Safe Sex

Why You Shouldn’t Rush When Putting on a Condom

May 29, 2017 by Justin Lehmiller

Condoms are one of the best tools we have for reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and preventing unintended pregnancies. Unfortunately, however, they don’t always provide as much protection as they could because people tend to make a lot of mistakes when it comes to applying condoms. These mistakes include using sharp objects to open condom packages, not checking the expiration date, and taking the condom off before sex is finished. Why are condom use errors so common? Undoubtedly, there are multiple reasons, not the least of which is a simple lack of knowledge regarding proper condom use. However, a recent study published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections points to at least one other important potential contributor: rushed condom application.

In this study, researchers recruited patients at five STI clinics in the United States. In total, 512 people took part in this study, of whom most (59%) were women and aged 29 on average. They were asked to complete a survey each day for up to 180 days that included several questions about their sexual activities in the preceding 24 hours. The key question focused on in this paper was this: “Was there enough time available to put the condom on without being rushed?”

What the researchers found was that when they compared instances of rushed to non-rushed condom application, those who rushed were: 1.) almost twice as likely to experience condom breakage, 2.) almost twice as likely to say that the condom slipped off during sex, 3.) about one-third more likely to stop using the condom before sex was over, and 4.) about three times more likely to say that the condom leaked.

These findings held regardless of whether men or women made the reports and regardless of age, with one exception: those who were under age 21 were much more likely to experience condom breakage when they rushed to put it on compared to persons over age 21.

What these results tell us is that rushed condom application seems to put people at risk for condom failure. This makes sense because, if applied hastily, people might not follow all of the instructions (such as failing to leaving a space at the tip to collect ejaculate) or they might not get it on all the way before they start having sex.

In light of this, it would seem reasonable to conclude that one way to potentially reduce your risk of making a condom use mistake is to take your time when putting it on. For more tips on proper condom use, see here and here.

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To learn more about this research, see: Crosby, R., Graham, C., Milhausen, R., Sanders, S., Yarber, W., & Shrier, L. A. (2015). Associations between rushed condom application and condom use errors and problems. Sexually Transmitted Infections.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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