Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Condom Failure.

Here's another interesting statistic from my medical textbooks: the failure rate of condoms in preventing pregnancy is 2% (over a year) with perfect use. It's 10-18% with typical use.

Holy shit! Condoms fail up to 18% of the time! That's pretty bad! I wouldn't get in a car that crashed 18% of the time! Condoms must be pretty crappy birth control!

Well, no. Condoms are 98% effective. The catch lies in the concept of "typical use" as opposed to "perfect use." It makes it sound like "perfect use" is some theoretical expert condom application, where the condom is applied with absolute precision by a team of professional condomifiers in a way that mere "typical" civilians could never replicate.

Nope. All "perfect use" means in the case of condoms is using them every time, and using them for the entire duration of PIV sex. There's a few more catches--you shouldn't reuse condoms, you should throw them away instead of turning them inside out if you put them on wrong the first time, you should use lube but nothing oil-based, and you shouldn't double-bag--but honestly, most of those are statistically minor. The biggest factor in "perfect use" of condoms is actually using them.

So what's "typical use"? Well, if someone says that condoms are their primary method of birth control, but only uses them sometimes, they're counted as a "typical" user. When they get pregnant, they go in that 18%. The number one cause of condom "failure" is not using a condom.

It's sort of amazing to me that people would use condoms only sometimes and expect that to work, but I know from work (we talk about condom use with STI and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease patients) that it's not uncommon. People don't have a condom handy and they go "aw fuck it," boyfriends complain that it doesn't feel as good for them, women try to do a kind of half-baked rhythm method only using condoms when they think they're fertile, people have sex drunk or high and forget about condoms, and some people really just seem to only use them when they feel like it.

In large part, this is an educational problem. We're sending two very dangerous messages in regards to condoms:

1) "Condoms are for dirty sluts." Hell, there's places where condom possession can be used as evidence of prostitution. There's long arguments about whether making condoms available in high schools--or even colleges!--will cause kids to have sex, which would be terrible because sex is dirty. Women's magazines run articles on how a guy will think you're a slut if you open up your bedstand and there's a lot of condoms. Many drugstores keep condoms behind locked doors to add even more awkwardness and embarrassment to the purchase. (I know this is often because of shoplifting, but in practice, it does increase the shame factor.)

When everyone is shamed for using condoms, and women are extra-shamed, then people are less likely to have them around when they have sex, and more likely to go ahead with it anyway.

2) "Condoms fail all the time." This one is enshrined and exaggerated in abstinence-only education, but not limited to it. I've had a doctor tell me that condoms alone aren't "really" birth control. Hell, until I did more reading, I believed this one myself. And of course condoms aren't perfect--but they're a lot better than I thought.

The problem with this one is that it encourages fatalism. If a condom doesn't really help, why bother? Might as well have unprotected sex and take your chances, since you're taking them anyway. Abstinence-only education has been repeatedly shown to discourage condom use, and this is one of the reasons--when they say "condoms don't work," they aren't telling kids "don't have sex, even with a condom." They're telling them "don't have sex with a condom."

In this way (and it affects adults too), the 18% statistic is feeding itself. The more people believe condoms don't work, the more often people who use condoms for birth control won't really use them. The more people feel like condoms are a crapshoot, the more comfortable they'll feel taking real crapshoots.

Condoms are great! They're cheap, completely confidential and anonymous, involve no hormones or other funny chemicals, require no prescription, and they work really really well. All you have to do is use them.


  1. Buying a bunch of NFL ad time and showing football players testing the elasticity of condoms in various hilarious scenarios would change popular opinion right quick. Too bad that space is already reserved for beer, trucks, and male enhancement pills.

  2. Shame provokes people to shoplift condoms.

    Shoplifting provokes drugstores to lock up condoms.

    Seeing condoms locked away provokes shame in people who want to buy them.

    Shame provokes people to shoplift condoms.

    ♪ It's the cirrrrrrcle of shaaaaaaaame ♫

  3. I'd say the main reason condoms get shoplifted to begin with is precisely because of the stigma attached to buying them!

