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Who uses condoms?

Published : Friday January 13, 2012 | Posted in : Sexual Health
Man and woman with condom

As we all know, the answer should be everyone. Should be. We’ve all had the sex education classes (albeit with the attention span of an awkward adolescent), we’ve all read the magazines and posters and ad campaigns; we know the potential dangers of failing to use proper protection during sex. In fact, with all of the educational material there is out there to inform us in great detail of these dangers, there would seem to be no reason at all why anyone would choose not to use the proper protection during sex.

And yet, there is one clear indicator of our general complacency when it comes to condom use, and that is the increasing rate of STIs.

Why do people continue to risk their sexual health when the dangers of STIs are so well known? Why, when condoms are so easily available and relatively cost-effective, do so many people forego them? Countless studies have been undertaken with these kinds of questions in mind, in the hope of targeting educational campaigns more effectively. The problem is, different studies seem to focus the concern in different directions. Many studies highlight the prevalence of STIs among young people (aged 16-24), but a series of studies conducted in 2011 indicated that the rate of STI diagnoses amongst more mature people (aged 50+) is also increasing as a disproportionate rate. Another study, conducted in Indiana last year, showed that women aged between 25 and 34 actually failed to use condoms a huge 76% of the time, a statistic which is even more surprising when considered alongside the fact that this figure for female teenagers was closer to 40%.

Clearly, adequate condom use is a problem for any age group, and it is important to recognise that the reasons for this differ and there is no one-size-fits all solution to fixing the problem. A simple lack of education is often considered to be a likely cause when it comes to young people, but other probable contributory factors include things like financial issues (condoms may be relatively cheap, but perhaps not so for young people who tend to rely on their parents for funds) and naivete, which is similar to but not quite the same as ignorance. For women and men in their 50s and above, the problem seems to also be related to ignorance, as that generation did not receive the same level of sex education as is considered important today. If they then embark on a new sexual relationship at an older age, they may lack the understanding of the dangers of unprotected sex with new partners and educational campaigns that do exist tend to be focused at far younger people.

When it comes to those aged between 25 and 34, as discussed in the referenced study, the reasons for choosing not to use a condom are again different. An important factor is that many people in this age group are in long-term relationships, probably using a hormonal contraceptive such as the pill. This means that birth control is already sorted, and they therefore see no need to use a condom, as they are confident that their partner is in the clear in terms of sexual health.

The problem with this is that it fails to take into account several important factors. Firstly, many STIs are asymptomatic, so an individual who has not experienced symptoms should never assume that they are free from STIs, especially if they have ever engaged in unprotected sex. Secondly, even if each partner has taken an STI test and is proven to be in the clear, this will only continue to be the case if the relationship remains completely monogamous, which is sadly sometimes not the case.

The perpetuation of certain myths about condoms may also have some part to play in the reluctance of some individuals to use them. Many people still carry the mistaken belief that using a condom “dulls” the sensation of sex and reduces pleasure. This isn’t the case for the vast majority of people, though, as there are now a variety of condom types to choose from, such as ultra-thin condoms and ribbed condoms to increase pleasure. Any variety you choose will give you the highest possible protection against STIs. When the alternative is risking your sexual health, why say no?

Do you use condoms? If not, why not? Be sure to let us know below!

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