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Condom Use, Thumbs Up and Down

Condom use

Condom use and the use of lubricants got a thumbs up from both men and women in the United States, according to a new study. The results of this research, along with other recent findings, reveal that condom use may not detract from sexual pleasure as some people believe it does.

How common is condom use?

Before looking at the latest study, let’s review the findings of 2010 research led by the same investigators as the new study: Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH and Michael Reece, PhD, MPH, of the School of Public Health-Bloomington, Indiana University. In the earlier study, data from 5,865 adults ages 18 to 94 were evaluated.

The authors noted that reported condom use during men’s most recent vaginal intercourse was 24.7 percent and among women, 21.8 percent. Among adolescents, 79.1 percent of males said they had used a condom during their previous ten sexual encounters with females, while females reported condom use of 58.1 percent.

The earlier study also revealed that:

  • Condom use was highest among unmarried adults
  • Adolescents used condoms more than did adults
  • Black and Hispanic individuals had higher condom use than did people of other racial groups

In the newest study, the data came from the same source as did the earlier research: the 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Investigators looked at information regarding sexual activity from adults ages 18 to 59 and addressed different factors, such as:

  • what sex was like for them
  • if they used a condom or a lubricant
  • how that rated their sexual experiences

The responses were analyzed to determine if and use of a condom and/or lubricant affected their sexual experience.

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Overall, both men and women reported that using a condom and lubricant had little impact on their sexual experiences, which they rated as highly stimulating and enjoyable, with high rates of orgasm. In addition, men reported that using either of these items had no significant effect on their erections.

Ups and downs of condom use
The up side of condom use is that they are an effective way to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) when used correctly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “laboratory studies have demonstrated that latex condoms provide an essentially impermeable barrier to particles the size of STD pathogens,” as well as particles the size of HIV. The only way to completely avoid STDs, however, is to not engage in sexual activities.

Some people resist using condoms, saying one of the down sides is that they prevent men and women from having a truly powerful sexual experience. Other reasons why some people don’t use condoms is that they are embarrassed to purchase them, they don’t want their partner to think they don’t trust them (regarding their sexual history), or they don’t know how to use them properly. Having a latex allergy is no excuse, however, because latex-free condoms are readily available.

The results of the current study firmly addresses the first so-called down side. More education and better communication between partners could help resolve the other issues.

Individuals who are interested in or curious about condoms and lubricants can certainly find many from which to choose. Condoms are available in a wide variety of styles, shapes, and even flavors designed to spice up the sexual experience. Lubricants also come in an array of flavors and types, including those that can be warmed before use.

Condoms and lubricants are reliable, safe, and cost-effective forms of contraception and disease prevention when used properly. Condom use also gets a thumbs up when it comes to preserving sexual pleasure and satisfaction for both men and women.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Herbenick D et al. Characteristics of condom and lubricant use among a nationally representative probability sample of adults ages 18-59 in the United States. Journal of Sexual Medicine 2013. DOI:10.1111/jsm.12021
Reece M et al. Condom use rates in a national probability sample of males and females ages 14 to 94 in the United States. Journal of Sexual Medicine 2010 Oct; 7(Suppl s5): 266-76

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