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Men Are More Open to Condoms Than Many Women Think

Like "taking a shower with a raincoat on"? Hardly.

Almost 30 years ago, the AIDS epidemic made condoms a necessary part of sex in anything other than monogamous relationships. But traditional antipathy toward condoms never disappeared, and many people who want to use them don't follow through, often because they fear their partner might be put off by condoms. However, a new study shows that men are more open to condoms than many women believe.

Australian researchers asked two questions of 1,144 college students, age 18 to 25: How willing are you to use condoms? And how willing do you think your lover is?

Respondents were separated into two groups, those in monogamous relationships, and those who engaged in casual sex. Overall, in both groups, both men and women were more willing to use condoms than they thought their lovers were. The biggest difference occurred among women engaged in casual sex. They substantially under-estimated men's willingness to use condoms.

Men (and women) typically cite three objections to condoms:

(1) They reduce penile sensitivity, i.e. they're "like taking a shower with a raincoat on." Hardly. Imagine watching a movie and your girlfriend starts caressing you between the legs. Many men would become highly aroused, despite the layers of clothing standing between those caresses and their penises. A shirt, pants, and underwear are about 500 times thicker than the average condom. How much sensation can a condom really block? Far from showering with a raincoat on, condoms are more like showering with a ring on one finger.

Meanwhile, condom manufacturers have confused the sensitivity issue by claiming that their condoms deliver more sensitivity than any others. Wrong. All condoms feel about the same (even those with ribbed sides). People have personal preferences, but sexual pleasure is not something condoms deliver. It's something lovers create.

A final sensitivity suggestion: Place a drop of lubricant on the head of the penis before covering it with the condom. This makes a noticeable difference to many men.

(2) "They interrupt." Many lovers dislike taking a "time out" for the man to don the condom. In addition, during those few moments, some men lose erotic focus and their erections wilt. But a condom need not interrupt lovemaking if the woman places it on the man while continuing to caress his penis.

(3) "They break." This is possible, but it's easily prevented. Heat damages latex. Don't store condoms in your wallet, pants pockets, or glove compartment. They may get warm enough to suffer heat damage. Open the wrapper beforehand, not in the middle of lovemaking, which risks a ripped condom. Roll the condom onto the penis slowly. Once it's on, use a water-based lubricant (Astroglide, etc.) on both the vagina and the condom-covered penis to allow easy, no-breakage insertion. And after the man ejaculates, one of you should hold the condom onto the base of the penis so it doesn't slip off as the man withdraws.

Finally, some women object to the taste of latex during oral sex. To remedy this, try sucking on a lifesaver while sucking a condom-covered penis. Some men love this, saying the combination of soft lips and tongue and a hard lifesaver also provides extra sensual pleasure.

Sure, sex may feel a little more spontaneous and fun without a condom. But great sex depends on deep relaxation, and who can relax when concerned about pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections? This new study shows that people are more open to condoms than their lovers think, so if you're afraid to raise the subject, don't be.

The study: Edwards, G.L. and B.L. Barber. "Women May Underestimate Their Partners' Desires to Use Condoms," Journal of Sex Research (2010) 47:59.