The Ins and Outs: Slipping into correct condom use

In the heat of the moment, a condom can seem inconvenient. Your lover is lying there, waiting anxiously to be pleasured, and you’re fumbling around trying to roll a thin piece of latex over your penis as fast as you possibly can. In that hurry, mistakes happen – and they happen worldwide.

Incorrect condom usage has officially become a concern for the public on a global scale, according to a study released in the Journal of Sexual Health in February. The group who produced the study, the Kinsey Institute Condom Use Research Team, found condom errors in 14 countries around the world, as reported by 50 peer-reviewed articles on the subject.

“Breakage and slippage were most commonly investigated, but the prevalence of other condom use errors and problems found in this review were substantially higher,” according to the report.

Condoms are designed to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STIs, and are between 95 and 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy if used properly; but that number drops to 85 percent when used incorrectly.

Previously, the International Planned Parenthood Federation had reported that roughly 2 percent of condoms break or slip off during sex on average due to incorrect usage, but this report suggests that the percentage might actually be higher.

The study reported that the most condom usage errors in these 14 countries were: not using a condom throughout sex or putting it on upside down or inside out; leaving insufficient space or failing to squeeze the air out of the tip of the condom to leave room for the semen to collect during ejaculation; not using water-based lubricants during sex and incorrect withdrawal. Researchers suspect that these usage errors largely contribute to condom failure rates worldwide.

The resulting problems, the team discovered, included condom breakage or slippage and leakage of semen; these errors in condom usage come with consequences.

“The most important reasons for using a condom properly are that improper usage increases the likelihood of STI transmission and unplanned pregnancy,” said Associate Professor Chris Moffatt, who teaches human sexuality.

Unfortunately, the errors in condom usage seem to be directly attributed to not knowing how to use them correctly, at least in the United States. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, only 39 percent of American high school students are taught how to correctly put on a condom in their health classes, leaving the remaining 61 percent to figure it out on their own, which makes them more likely to make a basic error in condom usage.

The lesson is to learn how to properly use a condom and to always do so no matter what. Educating yourself will cut condom failure rates and decrease your personal probability of getting yourself or someone else pregnant, or contracting an STI. It’s a win-win. Go to plannedparenthood.org to learn more about the right way to use a condom.

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