Tag Archives: condom hate

There Is No Cancer in #CondomTruth

Fear-based condom marketing is the real “cancer” here.

condom_truthLast month, a new condom brand called Sustain began promoting a petition that demands the FDA to “Get Carcinogens Out of Condoms”. The possibility that condoms could cause cancer will scare the shit out of consumers and make them think twice about what condoms they invest in (that is, if they don’t turn away from condoms entirely).

And that’s exactly how Sustain wants you to react.

They center business principles around transparency, thus, making it their duty to educate the public of lurking dangers within the condom industry: “Fear not. Because their product is clean of any health risks. Want to avoid carcinogens? Sustain is your best and only option.”

Thankfully, these grand claims have not passively swept under the radar.

Melissa White’s investigation on RH Reality Check, Cigarrettes Cause Cancer, Condoms Don’t, reveals that the petition is based on a non-scientific, non-peer reviewed study, which is partly financed by Sustain themselves. Despite the fact the World Health Organization has never found any condom carrying health threatening amounts of nitrosamines, the study continues to favor Sustain over other condom brands; competitive brands which also profit in the vegan, fair-trade condom niche. As a result of White’s call-out, the group that conducted the study publicly clarified their findings stating that, indeed, there is no scientific proof that any condoms cause cancer.

Leave that worry to rest. Great! But the real issue at hand is the company’s irresponsible marketing and misuse of information.

Sustains efforts to “cleanse” the condom market of (unfounded) health risks is clearly motivated by business profit at the detriment of public health. In reality, to tout that “all other condoms except ours cause cancer” is a dangerous lie. As Melissa White states, Sustain’s marketing strategy has “the potential to unravel decades of committed work focused on saving lives through encouraging condom use and education.”

It’s completely unethical to skew consumer information with fear-tactics. The last thing we need is more lies to fuel safer sex stigma and condom hate. Hence we must to counteract.

Join the #CondomTruth campaign!

SHARE THE ARTICLE: Cigarettes Cause Cancer, Condoms Don’t http://bit.ly/1w5jzd3

TWEET: copy/paste these tweets or make your own

– Cigarettes Cause Cancer. Condoms Don’t. http://bit.ly/1w5jzd3 #condomtruth #bettercondoms

– I prefer my fiction at the library. Stop the misuse of safer sex information. http://bit.ly/1w5jzd3 #condomtruth

– Faulty studies & scare tactics risk lives http://bit.ly/1w5jzd3 #condomtruth #bettercondoms

– Misleading marketing hurts public health http://bit.ly/1w5jzd3 #condomtruth #bettercondoms

– Trust #science, not misleading marketing http://bit.ly/1w5jzd3 #condomtruth #bettercondoms

– Choose condoms with ethics not scare tactics http://bit.ly/1w5jzd3 #condomtruth #bettercondoms

TWEET at Sustain Condoms and share your thoughts with the campaign hashtag: #condomtruth

@sustaincondoms
@JeffHollender (Sustain’s Founder)
@missmeiks (Sustain’s co-founder)

Let’s take a stand and remind Sustain what true business transparency really means. 

Limp On Condoms

A one night stand of fun, no-strings-attached sex was exactly what I needed. Undesired, however, was a man who went limp at the sight of condoms.

condom_cmWe quickly hooked up. Hot, passionate kissing that evolved into a scene of heavy lust. Before we gravitated to the bedroom I asked him if he had condoms on him as I was unprepared- guilty as charged. Pleased that he did, we confidently carried on without inhibition.

He was over 40 years old. To me that signaled “experienced”. Plus being an amazing kisser, I was so excited to share me body with him.

He handed me a Lifestyles KYNG. Up pops the first warning sign. I thought to myself, “This guy doesn’t need a large size condom.” He was perfectly average. But this wasn’t the right time to bust his misplaced ego. However, the wrong fit could put us at risk of malfunction, so I planned that if the condom seemed too loose I’d simply ask if he had a different stock of rubbers.

But a greater malfunction occurred.

I peeled open the condom. As I rolled it on him, his shaft instantaneously went soft, softer. Limp. “Urgh, I hate condoms!” He exhaled. “I never had to use them in my last relationship. I’m not use to them.”

