and as a long lasting form of birth control.
This option is ideal for individuals who want to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy from both past *and* future interactions, explains Gersh.
OTC forms of EC should be taken within 3 days of condom sabotage to maximize their effectiveness at preventing unwanted pregnancy.
If you don’t want to get pregnant but miss the 72-hour window most EC pills require, you still have options!
If you haven’t already used an EC, consider ella or ParaGard — these prescription options can be taken (or inserted), within 5 days.
As much as you may want to put this whole thing behind you, there are still a few things you should do or consider doing for your health and wellness.
Get tested for STIs
Unless you know that the person who sabotaged the condom was STI-negative for all STIs, you should get tested for STIs.
(Yes, even if you took PEP or antiretrovirals following the incident.)
The reason that you need to wait at least 3 weeks is that STIs have an incubation period. That means that it takes time for the body to produce antibodies —which is what STI tests are looking for— in response to the infection, says Gersh.
“Take the tests too early, and you risk getting a false negative,” she says.
Three weeks is typically long enough for chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis, and herpes tests to be accurate.
However, HIV, HPV, trichomoniasis, and syphilis have a longer incubation period.
For the most accurate results, you should get STI tested at 3 weeks and again at 2 months after the incident.
The most common symptom of STIs is experiencing no symptoms at all. So you should plan to get tested regardless of whether you’re experiencing discomfort during urination, pain during penetration, unusual discharge, bumps and lumps, or unexplained itchiness.
If pregnancy is possible, take an at-home test
If the kind of sex you had could result in pregnancy, you should take a pregnancy test if you haven’t already gotten your period. A missed period is a common early sign of pregnancy.
If you test positive, book an appointment with a healthcare professional to discuss your options.
Consider filing a police report
Condom sabotage is an act of abuse and non-consensual sexual contact. After all, you agreed to have sex with someone under the (false) guise of STI/or pregnancy protection.
It’s completely within your right to take legal action against the person who sabotaged the barrier you were using.
For more information about what that would entail, talk with the experts at The National Sexual Assault Hotline or National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Where to find support
Having someone ruin the rubber you’re using can be really damaging emotionally. The sabotage, after all, suggests that your life, health, wants, needs, and boundaries are less important than their own.
Seeking out the care of a professional (mental health professionals, guidance counselors, or sex therapists) as well as loved ones (family, friends, or lovers) can help you navigate whatever you’re feeling.
Condom sabotage isn’t just morally wrong; it’s a form of assault that can have serious emotional, mental, physical, and life-altering consequences for the individual on the receiving end.
But there are many things someone can do immediately following this kind of incident and in the days and weeks after to help mitigate the potential risks.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.