  4. This. I got sick of the side effects of hormonal birth control like, seven years ago, and have been sticking with condoms ever since. I've been sexually active that entire time. I have yet to get pregnant. They work pretty damn well as long as you actually USE them.

    The stigma about having condoms--or any kind of birth control, really--readily available is just utterly baffling to me.

  5. Yup yup yup! While it does indeed suck those few times that the condom slips off or something (had that happen one) overall condoms are still a really good method (my method for probably about two years all together) and when they're frequently given away free at places like Planned Parenthood or schools and so forth, the whole "well they don't work really well anyway" argument for abstinence just becomes more and more mean-spirited. "Don't use this free, safe and effective method of preventing pregnancy and STIs! Suffer instead for my ideals!"

  6. When I was researching the efficacy of Fertility Awareness as a birth control method, I came across the wonderful tidbit that, at least in some studies, getting pregnant was counted as a failure of the birth control method *even if the pregnancy was planned*.

    That is, if the study started with 20 sets of partners, all using Birth Control X, and halfway through one pair decided they wanted to have a kid, and succeeded, then BCX would be counted as having a failure rate of 5%.

  7. Regarding message 1, I think the condoms-in-the-nightstand are a tiny fragment of the much larger problem: "This woman thought beforehand that she might be having sex, rather than making the decision spontaneously when she met Wonderful Me." But contraceptive pills don't seem to have attracted this stigma; why? Because one needs (in most places) to see a medic to get them, and a medic is an arm of the kyriarchy?

  8. Firedrake - I think that's a bit of a stretch. There's absolutely a stigma on taking the pill, to the point where some pharmacists have demanded to know patients' marital status before dispensing it.

  9. Perhaps the sitch is different over the Atlantic, but here in the UK when I first went to see the nurse about going on the Pill, she handed me a massive bag of condoms to go with my prescription :D Admittedly, I do have a male American friend who has told me off several times for putting all my trust in the Pill, which is going to give me migraines, arthritis AND cancer sooner or later... Oh yeah, and get me pregnant too. Because all medicine is lies.

  10. Firedrake--if you're on hormonal birth control, you can pretend you're taking it to control your periods. It helps with the (peer-related, not pharmacist-related, apparently) stigma.

  11. I learned this a while ago, and I'm still baffled by the idea that when you decide to have PIV sex without first putting a condom on the p, it still somehow counts as using a condom. I guess some people don't see using condoms as, like, actually using condoms, but instead think of it as saying you use condoms or meaning to use condoms.

    Still, if there are professional condomifiers who apply condoms with absolute precision, I'd kind of like to see how it's done.

  12. I have a friend who knows condoms are reliable and needed, but will not use them or have sex with women who use them. Nothing to do with shame, he could buy it, and nothing to do with slutiness, he just thinks "it won't happen to me".

    I have no idea ho wot call this factor: arrogance or stupidity...

  13. Totally! I'm not on the Pill, due to lack of insurance and don't want my hormones frelled with, but I am BOGGLED when women on birth control still don't use condoms.

    Not gonna stop STIs, people!

    Got in an argument with one person (who I wasn't sleeping with and had no intention to) about the merits of protection during oral. My view: STIs can be transferred from genitals to mouth, so use the dental dams, flavored condoms, or cut up non-latex glove. His view: But it ruins the INTIMACY and CONNECTION!

    Yeah. Didn't buy it.

    And this guy is a swinger! And lots of swingers have similar views.

    *sigh* Good thing I'm not suited to the swinger lifestyle.

  14. Violetjimjams - I don't use protection during oral. The odds of disease transmission that way are actually pretty low. And I don't know about intimacy and connection, but it does kind of defeat the purpose from a sensual point of view.

    Maybe that's hypocritical of me, and I'd feel bad encouraging anyone else to do it, but I think the risks of disease transmission during oral sex are low enough (and the chance of pregnancy obviously zero) that it's not a super dangerous practice.

