Condoms have sadly seen a dramatic drop in popularity among 16-24 yr olds recently which is increasing the rates of Gonorrhea and Chlamydia again. This age group accounts for 55% of those STI's with 47% of them saying they have had sex with a new partner without a condom. When I was at school (not very long ago lets face it) condoms were promoted as practically a necessity when it comes to sex (1).
It's important that we get to the bottom of why they are turning away from this form of contraception as prevention is always better than cure. I think it's possible that the cautiousness has gone down as the risks of contracting these STI's are now low because treatments are so effective. Plus the design hasn't moved along much since the 1950's (more on the future of condoms below).
What is it?
The male condom is a sheath which rolls over the penis and is usually made of latex. The female condom lines the inside of the vaginal canal and are made of a similar material. The effectiveness of the male condom is 98% while the female one is 95%. It's likely that this is because the female condom is a bit harder to use correctly. Sometimes the penis can slide down the outside of the condom rather than going into it. Thereby making it pretty darn useless. Female condoms aren't very popular. They're big, un-sexy and more expensive. They're also harder to get hold of. So let's focus on the male one!
How does it work?
It's a barrier method. This means it stops the sperm from ever coming into contact with an egg. Male condoms are easy to use and you only need to use it during sex. It is also the only way to protect against sexually transmitted infections STI's.
There are no medical side effects to using condoms aside from maybe discovering you're allergic to latex, for which there are alternative options now: polyurethane and polyisoprene. I'd like to look at some of the down-sides to condoms and try to remedy them as it's so important to use condoms for STI protection.
- You may find condoms practically soak up your natural juices, like a flippin' sponge, leaving you feeling dry and chafed. I'd recommend using a natural condom-friendly lubricant such as Yes as a back up for this scenario, or just change it up and go for 'outside sex'*.
- It can interrupt the flow of sex but this can be overcome with practice. Most men have already done the practice in their bedrooms at home and are pros at slipping on a condom in no-time.
- If the condom 'fails' aka. breaks or slips off you should go to a pharmacy, GP or walk-in centre (if in the UK). They will be able to give you the pill or you can get an IUD from a sex clinic or GP (if they provide contraceptives). Although, if you already practice fertility awareness method you may be confident that you're not within your fertile window and therefore don't require emergency contraception.
- Condoms can reduce sensitivity for men. Cue the future of condoms below...
A bit of history
We are very pro-crafts now a days from macrame plant hangers to christmas wreaths, we've done it all. But have you ever made your own condom? No? Well in the 1600's people would make them at home using sheep intestines. I don't recommend it. The famous Casanova wore condoms made of linen in the 18th century. When vulcanised rubber was invented in 1838 by Mr Goodyear (of Goodyear tires) the first reusable condoms were created. As late as the 1950's men could get condoms on prescription to protect them when having premarital or extra-marital affairs. But they couldn't request them to protect their wives from unwanted pregnancies! (2). This is because they believed wives were for making babies, not sexual pleasure. It was once believed that it was more sinful more a man to ejaculate outside of his wifes vagina than it was for him to rape someone. Because at least the rape might end in a baby.... This belief that sex, without potential conception, is sinful still resonates strongly in the USA where until 2010 $100 million of federal funds was being spent annually on abstinence-only sex education (3).
In the early 20th century The American Social Hygiene Association fought to prohibit condoms as they thought illicit affairs which resulted in venereal disease was a fitting punishment for sinful behaviour. (2)
In the 1960's condoms became unpopular because the pill and IUD provided protection from pregnancy instead. However, when the virus which can cause AIDs was identified the media and government-led advertisements raised the profile and popularity of condoms once more. Sadly, this health awareness doesn't seem to be enough to encourage the youth of today. But with a design which hasn't changed much since the 1950's what do you expect?
Enter the Future of Condoms
There has been A LOT of development in materials since the 1950's and this is finally rubbing off (haha!) onto condoms.
Hex by Lelo is a condom which is made of hexagons of material which makes it feel more natural. (The FDA doesn't allow them to say it's more pleasurable, but it probably is!)
Hanx has breathed new life into the design of condoms by making theirs vegan and so sexy to look at you'd want it in your purse even if you're not tryin' to pull.
TheyFit has a remarkable 66 sizes to choose from. That's right, condoms are not a case of one-size-fits-all. 80% of men have small penises than the average condom. The average penis length being 5.2 inches and the range being from 1.6 to 10.2 inches.
So don't just settle for boring old Durex why not try something new and see how it affects your sex experience? Could be fun. Fun and safe. Two things I always look for in a good night out.
Do you dislike condoms? Would you try a new brand? Tell us your experiences in the comments below.
* 'Outside sex' is when you have sensual time with a partner which often leads to orgasms but doesn't involve penetration of the penis in the vagina.
- The Guardian (2017) Half of young people do not use condoms for sex with new partner – poll. Accessed online: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/condom-use-survey-sexually-active-young-people-england
- Brandt, A. (1985) No Magic Bullet: A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States Since 1880. New York: Oxford University Press.
NIAIAD (2001) The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. HIV/AIDS Statistics. Accessed online: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/aidsstat.htm
- Khan, F. et.al. (2013). The story of the condom. Indian Journal of Urology. Accessed online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649591/
The Guardian (2017) What comes in 66 sizes and vegan latex? The new generation of condoms. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/23/what-comes-66-size-vegan-latex-new-generation-of-condoms
University of California (2015) The History of the Condom. Accessed online: http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo/article/history-condom