Guess this 40 year old wasn’t as experienced as I imagined.

My story isn’t rare. I’ve encountered different versions by my friends and peers that, even in clear non-monogamous scenarios, men will complain that condoms dull sex- as if sex is not worth it if it involves a condom! This puts the other person in an incredibly confusing situation. It’s an act of disrespect for the person’s well-being to complain and try to adverse protective sex.

Speaking from my own experience, I felt it was implied that the problem was that I wanted to use protection. This guy wasn’t just complaining. There was a real physical disdain against the condom. An initial wave of pity ran through me- how embarrassed he must feel for this involuntary action- followed by a flash of insecurity in myself.

Feelings of doubt were brief. Doubts in my own sexual worth and worry that this man is now going to feel we can’t have great sex because I insist on condoms. I consciously had to fight these powerless thoughts and remind myself that condoms to me equal hot, worry free sex. It’s hot because it’s a gesture of taking care of each other and of being socially responsible. Intelligence is sexy.

Besides, a man who doesn’t like condoms and obviously doesn’t know how a condom should fit, is another warning sign that he likely has had unprotected sex before and likely has an STI.

My response: I told him that we can keep trying. And we did, manually. Two condoms later, no improvement in his stamina. So, penetration was out, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying each other in different ways. He was respectful in that way.

Our relationship is left with my offer to help him find the right condom that’s perfect for him. This of course means plenty of trial and exploration ahead. So this may become a tale of a condom hater converted to condom lover. We shall see.

Monologues are independent stories and the opinions shared are the author’s own.

 

Dear Husband, When Will The Condom Come Off?

The reality of TasP (treatment as prevention) is having a profound effect of serodiscordant couples today. Scientific evidence shows that under certain conditions, the risk of HIV transmission is so low that doctors now recommend some serodiscordant couple have condomless sex if they want to get pregnant. But for many, updated evidence cannot match the deep-seeded fear of contracting HIV. Armed with sources and facts, this monologue is a personal letter from an HIV positive woman confronting her husband’s apprehensions to start having condomless sex. 

DearHusbandDear Husband,

We have been in this relationship for a year and you know how I feel about you. I think you are the most wonderful man in existence, in my unbiased opinion. We share many interests, we have fun together, and in spite of my HIV status, the sex has been great. There have been no major challenges with my status until now.

As I long for a time when I could have condomless sex and exchange body fluids, an intimate act that feels like none other, condoms are an increasing reminder that we have a barrier between us. Regardless of how much lube one uses there is no condom available that does not feel like a condom. The female condom is okay but as my colleague noted, it is like having sex with a garbage bag inside you, complete with the noise of the crumpling latex.

I did get pregnant the good old fashioned way with my first child from a previous relationship and she is not HIV positive, nor is her father. I want to have another baby, but somehow that conversation gets diverted each time I initiate it. As you very well know, I do want to get pregnant naturally and our doctor recommended we try the good old fashioned way, like other hetero-couples wanting to have a child. We are in a committed, monogamous, trusting relationship. We know each other’s sexual health and HIV status. Scientific evidence presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) and discussion leading up to CROI left me feeling hopeful that soon the condoms would be put to rest.

Gus Cairns explains the outcomes of the latest PARTNER study which is showing promise while waiting for the final results in 2017. The PARTNER study is an international collaboration taking place in several European countries and is funded by the National Institute for Health Research in England and coordinated by Copenhagen HIV Programme (CHIP), in collaboration with University College London (the sponsor) and The Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, London.

“When asked what the study tells us about the chance of someone with an undetectable viral load transmitting HIV, presenter Alison Rodger said: “Our best estimate is it’s zero” (In Cairns 2014).

Seeing all of this evidence presented, along with knowing about my HIV negative child, makes me anxious as we wait for the time when we can stop using condoms. I trust you and I know you trust me but your refusal to accept new scientific evidence resulting from research studies, information that is not really new, as I was told years ago that under certain conditions I am not infectious, is making me question many things about this relationship. Mark S. King raises the question of whether people living with HIV will ever be considered safe sex partners. He refers in his writing to the ways in which people living with HIV are viewed as “suicide bombers” (2014). While reading his articles, I realized just how much work is ahead for the HIV community. But does there need to be such effort with us as I wonder if we are continuing to make informed decisions?