    1. That is not true.. HPV can be transmitted through unprotected oral. Enough so, that it is the cause of increased cases of nasal pharyngeal cancer. So if ur partner has had other partners before you, I'd suggest using condoms.

  15. Eh, just squicks me out.

    Though it probably explains why I haven't had sex in... ages.

    And only for the first time at 23.

    And only 5 times in the 2 years since then...

    I <3 my toys.

  16. Well, I think it's always up to the decision of the more cautious partner. If one person wants to use a condom and the other doesn't, tiebreaker goes to "use a condom."

  17. As always, Holly, you speak with sense.

  18. This is one of the things that, in retrospect, impresses me about my high school sex ed class: they actually explained what "typical use" and "perfect use" were, and why the numbers were so different. For whatever reason, they put a fair amount of emphasis on the idea that people might get carried away for whatever reason and end up not using birth control when they had intended to. I think the way they presented it was fairly practical and not misleading, though. "You need to have a plan to protect yourself if/when you have sex, and it needs to be a plan that you'll actually follow," was what they emphasized. I didn't think about it at the time, being not very interested in sex, but it is pretty mind-boggling that so many people usually use condoms, or intend to use condoms, but sometimes don't.

  19. Hmm... maybe I'm weird, but I just don't like condoms. I mean, yes, they're safe and effective and prevent pregnancy and STI's, and all that is great, but...

    ...but they smell weird, and they feel weird inside me, and it does something to the friction that just doesn't feel right, and no matter how many times I tell myself "safe sex is sexy!", pausing to put one on still, still feels like a buzzkill.

    I know these are all relatively minor things, but they make sex far less enjoyable. There's times when I feel like I'd almost rather not have sex, period. So... I can kinda understand why people may intend to use one, but then decide not to. (Or conveniently "forget.")

  20. I'm a 'perfect' condom user - never had PIV sex without one, and don't intend to until if/when I'm ready to have kids. For me, watching him put on a condom or putting one on him gives me the greatest sense of anticipation during sex. It's such a sexy, electric moment, and it's integral in my sex life now.

    All that said, I'm also on the Ring (which I love), and I'm lucky to have a wonderful partner who's serious about his contribution to pregnancy prevention. He's saving condomless sex for marriage, which is a much more mature and practical view than the abstinence-only view, IMO.

    @Mary: Have you tried using a thinner condom? I like Kimono Ultrathins myself, and have noticed greater sensitivity when using them over, say, Durex.

  21. Interesting statistics. I'm astonished that the "failure" rate is calculated that way.

    As far as that 2% failure rate for (I guess) breakage and slippage goes - remember, people, all condoms are not the same! The shape, size and fit of your condom will affect its performance as well as your comfort. I had real problems with condoms breaking until I changed brands, and am still hunting round for a style that fits perfectly.

    Worth noting is that using one of the wrong width has the most significant effect on breakage in use, even though the overall percentage breaking is still tiny. So guys - find your size! Girls - don't assume that "one size fits all". Keep a variety to hand and you'll be able to deal with whatever ... um ... comes your way.

  22. What I'd like to know is what is failure rate of abstinence-only with typical user :D

  23. I know what you mean Mary. Every time I use a condom for PIV I either need to stop every few minutes to add lube or suffer one angry chafed vagina. Water and silicone based lubes smell/feel weird to me and sometimes make my vulva unhappy. I'm not happy about using a safe sex option that significantly diminishes my pleasure during sex. Somehow it feels very anti-feminist: I'm supposed to sacrifice my happiness for some essential safety, because expecting other people to be on top of STI testing (including knowledge about window periods) is too much to ask.
    I don't really know what to do now. When I was in a monogamous relationship we stopped using condoms after we both tested clean, but that relationship is over now. I'm interested in having a relationship right now and I'm not sure if I'm interested in monogamy ever... so I t looks like I have no option other than finding some condoms I like.
    Any tips? Also, if anyone has ideas about how to get rid of Nasty Condom Aftertaste that would be great too. I hate giving head when all I taste is latex.

  24. Can't take hormones, spermicides make me itch, hooray for condoms! (And hooray for the guy who uses them every time.)

