I am not sure if this should be posted as a forum topic or an article in it’s own right. In any case, I am writing this here because I seek more opinions on the topic and would love some insight and constructive criticism from the sex community….
A reoccurring issue for me and my colleagues is the negativity towards condoms and what to do about it. When I talk to people about condom use, and particularly during discussions about contraceptive choices, I usually hear negative claims like: ““It keeps my partner and me from getting close”, “…It’s unnatural”, “…a mood killer”, “I can’t feel anything with a condom on”, “it hurts”. These account do not come from a particular cohort. From my experience, negativity towards condoms spans across age brackets, genders, and sexualities.
Alternatively, I know plenty of individuals and couples whose only form of contraceptive and STI protection is the condom. Overall, these are healthy, happy sexual beings and there are many reasons the condom is primary choice. It may be because it is the most effective and reliable non-hormonal contraceptive, or because it is the less-expensive, less fuss, institution-free choice, or because it feels good when you know you’re taking care of yourself and others. Overall they choose the condom because it suits them best for their circumstances compared to what else is available on the safer sex market.
It is no surprise that there are conflicting views about how the condom influences sexual pleasure. Sexual “zest” is something that changes and is contextual, specific to each individual and relationship, personal histories and places. So there are some major challenges in attempting to empirically measure the source of sexual dissatisfaction. But I wonder if it’s fair to say that negative attitudes towards condoms are far more prevalent than positive ones in North American culture. After all, rarely do I hear “Condoms make me horny!” or “I love using condoms!” And rarely does one witness positive representations of condoms in popular how-to magazines or in mainstream porn.
To what extent do negative views towards condoms reflect problems with the technology? When someone says, “I can’t get off on condoms”, is this a symptom of condoms in general, or the individual not knowing how to find the right condom, how it should fit, what lubes to use, or how to use it well?
From our peer-reviewed literature review, we found that attitudes greatly influence one’s experience with condoms. I go into more detail about our research findings here on our website. Basically, those who complain about condoms tend to be people who have little-to-no experience using them. 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 then those who do not use condoms. This implies, of course, that there is far more to sexual pleasure that cannot simply be reduced to basic physics of vaginal/penile sensation.
How then, do we improve the reputation of condoms? Perhaps it’s a matter of changing the discourse on condoms and how to use them properly- and young sex education is a key spot. When discussing condom use, for instance, there could be more emphasized about the different types of condoms that are available to suit different sizes and preferences, and how to navigate those options. There can also never be enough emphasis on the importance of lube and the best ways to use them. Also, tips on how to put a condom on in sexy, more fun ways- such as the partner putting it on for you- are important steps to curing condoms woes.
What do you think? Are negative views towards condoms a product of a greater stigma in our culture? What should be done to alleviate misunderstandings and negative beliefs?