Who would have thought a condom could create so much stress in our relationship. Stress I was not prepared for and did not see coming as I believed you would eventually accept the evidence presented and change practices accordingly. After all, we are not in a one-night-stand as random strangers not knowing each other’s sexual history, where a condom would be used without question. We have evolved in our relationship. Or so I thought. But the continued use of condoms makes me question whether or not you can finally rid yourself of the fear of HIV transmission.

On a global scale, Bob Leahy (2014), who initially was not sold on the idea of treatment as prevention (TasP), now supports it completely, but he does remind the HIV community of “the huge amount of work that needs to be done, with advocacy at all levels being a sizeable component”, to convince institutions of the need for supporting and implementing TasP. As individuals, you and me are part of the TasP model.

Sex is not as spontaneous as it could be because we always have to ensure beforehand that condoms are nearby. The act of getting the condom ready and reaching for it is a constant, nagging reminder that screams out – “Watch out for HIV the big boogy man waiting in the corner reminding us to constantly be on guard”. I fantasize about the day when we can simply wake up in the morning and have sex without any reminders, with complete intimacy and trust without anxiety and fear.

What would I do if I were in your position?

I cannot say with certainty that I would embrace the idea and abandon the condoms without any lingering fear and doubt. I just do not know. I would like to think I would understand the science of HIV and realize that there is no real risk; that I would abandon my trepidation and in turn abandon condoms eventually. Maybe I would, and maybe I would not, preferring to hang on to the comfort and security of the condom.

Condoms are for one night stands, random sex, having sex with partners whose status is unknown, for avoiding all other sexually transmitted infections. We have none of those concerns. I have to be honest as I share my thoughts. I have thought on a couple of occasions of pursing sex with someone else who wants to have condomless sex. I need to feel the intimacy and deep connection to a man as we have sex that is uninterrupted with reminders, good old fashioned spontaneous sex. I never thought a small piece of latex could cause so much stress and doubt in a relationship. I want to maintain the status quo but on the other hand I want to have sex without condoms.

The last thing I want to do is transmit this virus to you. But as Marc-André LeBlanc (2014) so eloquently explained it, you are in fact safer with an HIV positive partner than with one whose status is unknown. I am beginning to give up hope as I try to explain that in fact, you -my partner- are safer with me as an HIV positive woman with stable, well controlled health status. I am getting impatient. There is growing tension in the relationship. If you cannot trust me and scientific evidence then I am going to begin to wonder if you have really addressed your fears, in depth, about HIV.

The province of British Columbia as an international leader in developing a model of the Test and Treat strategy, recently collaborated with China in offering services for them to implement to reduce HIV transmission through TasP, (Povidence Health Care: 2014), providing further evidence for the need to recognize how treatment does prevent transmission of HIV. I am on and adhere to treatment and am well controlled.

I understand completely and if the shoe were on the other foot. It may take some convincing on my part to trust and believe what is being presented. I am no different from anyone else and my personal perceptions and ideology take time to adjust to scientific evidence which is presented. My education about HIV came from the old fear based strategically targeted place. It is not easy to let go of those fears. They are embedded in our institutions and in our individual psyche, very deeply, I am finding out.

Len Tooley who does HIV testing, explains how “sexual health is often framed in the idea of risk instead of rewards. He goes on to explain how “this may present HIV and those living with it as the worst possible outcome imaginable, which is not only stigmatizing but often irrational and false since many people with HIV are, in fact, just fine” (In Straube: 2014).

So, will you let me know when the condom can come off?

Sincerely,

Your partner and lover.

Monologues are independent stories and the opinions shared are the author’s own.

References
Cairns,Gus. 2014. No One With An Undetectable Viral Load Gay Or Heterosexual Transmits HIV in First Two Years of PARTNER Study. March 4

Leahy, Bob. 2014. The TasP Train Has Left The Station. April 10

Leblanc, Marc- André. 2014. FUCK POZ GUYS! February 10

King, Mark. S. 2014. When People with HIV Became Suicide Bombers  April 2

King, Mark.S. 2014. Will HIV Ever Be Safe Enough For You? March 11

Providence Health Care. 2014. China joins forces british columbia conquer hiv/aids. November 27

Straube, Trenton. 2014. Against All Odds. POZ April/May

Why I Always Make Him Wear a Condom

Sure, there are the obvious reasons why I would want him to wear a condom (“him” referring to, of course, the anonymous him that comes and goes. Not a long-term boyfriend kind of him, but the one night stand kind of him; a friends-with-benefits-kind-of-him; a “we just started dating” kind of him).