  25. charthemagicdragonAugust 9, 2011 at 9:18 PM

    I'll admit, I'm a healthcare provider who's guilty of sensationalizing the risks of sex - not to my patients (thankfully), but to myself. That small failure rate makes me nervous enough that I'm about to start on the pill before I start having PIV sex. Is it entirely necessary? Probably not. Does emergency contraception provide just as much back-up protection? Statistically, yes. Am I concerned about bone loss and exposure to estrogen with my family history of breast cancer? Absolutely.

    Despite all that, is it worth it for that extra little bit of peace of mind that allows me to really relax into the experience? For me, for now, apparently the answer is yes.

    @anonymous re: Nasty Condom Aftertaste- have you tried using polyurethane such as durex avanti or the female condom? some find the taste less objectionable than latex. You could also try putting some flavored lube (or, i suppose, something else tasty) on the penis after they've pulled out and removed the condom.

  26. What gets me is that the "2%" statistic is viscerally sort of hard to understand, since it's, as you say, 2% of heterosexual couples using condoms as their sole form of birth control incurring unintended pregnancy per year. And there's at least one variable that I don't know: how many times are these people having sex during that year?

    And I can understand why that's the way it's measured -- it's a lot easier to get the data that way, for one -- but it makes it kind of abstract for me to think about, you know, "what are my chances, right now, of getting pregnant?"

    (Answer for me personally: hopefully pretty darn low, since I'm on hormonal control and have my male partners use a condom every time, with exactly one exception once, after I was already on the hormones -- and I stressed about that once until I got my next period.)


  27. I have been using condoms for three years. I had a one year stint on birth control, which made me feel like crap all the time and I hated it. I'm super uncomfortable with putting fake hormones/chemicals into my body. So condoms are working fine for me! It honestly doesn't take much to be safe with them and yeah sure - maybe it doesn't always feel "as good" but certain brands are better than others. It's cheaper than birth control and doesn't wreak havoc on my brain and body.

  28. Also just for the record - maybe it's because I've lived in University towns and Canada is a bit more "liberal" or something but I have never felt a stigma attached to condoms or the pill. The condoms are right out where you can see them, next to shampoo or whatever, and medical people tend to actively *promote* using the pill.

  29. Foxglove: I don't have to pretend. XD I started on the Pill months after the last time I had sex, because of hormonal issues. Which means next time I have to bust out the condoms, I'll be doubly safe! :3

    Mary: Ultrathin polyurethane condoms and LOTS of lube. And definitely steer clear of sheepskin--not only does it not protect against STD's, it makes both sets of genitals smell...off.

    Catholic Church: Seriously, guys, I can handle the "condoms prevent procreation!!" thing, but acting as if the emotional bonding that occurs during sex would somehow be perverted by the use of a condom is...weird. (No, really, the RCC says you shouldn't use condoms because they interfere with emotional bonding AND makin' babies. Not just the usual makin' babies argument that they use with other forms of birth control.)

  30. And of course, the failure rates are over a year – for someone having sex and using condoms properly for 64-128 times a year (I chose those numbers based on the Durex sex survey results I remember and ease of calculation), the failure rate on a given occasion are in the 0.02% to 0.04% range; for the imperfect users they are in the 0.15% to 0.3%. Not bad for under a dollar.

  31. Man, I feel like I'm in the minority whenever I speak with my other male friends (I'm male), but condoms have NEVER been a big deal for me. We're having sex? Cool. I slip one on. It's like... just that thing you do. Yes, I have known the joys of skin on skin, but latex has NEVER been a deal breaker for me. It just DOESN'T have some sort of "lost sensation." I'm still having SEX. It still feels FUCKING FANTASTIC.

    I'm almost 30, so I've been sexually active for about 12 years. In that time I've broken ONE condom. We were lucky and noticed, and just put on a new one. Also, no unplanned pregnancies. (No planned ones either, heh).

