February is National Condom Month! This ‘awareness month’ may prompt the question, how well do you know the steps to correct condom use? But what about, how comfortable are you discussing and actually using condoms with an intimate partner?
Educational programs and campaigns have traditionally placed a lot of emphasis on the JUST DO IT and here is HOW TO use a condom. Lessons abound on How to purchase, How to put on, How to remove, and even How to discard (not in the toilet!)- these are all REALLY important. But are teachers also adequately addressing the how to use WITH a partner?
As much as we might teach students the steps of using a condom correctly and encourage them to use them as much as possible, implementing those steps can be far more complicated, and our educational programs need to reflect the complexity of actual intimate situations. What are some of the challenges that may be faced in real life, in addition to not knowing all the steps to correct condom use?
- Preferring the feeling of sexual activity without a condom, “It feels better without one!”
- Believing that if two people are committed, condoms aren’t needed, “If you’re just with me, we don’t need to use a condom.”
- No perceived risk associated with the sexual act, “I can’t get pregnant/STIs.”
- Lack of concern about the risks involved, “It’s no big deal if I get an STI.”
- The rewards of sex without a condom outweighing any risks, “Even if I get an STI, my partner will like me more because we have sex without a condom.”
- Difficulty communicating with a partner about condom use, “I can’t talk to my partner about condoms!”
- A male’s challenge maintaining an erection while using a condom. (I don’t have a quote for this one.)
- A female’s allergy to latex. (Or this one)
- Simply not thinking about it. “Well, I guess we won’t use a condom!”
These challenges are often not directly addressed in real life- the quotes above are often barely even acknowledged as thoughts. Or they are recognized as afterthoughts! It is our job as educators to establish a safe space where these challenges can be discussed and explored ahead of time, so that individuals are better prepared to assert a response that they are confident in when a condom challenge is faced.
So in this conversation about condoms, it shouldn’t be as simple as “No Glove, no Love” or “You could get a germ if you don’t cover your worm.” Although, these slogans are loads of fun and make me smile, and I’ll admit that marketing needs to be concise and catchy in its messaging. But something is missing, because despite the hilarious messaging out there encouraging us to “wrap it before you tap it,” there are still cases of STIs and unintended pregnancy, not to mention the individuals with ‘oops’ syndrome. (Ooops! We didn’t use a condom.) Sexuality educators need to devote time in their programs to examine all of these challenges, because they pose a much larger hurdle to overcome than learning the steps of correct condom use and just telling people to “avoid your frown, contain your clown”.
Ps. For more condom slogans, check out: http://www.condomslogans.com. and as a warning, some slogans listed on this link are heteronormative and potentially offensive.