Being prepared and willing to use a condom is as common a courtesy as a hand shake.

Being prepared and willing to use a condom is as common a courtesy as a hand shake.

Those reasons being assigned to the usual “I don’t want a baby or an STD right now” category. But this isn’t another typical “Hey, wear a condom so you don’t get herpes” mini-rant. Nope, instead, I’m talking about the psychological reasons why I make him wear a condom. I’m talking about the emotional implications of raw dogging it, and that slightly shuddering sensation of the lack of respect that goes into a guy refusing to put a condom on after I’ve expressly requested it. I’m talking about these reasons because there are only so many times you can tell a girl that she should make him wear a condom; because STDs suck before you realize that there has to be another reason why you should expect all your female friends to abide by this standard of sexual courtesy.

If you’re the type of person who might in any way be inclined to have casual sex with a variety of partners (or maybe even one), having condoms regularly stocked in your bedroom is an obvious five minute, five dollar solution to the “if I don’t have a condom, we might not bang” problem. It’s certainly less emotionally trying that the inevitable, “Holy shit, what if I have an STD” paranoid mind rant that can last for up to a month after an unprotected sexual interlude. It’s a common courtesy, really, a social necessity. It’s polite, much in the same way that shaking someone’s hand when you first meet them is polite. So why do anything other than err on the side of caution?

I guess that’s why any time a guy tries to not wear a condom, I immediately question whether or not this guy has any social grace whatsoever.

Sure, I guess you can’t buy a book at Walgreen’s that extols the virtues of abiding by hook up etiquette in a step by step how-to guide. But any guy that thinks he’s going to get away with disrespecting my body, putting me at risk for a whole host of unwanted consequences for the sake of a minimal increase in his sexual pleasure has another thing coming. Not wearing a condom makes it obvious that my concerns about my sexual health are irrelevant to this guy, and if my concerns aren’t respected in this situation, then what else about me does he not respect? Everything, probably, which is quite an unsexy, unthrilling realization. I’d rather run from the room screaming than sheepishly allow myself to be conned into unprotected sex.

Maybe the usual, “Got a condom question?” isn’t so much a question of whether or not he has enough foresight to buy condoms from the store, but more a litmus test of whether or not he’s mastered the basic sexual skill of respecting the other person’s boundaries and precautionary desire to avoid STDs and pregnancy. Because heaven knows, if you’re not using a condom with me, you probably didn’t use a condom with the last girl

or the girl before that, or the girl before that,

which means the mathematical probability of contracting an STD has increased tenfold. And I’m sure you know by now that I’m not willing to subject myself to playing Russian roulette with a gun full of STD bullets.

So, in lieu of that, please go to the corner store and buy some condoms. You’ll automatically earn an extra ten points in my book.

Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own.

 

Condoms Are Consent

My story is about how, for me, safer sex is intrinsically tied to consent. I cannot give consent without feeling safe. One time during sex (however safe I felt) the guy took the condom off without telling me. He figured, once we got this hot and heated, there were no cues that I was saying “no”. I feel guilt sharing this because I know people will judge me for having sex with this guy even after his display of Jerk-Assness; even after he breached my consent. People will judge that I lack self-respect; that I gave mixed messages; that I’m a slut. Whatever. I’m telling this story because issues of consent are not easy to navigate flow-charts. I’m saying that lusty desire and consent can be full of emotional contradictions.ConSentConDom

It was New Year’s Eve. The cocktail of booze and dancing at a friend’s custom party led to flirtation and ultimate make out sessions between “Gladiator” and I (I was dressed as “Uhura” from Star Trek). We had not really talked before but tonight I was feeling that I could have some casual sex. At that point in my life, in the context of that party, and our swelling chemistry, tonight I knew and wanted casual, just-for-fun sex.

