Forget Teen Pregnancy: Even Adults Don’t Know How To Use Condoms

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condomsIf you want proof that sex education needs to be revamped to protect kids just take a glance at some numbers detailing the sexual activity of adults. It seems that everyone from college students to married couples don’t know how to apply or use condoms correctly, which reveals a lot about what kids definitely aren’t learning in the classroom.

Condoms have a 98% success rate with perfect use. But with grownups failing to check condoms, use lubricant, or even put them on the right way, that success rate is taking a hit. Msnbc reports that Indiana University analyzed 16 years worth of condom use data that dated all the way back to 1995. The 50 studies from 14 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, found “a laundry list” of condom application or use-related errors — and by a lot. We’re talking anywhere between one quarter to over half of adults committing major condom omissions, many of which are preventable with better instruction and education.

Some were as simple as failing to use a condom all the way through intercourse, elevating STD risks:

…between 17 percent and 51.1 percent of people queried in the studies said they’d put on a condom partway through intercourse — negating any disease-controlling benefits, since fluids are exchanged throughout intercourse not just during ejaculation. Other studies found that between 1.5 percent and 24.8 percent of sexual experiences involved putting a condom on too late in the process of intercourse.

Other errors included everything from rolling out the condom before application to not leaving any space for semen:

Late application: Between 17 percent and 51.1 percent of people reported putting a condom on after intercourse has already begun. Other studies found that late application happens in 1.5 percent to 24.8 percent of sexual encounters.

Early removal: Between 13.6 percent and 44.7 percent of individuals in the studies had taken a condom off before intercourse was over. Other studies found that early removal happens in between 1.4 percent and 26.9 percent of sexual encounters.

Unrolling a condom before putting it on: Between 2.1 percent and 25.3 percent of people reported completely unrolling a condom before putting it on.

No space at the tip: Failing to leave a reservoir for semen was reported by between 24.3 percent and 45.7 percent of respondents, depending on the study.

Failing to remove air: Almost half (48.1 percent) of women and 41.6 percent of men reported sexual encounters in which air wasn’t squeezed from the tip of the condom.

Inside-out condoms: Between 4 percent and 30.4 percent of people reported rolling on a condom inside out and then flipping it the other way around, potentially exposing their partner to bodily fluids.

Not checking for damage: Meanwhile, 82.7 percent of women and 74.5 percent of men failed to check condoms for damage before use.

No lubrication: Between 16 percent and 25.8 percent of participants had used condoms without lubrication, increasing the risk of a break.

Incorrect withdrawal: Failing to promptly and properly withdraw after ejaculation was a common mistake, occurring in up to 57 percent of encounters in one study. About 31 percent of men and 27 percent of women reported this error.

Incorrect storage: Between 3.3 percent and 19.1 percent of people in the studies had stored condoms in conditions outside of the recommendations on the package.

Again, what’s startling about these findings is that they aren’t from fumbling high school kids looking to make sense of their first safe sex lesson. These errors are from at least college-aged individuals who are sexually active and have perhaps already had obligatory safe sex education. And while some of these results surely account for sheer neglect, the high percentage of error reveals how little we’re telling kids about how to have sex safely.

While there exists the “I didn’t know I could get pregnant” explanation from a lot of teen mothers who neglected birth control altogether, these numbers for incorrect use suggest that we still have other safe sex practices to remain vigilant about.

(photo: Shutterstock)