    I hate my friends who wine. It JUST. ISN'T. A BIG. DEAL. Me and my pals all grew up in the 80s and 90s. Condoms and Safe Sex were like BUZZWORDS. It was just what you did.

  32. I used to have a major problem with condom breakage with a particular partner and a particular brand, actually. (Trojan magnums, FYI.) We switched to Lifestyles Skyns on the advice of the friendly gal at the toy shop and I have never looked back. Polyisoprene just feels better than latex and I haven't broken a single one yet. (I think Durex also has a polyisoprene version.)

  33. On a somewhat related note, one time I came accross a web site with a table showing the failure rates for various birth control methods, with colomns for typical and perfect use. Pretty much like this table except they included abstinence at the top. There's nothing wrong with that in itself, but can you guess what they did? They put 0% for it's typical use failure rate! I wrote them about that, but I doubt they fixed it. Just now I tried to find it again unsuccessfully. I Did find a similar table listing abstinence's typical use failure rate as 25% (which is terrible). Unfortunately it didn't provide any source for that. But if calculated the same way I can totally believe it.

  34. Everyone listen to Mr. Monster! Condoms aren't "one size fits all". My boyfriend thought it was hilarious that I kept watching him put on a certain brand he kept buying and saying "That looks too small for you". Eventually I got fed up with watching him wince as he stuffed his dick into a too-small condom, and bought him a different brand. He was like, "Oh, maybe those other ones WERE too small!"

    So even if you're not experiencing any condom failure, try out some different brands and sizes, everyone!

  35. "...but they smell weird, and they feel weird inside me, and it does something to the friction that just doesn't feel right, and no matter how many times I tell myself "safe sex is sexy!", pausing to put one on still, still feels like a buzzkill. "

    It was actually that whole thing, back when I was monogamous, that made me get off my arse and go on the Pill (and then get an IUD instead when I realised how much the hormones were fucking me up). The friction thing - I *would* not have sex rather than use one, unless I was extremely turned on at the start, because it would hurt after not too long, and then I'd feel rubbish. This was back when I still felt that using lube was like a personal failing, which was the main problem, I think. Now I have the rule that if condoms are being used, so is lube, and everything feels a lot better.


  36. I agree with Lain and Jay R. Condoms are available, easy to use... just use them, it is just something that you do.

    You can use that moment when they are being put on to ramp up the anticipation. Stare into their eyes, lend a hand! Touch yourself! Not too hard to keep it a sexy moment.

  37. Wait wait wait.

    If you put a condom on backwards you can't just put it on the other way?

    What if you only rolled it down his dick a little?

    I had no idea about this! Fuck you, RCC.

  38. Ozy - You really shouldn't. It's touched the tip of his dick and thus has pre-cum and/or dick-skin-germs on it.

    It's definitely better than not using a condom at all (WAY better), but it's not ideal.

  39. This is the same anon who posted earlier about how condoms are chafy:

    Someone once dragged me to a safe sex forum where we talked about condom use. One of the moderators showed us check for holes. You should be able to squeeze the packet and feel the air inside pushing back at your fingers. If you can't do this, there is probably a hole in the foil and you should throw the condom out.
    At the time I thought this was really silly advice but I did use it once... and I'm glad I did, because upon closer (visual) inspection there WAS a hole. I don't think someone tried to sabotage the condom or anything but my partner had stored it loose in a drawer, which is far from ideal.

  40. Oh wow...I always thought "perfect use" meant pinching the reservoir as you roll the condom on, never re-using them, holding on to the base as you pull out afterward, etc. It never occurred to me that "perfect use" might just mean...use.

    btw, I've been sexually active for 21 years now with condoms as my only birth control, and I've never had so much as a pregnancy scare. YAY condoms!

  41. I just clicked on that link to see what country would be awful enough to consider condoms as evidence of prostitution, and I was really upset when the article loaded and it was Washington, DC.

    Oh, and about trying different sizes of condom- my sex ed classes went on about how normal condoms were tested for ridiculous lengths so you didn't have to worry about them not fitting, and never mentioned that girth was a factor too. This seems to be pretty common, because I've run into a significant number of guys who needed magnums and didn't know it (and one guy who needed a double magnum and was squeezing into regulars and bitching about how much he hated using condoms- gee I wonder why?)