I slipped into the new year sloppily kissing. An hour or so after midnight, we said goodbye to friends and got in a taxi and went home. We were tipsy but I felt in control. I felt safe. We sloppily made out some more. It got to the point where he was looking for a condom which I insisted upon (I worked at Planned Parenthood. Condoms are like second nature to me so I had no problem standing my ground despite his subtle condom-disgruntle).

Halfway through the act, he pulled out to switch positions. When we switched again, I reached down and felt his bare, condomless dick. “Where’s the condom!?”

“Oh, it was bunching up so I took it off.”

My heart dropped. WTF!

I yelled at him for his lack of respect for me and rolled over. I was beside myself. Angry. I did not consent to this! But despite feeling violated, I didn’t want to get up from the bed and walk 2 miles home alone in the early freezing morning. I was fine with just turning my back to him and falling into a boozy sleep.

The next morning I woke up next to him and he started to kiss me again. I liked his kisses. He made me feel hot.  I tried to forget about last night and just be “cool”. No fusing. This was just-for-fun, after all.

We got hotter. Sex was on the cards again.  Then he tried to have to sex with me without a condom again!star trek face palm

I gripped his naked dick before entering me and said to him with a heavy breath, “We are not having sex without protection.”

He swiftly located a new condom and I helped put it on.  The compromise, between my feelings of unease and our lust to have sex, was that we used a condom. I had sex with him again. He kept it on. Soon after, I trekked home in my New Year’s costume feeling like this is not the way the real “Gladiator” would have fucked “Uhura”.

Monologues are independent stories and the opinions shared are the author’s own.

I Ran Out Of Condoms

He looks at me and says, “I don’t have any condoms.”

At which I point I lean back and a flash dance of potential ensuing scenarios simultaneously create a cacophony of, “Hey, mom, what’s the best decision I can make here?” Mom never answers the question, so precariously I sit on the edge of the bed trying to preempt any awkward silence with the right, sexy, drunken thing to say. Does that mean that I stamp up, put my clothes on and storm out? Do I say something catty? Or do I smile like a trooper and take it with my eyes closed?

This is a consistent problem. I think for me, and most of my female friends, very few of us ever expect a guy to have the condoms. I don’t know why this is, but in the name of Girl Scoutly caution, I always keep a few floating around the bottom of my purse. So when the, “I don’t have any condoms” bomb drops, I can quickly maneuver my private parts out of harm’s way and into properly protected sex. Maybe this is just indicative of a larger issue, namely my lack of faith in humanity to ever make educated, unselfish decisions, but, meh, life moves on.

Speaking of moving on, it just so happens that I don’t have condoms on me right now. Which means that I’m not going to root around my jacket pockets and grinningly pull out one of those condoms that I got from that free condom basket at the teen sex booth at the street festival.

And whenever I’m pulling that condom out with that look on my face of, “You’re not getting away with it this time, asshole!” I always try to look into his eyes so I can fully relish the, “This dumb bitch did not fall for my unprotected sex routine” look on his face. And then, even after that, even on the off chance he rips the condom off for “whatever reason” (aka his coke dick went limp again, or the supremely assholeish “It doesn’t feel good so I took it off two seconds ago”) the second time I dive back into my purse and pull out another – it’s just like, hey, I know you tried this once before, but it’s not happening again, okay?

I mean, I don’t even know why it’s an issue in the first place. We’re both lucky enough to be having sex tonight, I don’t understand why you’re putting so much effort into poo-pooing my extremely rational, extremely altruistic need for you to wear a condom. It’s not like I just asked to pee on you. (Not to diss golden showers, but, you know, when you try to pee on a one night stand, and he’s not into it – the weird looks ensue.)

This time, however: Nothing. I’m feeling in the bottom of my purse. Oh, god. My sluttiness has yet again left me with a purse with no condoms in it. No condoms in the jacket pockets either. I’m fresh out.

So I look at him and say, “Well…”

And he looks at me and says, “You know what we could do…”

I shake my head. I look away. It’s the golden moment. It’s time for truth. It’s time for years of public education to waltz out of my mouth in a moment of glory, the fruition of years of putting condoms on bananas.

