Why Still So Few Use Condoms

Published: April 29, 2013

As the late author Norman Mailer put it, "The only thing you can depend on with condoms is that they will take 20 to 50 percent off your f***." In a conversation with Madonna on the topic, Mailer also condemned condoms for making people part of "the social machinery" and destroying "most of the joy of entrance." Madonna argued that condoms are "essential in the age of AIDS," but conceded, "they feel terrible."

If we’re honest, many of us do see condoms as robbing us of pleasure, stealing some excitement and spontaneity from intimacy, and dulling the intensity of sexuality. It’s okay to say that. These factors are the primary reasons that still only 60 percent of teenagers claim to use condoms. These factors warrant acknowledging. From there, condom usage declines as people grow older. The number one reason we have seen given time and again for refusal to wear condoms is the reduction of pleasure.

It is politically incorrect to acknowledge the truth and simplicity of the condom’s inadequacy. Criticism of the condom opens one to righteous demonization and condemnation. Condom defenders often stifle honest and helpful discussion about sexuality, unplanned pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections.

Bill Gates has a foundation that works in Africa to treat AIDS and prevent HIV infection. His research demonstrates that most Africans — like most Americans — don’t wear condoms because the primitive contraption, which has not appreciably changed in 50 years, steals their pleasure. Gates is a practical businessman and a creative inventor. He has proceeded with plans to make a better product after learning that there is widespread dissatisfaction with an existing product. His foundation will give a $100,000 grant to anyone with credible plans to make a condom that "is felt to enhance pleasure."

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