  42. I was rather in perversecowgirl's camp, insofar as my understanding of perfect v typical use. However, given the number of things that qualify as user error and can theoretically risk invalidating condom effectiveness, I now wonder how many actual condom failures are tallied along in the 18% failure rate. I also wonder if it's possible that that accounts for much of the 2% failure rate for perfect use.

    In either case, I'm certain abstinence-only education can take some responsibility for many cases of "operator error". If you're not being educated to use them at all, who cares if you know how to use one properly, right?

    Having been offered such health programs in my youth, I am therefore off to open my expired, one-size-fits-all condom with my teeth, after extracting it from my wallet (where it has been for some months awaiting my need of it), without checking for perforations in the packaging. After that, I see no need to follow perversecowgirl's advice about pinching the tip and gripping the base, since it might ruin the moment. But before I go, can anyone recommend a good OB/GYN?

  43. I have always used condoms and there's one advantage that I've not hear mentioned - it is generally less messy! For both parties - the cum is neatly contained in the condom ready for easy disposal.

  44. Uninformed AdolescentAugust 10, 2011 at 6:40 PM

    So, my high school sex education luckily avoided having much misinformation... but it so avoided having much information past an anatomy lesson. (The weeks my health class was supposed to be discussing safe sex, my school had a messed up schedule so everyone could take the state standardized tests... yeah, not as useful.) I have picked up a fair amount from... who knows, discussions with friends and reading Wikipedia, probably, so the information in this post and thread is not new to me, but I was wondering if anyone had a good recommendation for source of comprehensive sex ed and information on proper safer practices (preferably on the web).

  45. U.A., try out Scarleteen: http://www.scarleteen.com/

    I found that site super-helpful back in the day!

    Also Planned Parenthood is awesome.

  46. I've used condoms for years and only once had one slip off. That was the only thing I've ever had go wrong with them- I've never had one split or anything. I tend to use the extra strong ones, but still: if they're put on properly with no trapped air in them, its very unlikely that something will go wrong.

    Actually I had a doctor tell me a similar stat to the one you have there, she said 'you're only using condoms? But they're ineffective 10% of the time!' or something like that, and she thought I should have been on some other birth control as well. If that stat was correct then I really probably should have been. But I was sure it was 98% effective and told her as much. Reading your post here I thought 'uh-oh, I was wrong! ...Oh wait, no I wasn't.' Thank god for that!

  47. UA: You actually had the anatomy lesson! That's a pretty big step above anything that's available in the entire state of Alabama. (Sadly, I'm not joking. AL's board of education is an utter joke.)

    Anon: It's sad when a health-care professional doesn't know the facts as well as a layperson. Very, very sad.

  48. Condoms are great!

    They are! Reporting in: Another happy condom user. We use them as Perverse Cowgirl describes. Plus I always use lubricant for PIV sex with my partner. Zero condom failures or other accidents over the years. Lots of fine fucking.

    UA, in addition to Scarleteen, which is a great site, you might like

    More options here

  49. My FP doctor did worst than 'They're only blah effective!' - when I told her that I was using condoms as birth control, she and the nurse both looked horrified, and one of them declared that I might be pregnant already!

    I was really quite weirded out. She also assumed that I couldn't abstain until I had my IUD put in, not due to the nature of teenagers, but because my boyfriend probably wouldn't let me. WTF doctor?

    TJ Rowe

  50. Huh. I always thought perfect use meant pinching the reservoir, etc. Which is a smart thing to do, I've had at least 3 get air in there like a balloon and pop during sex.

    Incidentally, I got pregnant while on perfect use of the pill. Sometimes, statistics beats you with the unlucky stick. Or in my retrospective case, the actually quite lucky stick.

  51. Hiya Holly! Love the blog. Your spirited attitude inspires in me feelings of empowerment.

    Just wondering something about this post. When you say:

    "... if someone says that condoms are their primary method of birth control, but only uses them sometimes, they're counted as a "typical" user. When they get pregnant, they go in that 18%."