Or, of course, I could crumble to the everpresent pressure of wanting people (aka this dude right here) to like me, and there’s also the fact that I absolutely love having sex, because it’s fun and it feels good. It’s a sudden war of ration versus passion in my mind, and while I notice that I am, indeed, quite drunk, I am proud of myself for having the mental capacity with which to spend five seconds thinking about how dumb it is for me to let this random ass dude stick his dick in me, just so I can sleep for five hours in his messy bed, wake up way too early tomorrow, catch the bus back to my house, sit there in shame and silence while I try to remember what happened last night, catch up on my text messages, let my friends know I’m okay. And then the ensuing weeks of, “Should I get tested? Is that itch in my crotch the sign of the onset of herpes? Or HPV? What if it’s AIDS? Am I being paranoid?” All for a bit of sex that, at the end of it, probably isn’t even going to register in my top 10 sexual experiences.

So I look at him again, and without making eye contact, I come to the realization that this is probably going to be just another one night stand, so, fuck it, what’s the point? I might see him at a bar some other night, and we might try it again, but it’s not like I’m going to win any overwhelming sense of self validation or ego boost from lying on my bed and trying not to laugh at his sex noises.

So I do the right thing. I dial a cab, ask him his address, and when the cab’s waiting for me out front, I straddle him, as he sits there in his underwear, given him a kiss, rub my tits in his face and say,“Sorry about your loss.”

And as I sit, swirling inside my head inside the cab, the thought comes over me once again – why is it always my responsibility to have the condoms? I wish for once when I ran out, he (whoever he is) would say, “It’s okay, boo, I got you.”

Opinions expressed on Condom Monologues are the author’s own.

Why Condoms Get a Bad Wrap: Renewing emphasis on pleasure

Is it correct to suggest that condom-bashing is more common than condom-loving?  From personal experience, when I speak with people about safer sex the following is often used to describe condoms: “It keeps my partner and me from getting close”, “It disrupts intimacy”; “…It’s unnatural”, “…a mood killer”, “I can’t feel anything with a condom on”, “it hurts”, or “I can’t get off with condoms”.  Sound familiar?  In fact, rarely do I hear positive things like, “I love using condoms!” and “Condoms make me horny!”

Some argue that male condoms simply suck. Period. Others point to social attitudes as the greater problem and that people are trained to hate condom, states Debbie Herbenick in The Daily Beast.

Can new condoms solve the Condom Problem?

Why do condoms get a bad rap?Of course, sexual pleasure and condom use warrant serious discussion. According to a 2013 survey, only 60% of teenagers claim to use condoms regularly. And condom use declines as people grow older.  Much media praise is pouring over the “Grand Challenge” pitched by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation to develop a “next-generation condom that significantly enhances or preserves pleasure.”  Thousands have applied for the $100,000 prize grant.  It’s got people talking (again) about widespread dissatisfaction with existing condoms.

There’s been ideological backlash from condom defenders.  Reported in an article by Slate.com, the Gates’ competition is razzed by Gwaker and Salon, who have labeled condom complainers as “creeps” and “pervs” that are just “whining”. But these righteous attacks do not help.  In fact, their points only reinforce shame around sexual pleasure, thus hindering discussions about sexuality and sexual health.

Fingers are also pointing at condom researchers for overlooking the importance of pleasure and narrowly focusing on disease prevention and risk, as assistant professor Joshua G. Rosenberger told The Daily Beast. The narrative surrounding the Gates’ competition has reinvigorated the pleasure factor, but honest discussion about condoms should not end there.

Pleasure-focused condoms already exist!

What’s overlooked in this media coverage is that condom companies have focused on pleasure for decades! One need not look further than the crowded condom market to see where emphasis lay. Navigating through all the pleasure bumps, pouches, dual action lubricants, and “twisted” pleasure condoms can be a confusing (and fun!) task. This is not to deny that there are limits in male condom choice (not to mention severe limits of dams and female condoms!).  Indeed, most are latex based. Non-latex is more expensive and difficult to find off-line (see our post about buying condoms online). And all existing condoms roll on and off in the same way (although prototype Origami condom might change that).

There is more to condom use than bananas

Another aspect overlooked in discussions of condom hate is the way in which students are introduced to and informed about condoms in sex education.  Condoms talk is often devoid of any discussions regarding pleasure. But instead of limiting condoms to banana demonstrations, educators and prevention providers can play a valuable role by explaining some special condom features that already exist to suit individual needs, including allergies, lubrication, the health warnings of n-9 spermicide, flavors, and different condom shapes and sizes.

