Research & Insights

Busting Myths About Condoms to Increase Usage

Encouraging condom use can play a critical role in reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among young people. University of Wisconsin researchers suggest that the best place to start is busting the myth that condoms reduce pleasure.

Researchers Jenny Higgins and Yu Wang describe their study in the July 2015 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. They used a nationally-representative survey data gathered from 2328 young heterosexual adults (ages 15 – 24) who had sex in the past month.

To get at attitudes about pleasure, participants were asked “What is the chance that if you/your partner used a condom during sex, you would feel less physical pleasure?” They were also asked about their age, education, race, and sexual history – all variables thought to be related to condom use. Overall, 44 percent of participants reported not using a condom the last time they had heterosexual sex – 53 percent of young women, and 34 percent of young men.

The researchers then statistically examined the relationship between attitudes about condoms, pleasure and condom usage. They found that associating condoms with lack of pleasure was a stronger predictor of condom usage than any other variable.

“Among young women, compared with those who said condoms were unlikely to reduce pleasure, those who said condoms were almost certain to reduce pleasure were 8.7 times as likely not to use a condom,” Higgins and Wang note. “Among young men…the odds were 9.1 times a high.”

Higgins and Wang suggest that understanding how young people think about condoms and pleasure is an important component in getting people to use protection when they have sex. “Sexual health professionals might…wish to share ideas on how to better integrate condoms into the sexual experience with both male and female clients,” they explain.

American Journal of Public Health

Jenny A. Higgins and Yu Wang, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Posted: September 2, 2015
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