Condoms are one of the best tools we have available for reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and preventing unintended pregnancies. Unfortunately, however, they don’t provide quite as much protection as they could. This is because people make a lot of mistakes when it comes to wearing and using condoms. These mistakes include using sharp objects to open condom packages, failing to check the expiration date, and taking the condom off before sex is over.
Why are these and other condom use errors so common? There are multiple reasons, not the least of which is a lack of knowledge about proper condom use, owing in large part to poor sex education. However, a study published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections suggests at least one other important contributor: rushed condom application.
Researchers recruited patients at five STI clinics in the United States. A total of 512 participants were surveyed (average age of 29), most of whom identified as female (59%). They were asked to complete a survey each day for up to 180 days, which included multiple questions about their sexual activities in the preceding 24 hours. The key question researchers honed in on for this study was as follows: “Was there enough time available to put the condom on without being rushed?”
It turned out that when they compared instances of rushed to non-rushed condom application, those who rushed were: 1.) almost two times as likely to experience condom breakage, 2.) almost two times as likely to say that the condom slipped off during sex, 3.) about one-third more likely to stop using the condom before sex was over, and 4.) about three times more likely to say that the condom leaked.
These findings were observed regardless of whether men or women made the reports and regardless of age, with one exception: those who were under age 21 (relative to those who were older) were far more likely to experience condom breakage when they rushed to put it on.
What these results suggest is that rushed condom application puts people at risk for condom failure. This makes sense because, when applied hastily, people might not follow all of the instructions (such as not leaving a space at the tip to collect ejaculate). It’s also possible that they might not get it on all the way before sex begins.
In light of this, a reasonable inference to draw from this research seems to be that you can potentially reduce your risk of making a condom use mistake by taking your time when putting it on. For more tips on proper condom use, see here and here.
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To learn more about this research, see: Crosby, R., Graham, C., Milhausen, R., Sanders, S., Yarber, W., & Shrier, L. A. (2015). Associations between rushed condom application and condom use errors and problems. Sexually Transmitted Infections.
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