The point is that there are thousands of condom types already.  What we need is pleasure-inclusive sex education so that young people and adults access information about options, how to find the right condom, and different ways to use condoms well.  This can help increase consistent and correct use, hence reduce health risk while nurturing healthy and satisfying sexual lives.  Everyone wins!

Condom haters are in the minority

There is plenty of alternative evidence out there to suggest that the physical differences between unprotected sex and sex with a condom are minor to non-existent.  The Kinsey Institute’s annual National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (2011) found that adults who use condoms for penetrative sex tend to report the same degree of sexual pleasure as those who have sex without condoms. Another study that measured physical sensation (and only physicality- excluding other factors like perceived trust or sexual history, etc.) found that most men do feel a slight decrease of sensation with a condom.  However, if used and fitted correctly, a condom should never decrease a man’s sensitivity to the point of pain, numbness, or loss of erection. For women, it is rare to experience any dulling, which (as Scarleteen wisely points out) is not surprising, because the vagina has far less nerve sensory compared to the clitoris and frenulum, and therefore is less receptive to finer differences like skin compared to latex. Yes, there are women and men who experience physical irritation, drying, gross tastes and weird smells.  But there are ways to overcome these problems. It’s not like safe sex is a chore that one just has to deal with! 

Understanding sexual pleasure

i love youThere’s the argument that people are trained to hate condoms. Check out our post about the lack of positive representations of condoms in popular culture and entertainment. From our searches, we could not find any peer reviewed scientific studies that conclude that condoms severely detract from physical sensation.  We did find studies- including Randolph et. al. (2008), Mizuno et. al. (2007) and Boston University School of Health Our Bodies Ourselves Collective (2011)– in which more men than women reported that condoms did cause sex to feel “less good”. However, all three studies find that those who report negative feelings towards condoms are people who rarely use them. This seems like an obvious finding, but what’s more nuanced here is that those who believe this is so tend to be less-experienced with condoms (some of which have no actual experience). While many people do report that unprotected sex feels better than protected sex, in general, people who use condoms frequently and are confident about how to use them well tend to experience greater satisfaction with protected sex then those who do not use condoms.

This implies that sexual pleasure when using condoms cannot simply be reduced to basic physics of vaginal or penile sensation.  Of course, “sexual pleasure” is a fluid concept that means many different things to different people in different contexts.  There is more to consider when measuring degrees of satisfaction and pleasure than just what a condom touches, such as how we feel emotionally and intellectually about ourselves, our bodies, our relationships, and sex as an integral part of life. Many studies argue that attitudes and beliefs toward condoms greatly influence one’s experience of using them.  So, it may be fair to say that claims of “not feeling anything” have more to do with lack of experience using condoms (lack of experimenting), or not using them properly.

The catch is that when people know what type of condom they like, know how to use them correctly, consistently, and different ways to increase sensuality (i.e. experimenting with lubes, ribbed condoms, having a partner put on the condom for you), there is greater overall satisfaction.  As Heather Corinna writes, “…it’s the people who don’t use them at all that tend to complain about them the most.” Thus many people’s negative attitudes place them in a self-perpetuating cycle: If you approach condom use with pessimism, then you set yourself up for aversion.  This cycle will discourage from experimenting with different condoms and discovering what types and lubricants you like, and what methods are most comfortable and exciting; in general, it’s the mind set that is often the mood-killer.

How to make condoms sexy

The Next Generation condom is a positive competition that will hopefully lead to innovative and improved technology.  But this alone cannot solve public perceptions and negative sentiment towards condoms. In another post, we have suggested that media, from soap operas to popular how-to magazines to porn must include more positive representations of condoms for vaginal, anal, and oral sex to help normalize safe sex.  We also suggest basic condom usage techniques and ways of making condom usage a sexy part of sex, rather than a disruption. And of course, access to education and knowing which condoms suit one’s individual needs (and their sexual relationships) is vital to loving the glove.  Here is our fitting guide to help those who experience particular fitting problems.

Tell us what you think from your experience or teachings.