This was originally written for my column, Sex; or Something Like It, in my college paper. However I feel it is so prevalent I am including it here as well. While this is a response to a study done on college students, I feel that people of all ages probably have similar issues with condoms.
In one of my health promotion classes I recently came across a study so entertaining I felt the need to devote an entire post to it; ‘Do You Know What You’re Doing?’ College Students’ Experiences with Male Condoms. This study took two groups of students, one group male and one group female, from a large Mid-western university and asked them questions about their experiences using male condoms. The researchers then divided their responses into a variety of categories of errors, five of which I will discuss; availability of condoms, condom application, “fit and feel” of condoms, incomplete use and breakage. Apparently no one paid attention in high school health, because according to the results of this study, college students need a little condom education.
The biggest issue that seems to underlie all of the errors college students make when it comes to condom is distrust; many of the participants in this study admit that they do not trust their sexual partner. The solution to this problem is so apparent it shouldn’t need to be said; If you don’t trust the person you’re getting jiggy with (na na na na na na na…) then you probably shouldn’t have sex with them. Maybe you can play a nice game of Scattegories instead.
However, because we are college students and abstinence just doesn’t seem to be an option, let’s review the main categories of error compiled by the condom study;
Availability: Unfortunately, there are no Horny Hornet brand condoms in the college bookstore, so you have to travel off campus to get them. Bummer. Luckily the Chevron isn’t far, so get out there and get a little exercise (exercise stimulates your libido!!). In the focus groups of the study both men and women addressed trust issues when it comes to supplying condoms; Men are worried women might poke holes in condoms (because all college girls are DYING to get pregnant apparently). The men also agreed that if the girl whips out a condom, she might be easy. The women said that the two issues they have with men providing condoms are that if they are carrying around condoms they may be having so much sex they are also carrying around herpes, or on the other end of the sex spectrum, that they are having no sex and the condom expired in 2004. Come on now, it should not matter who brings the condom, male or female, as long as it makes its way onto the guys soldier before he marches it up Mount Vahooha (and I guess it couldn’t hurt to check the expiration date).
Application: Again with the trust issues, the participants of this study said they don’t always trust their partners to put the condom on correctly. There are detailed directions on the box, so I don’t need to reiterate them here. You can use your hand or, as one male participant expressed in the study “I had one (girl) that used her mouth one time. She was pretty talented.” Was her name Tila Tequilla? Because that sounds pretty trashy. One participant also said that he prefers the girl to put the condom on, because that way he ‘”knows it’s consensual.” Creeper.
“Fit and Feel”: Yeah yeah, condoms feel slimy and smell like a doctor’s office. But you know what feels worse? Chlamydia. And you know what smells worse? Dirty diapers.
Incomplete use: This was one of the biggest issues these students had with condoms, for a variety of different reasons. Some said they start sex without a condom, and some said they take it off before they’re done. Fail. The excuse that was given by many of the participants was that they were ‘caught in the moment.’ Double Fail. However, the best excuse was that if you’re getting it on with a girl and you stop to go get a condom she might ‘change her mind.’ Perhaps this answer was given by the same male participant who likes the girl to apply the condom as an assurance of consent.
Breakage and Slippage: Condoms break. Shit happens. Sometimes you catch it, and sometimes you don’t. To make the issue more embarrassing, sometimes the broken rubber crawls up inside the girl and camps out for a while. This was a big problem with both the men and women interviewed. To quote one of the participants “Just finish up and you pull it (out) and you go, “It’s not there anymore. Planned Parenthood, here I come!” To minimize breakage (and slippage), make sure everything is adequately lubricated before you start, cross your fingers and hope for the best.
College students could quite possibly be the most sexually active age group, as we are constantly surrounded my hundreds of members of the opposite sex, and alcohol is plentiful. Therefor, it is shameful we have issues using condoms. Let’s recap; Know how to put them on. Practice on yourself, your boyfriend, your room-mate or a banana you lifted from the caf. Carry them around when you head out on the weekends and don’t judge anyone else for doing the same. Put them on before you start to have sex and don’t take them off until you’re finished. If it breaks, fish it out and head out to the pharmacy for a Plan B, probably the best 80 dollar investment you will ever make. Too bad you can’t charge it to your college express account.
‘Do You Know What You’re Doing?’ College Students’ Experiences with Male Condoms’ study done by William L. Yarber, Cynthia A. Graham, Stephanie A. Sanders, Richard A. Crosby, Scott M. Butler and Rose M. Hartzell.