There are so many claims made about condoms these days that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Perhaps you first heard some of these things from your mother, who sat you on her lap one day and calmly demonstrated proper use, with guidelines for when appropriate. Yeah, right. She probably would have spanked you for even mentioning the word. As for your dad, get real.
Like most of us, you probably first heard about condoms in the locker room or from your friends. Or you read something in a magazine or on social media. As a result, your poor head is filled with various myths, rumors, half-truths, and bad jokes, interspersed with a few actual facts. So, herewith are 10 more half-truths or untruths to add to your noggin.
1 Condoms have a high failure rate. According to one website, “18 couples out of 100 who say they use condoms as their primary contraception method will experience an unintended pregnancy in the first 12 months.” Of course, this includes folks out of this same 100 couples who happened not to be using a condom at the time they got pregnant (or during the whole time) — which greatly reduces a condom’s effectiveness — as well as those who were not using the condoms correctly when they got pregnant. (By the way, though this informative website refers to condomology as “the study of condoms,” starting a sentence with “condomologically speaking” is probably not a good idea.) The failure rate decreases substantially, however, when condoms are properly used: “If used correctly every time you have sex, male condoms are 98% effective. This means that two out of 100 women using male condoms as contraception will become pregnant in one year.”
2 Condoms are expensive. While considerably less expensive than all other forms of birth control, apart from abstinence, averaging as little as 4 cents apiece, condoms can add up when used over a lifetime. For example, say you and your partner have sex an average of five times a week — a goal that is highly optimistic though conceivable. At 20 cents per week times 52, that’s $10.40 per year. Or $624 over 60 years (assuming that you are still managing the same frequency of sex). Of course, they’re still way cheaper than having a baby or contracting an STD.
3 You need to show an ID to purchase condoms. Not! If you are tall enough to reach the pharmacy counter, you are old enough to purchase them. There’s no minimum age. Indeed, I’m thinking of sending a box or two to new family members as a way of welcoming them with my best wishes for a joyful but responsible sexual life.
4 Condoms are boring. Wrong! No longer your grandfather’s condoms, today they’re available in a dazzling array of flavors, colors, and fragrances. Choose from chocolate, vanilla, mint, banana, strawberry, grape, orange, and yes, even bacon-flavored condoms. I suspect pistachio, grape nut, and beer-flavored varieties will be next. Some condoms even glow in the dark, which I suppose could be useful in certain situations.
5 Condoms reduce sexual pleasure. Actually, most condoms are thin enough that, when put on properly, they will not reduce sensitivity. Using a water or silicone-based lubricant (both inside and out) can also enhance pleasure while reducing the chance of breakage. Indeed, when a man allows his partner to put the condom on him, sexual pleasure can be enhanced in a big way.
6 Condoms can be recycled. While recycling is a commendable activity that is good for the environment, used condoms should never be placed in the recycling bin. Neither should they be flushed down the toilet. Rather, they should be properly disposed of in a trash container. Male condoms should never be reused, under any circumstances.
7 Male condoms can get lost in a woman’s vagina or uterus. It’s hard to understand how this silly myth got started. First of all, the opening to the cervix is way too small for a condom to pass through it. Second, the vagina is just a little pouch, not Mammoth Cave. How can it get lost in there? Though condoms can occasionally slip off inside, they are not difficult to retrieve.
8 Condoms are not reliable because they often slip off or break. Any manufactured product can fail to work if not used properly, and condoms are no exception. Condoms from reputable manufacturers are rigorously tested for bursting volume (in which they are blown up like balloons to ridiculous proportions), absence of holes, and integrity of packaging. Slippage and breakage are fairly rare (breakage rates are about 1 or 2 percent), and occur with only a small number of inexperienced users. Simple things like opening the condom package with a knife or applying the condom incorrectly can lead to failure. Fortunately, practice makes perfect and, with the help of a patient partner, you too can quickly become an expert condom user.
9 Using a condom means wasting semen. In some countries, there is a belief that semen confers strength and therefore belongs inside a woman, not wasted in a condom. I doubt this belief is all that widespread here in the U.S., but I suspect there’s a little of it at play in some men’s subconscious perceptions of masculinity and male power. You know, “my little soldiers” and all that. The idea is that using a condom prevents all the wondrous benefits of a man’s sperm from being passed along to that waiting vessel otherwise known as a woman. Of course, the woman might also wish to prevent potential health risks, including an unintended pregnancy or STD. And don’t forget nature itself, which “wastes” all those billions of sperm produced during a man’s lifespan, whether they get ejaculated outside or inside a woman, flushed out of the vagina, or reabsorbed into a man’s body. Talk about wasteful!
10 Wearing a condom makes you look unattractive. Well, I suppose there are a few folks who prefer to live dangerously with an unprotected partner. I think most people, however, would view their sexual partners in a much better light when wearing a condom, for it shows they care enough to wear one (not to mention how good they look in one of those fancy strawberry-colored or glow-in-the-dark numbers). Men of England, during the 1600s, used to tie pink ribbons around their condoms to hold them in place and make them more alluring to women. I guess it’s all in how you look at it.
You can read about more myths in this excellent publication, from which many of the facts in this article were taken.