    I'm just curious what you read or who you talked to that gave you that information. Thanks!

  52. Hershele OstropolerAugust 13, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    you should throw them away instead of turning them inside out if you put them on wrong the first time

    Since I read this I've been making a point of checking before putting them on.

  53. Man, to whoever said that condoms give them horrible chafing problems -- I am the exact opposite. My partner and I had major problems for like a month after switching to an IUD until we realized that lube is always going to be required for me for PIV sex. We then took a bit to find a good brand of lube. Now that we've got one, it's great, and we can have whatever sex we want.

    The nice thing about using condoms was that they didn't fail silently. The only failure we had was when one slipped off. I took EC and didn't get pregnant. If my IUD fails now, I won't know until I'm late.

  54. Hershele OstropolerAugust 13, 2011 at 9:14 PM

    Yes, I have known the joys of skin on skin, but latex has NEVER been a deal breaker for me. It just DOESN'T have some sort of "lost sensation."

    My experience, which is mine, is there's a slight diminishment of sensation. Not "I can't feel anything" diminishment, but definitely "that's not the same at all" diminishment.

    I don't like that using condoms enforces a sharp division between "not having intercourse" and "having intercourse," which is not how I conceptualize the process of having sex (not entirely a euphemism for "having sexual fantasies").

  55. Reading all of this, I realize how incredibly lucky I have been with all of my health care providers. Even the family practitioner I saw as a teenager was very up-front and non-judgemental. "You want birth control? Okay! We'll start you on this brand...and here are all of the pamphlets you could ever want on how it works and how to use it effectively! Also, you really should continue to use condoms to protect against infections. Even if you THINK this is the last person you'll ever have sex with, he probably isn't, and you should continue to use condoms until you're with your life-partner!"

    (not sure I will ever have a "life partner" at this point, but I think that was pretty good advice to give a 16 year old living in Virginia...)

    I agree that sex feels better without a condom. And there was exactly one time period when I was having sex without condoms--in the second half of a monogamous two year relationship. I was on hormonal BC, and VERY careful about taking it at the same time every day and all that, but it still sort of stressed me out sometimes. Still, I liked the skin-on-skin feel, and I did like how there was less of a clear division between "this is the foreplay part!" and "this is the intercourse part!"

    Now, though, I absolutely will not have sex without a condom (and I'm still on the pill). I sleep around with other people who sleep around on a semi-regular basis, so it's really really not worth the risk, of pregnancy or STIs.

    SO. If I find myself in another longish monogamous relationship, I will probably consider going condom-less again, after appropriate window-periods and testing and all that, but...not now, no way.

  56. I always assumed that "condom failure" meant it ripped. You point out so many great things.

    Apply the logic you apply here to all the other things we are supposed to avoid, and suddenly it is clear that while science is wonderful, there are loads of scallywags out there posing as scientists reporting crap.

  57. I was recently told by a midwife at PP that constant condom use would help cure my low-grade HPV.

    Clearly she misunderstood the study (which she referenced!) that concluded that women with HPV who used condoms saw improvements in their condition moreso than women who didnt. This, despite the fact that condoms are not 100% effective for avoiding HPV which can be

    Using a little thing called LOGIC, i deduced that the results were because the women's partners were probably carriers and those that used condoms weren't constantly passing it back & forth!

    My point is that people have funny thoughts about condoms. & either way, I'm gonna keep (insert euphemism for using condoms here)

  58. My experience, which is mine, is there's a slight diminishment of sensation. Not "I can't feel anything" diminishment, but definitely "that's not the same at all" diminishment.

  59. http://my.deviantart.com/messages/#/d4frjny

    I thought of you when I saw this.

  60. Following up my earlier comment -- I compared prices and with Condom Depot's free shipping, it came out to the same price for 100 of the brand we like, though sadly I usually make a smaller purchase ;-) . At any rate, totally agree with never buy from the drugstore again!