Decades of research in sexual health has revealed that people do not practice safe-sex consistently. Of course, part of the reason for this is because condoms are not always available when people want to have sex. Other contributing factors include negative attitudes toward condoms and an inability to find condoms that fit well. However, one of the more disturbing reasons people sometimes forgo protection is because they are convinced by their sexual partners that they should not use condoms. Indeed, one study of college students found that 49% of the women surveyed reported that a sexual partner had previously persuaded them to not use condoms on at least one occasion . Building upon this finding, a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research reveals some of the more common persuasion tactics men employ in order to resist condom use with their female partners .
A total of 313 men aged 21-30 participated in this study. The sample was mostly White (67.4%) and college educated (82.1%). Also, to be eligible to participate, the men had to be single, sexually attracted to women, and they must have had at least one instance of unprotected sex in the past year (the researchers wanted to focus on men who engage in high risk behavior). Participants completed a survey that inquired about their attitudes toward women, their feelings about condoms, and their sexual history. Participants were also asked about specific condom use resistance tactics they had used in the past. Specifically, they were “asked to report the number of times…since the age of 14 that they had successfully avoided using a condom with a woman who had wanted to use one” by employing one of 10 distinct tactics. Check out the table below for a description of each of the tactics and the number of men who admitted using each of them at least once.
Overall, 80% of the men reported using one or more of these condom use resistance tactics during their lifetime. On average, participants reported having used 3.5 different tactics. As you can see in the table above, the most commonly used tactics involved providing reassurance he was “safe” and getting her so turned on that she wouldn’t care whether he used a condom or not. Perhaps not surprisingly, men who had more negative attitudes toward women and toward condoms and men who had more impulsive personalities were the most likely to report condom use resistance.
These findings are scary. Most of the men in this sample readily admitted to having successfully persuaded a woman to forgo condoms when she wanted to use them. But it's not just that--some of the tactics these guys reported are downright sociopathic. For example, the fact that 1 in 10 of the men in this sample had previously agreed to use a condom but then broke it on purpose is almost beyond words.
Of course, we must be cautious in generalizing these results, and we should not assume that this behavior is typical of all men. The participants in this study were young, single, mostly White, and from just one geographic region (Washington state). In addition, all of the men in this study had a recent history of inconsistent condom use. Thus, this is anything but a representative sample. Also, just because the focus of this study was on heterosexual men, we should not conclude that condom use resistance is something that is confined exclusively to this group--it is likely that women and persons in same-sex relationships sometimes persuade their partners not to use condoms too.
That said, these results tell us that we need to do a much better job of educating people about safe-sex negotiation because there is clearly a lot of room for improvement. No one should be pressured or coerced into having unprotected sex if that isn’t what they want. If you want to use condoms, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Be explicit about your rules up front and stand by them. If your partner won’t respect your decision, then they don’t respect or deserve you.
 Smith, L. A. (2003). Partner influence on noncondom use: Gender and ethnic differences. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 346–350.
 Cue Davis, K., Stappenbeck, C. A., Norris, J., George, W. H., Jacques-Tiura, A. J., Schraufnagel, T. J., & Kajumulo, K. F. (in press). Young men's condom use resistance tactics: A latent profile analysis. Journal of Sex Research.
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