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Tuesday, October 5 2010

The whole “who’s using condoms thing”

If you’ve have an interest in sex, whether as a sex geek or a sexual participant, you’ve likely heard that Indiana University has released the latest and largest National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. The survey, which like all other research, bases the activities of everyone in America on a random, and small sampling of the population (in this case 5,865 men and women between the ages of 14-94) is even larger than the last largest sex survey in almost 20 years. That one, the big American survey called Sex in America, was released out of Chicago in 1994, with research based on the answers of 3,432 randomly selected Americans ages 18 to 59.

While I might sound bitter about numbers, I know that when you sample a population the size of a small town in the middle of bud-dunk-a-dunk, Ohio, you get enough results to make blanket statements that stick, making this research is insightful and important.  I’ve yet to read all 140 pages of the actual study, but I will deduce that there is a lot of valuable research and information ensconsed in the pages of the NSSHB.

I’ve been pondering this whole “who’s using condom thing” since yesterday’s announcement of major findings stating that 79% of males and 58% of females between the ages of 14-17 use condoms for vaginal intercourse, while less than 10% of men aged 50 and over do (each few years after 17, from 18-24 and so on see significant drops in the rate of condom use for both men and women, with women always falling significantly below men in use, until age 50 when they’re .6% more likely to use condoms). In fact, the research states, 1 in 4 acts of vaginal intercourse are protected by condoms, as opposed to 1 in 3 for singles.

Here’s what I think. I think the young ‘uns, those 14-17 that are engaging in vaginal intercourse, are using condoms because they are freaked the f— out about having a baby while they’re still so young. I think that schools pound the whole pregnancy prevention/you don’t want to be a teen mom/dad thing, into our head, even handing out fake babies that cry, wet their diapers and need to eat, to remind us just how tough parenting is. I think the disease element plays a role, but really, the reason younger people use condoms is to avoid getting pregnant. As we get older, and we feel more confident, we may think things like, “oh, we can “tell” if someone has an STI” or “here’s my HIV test, I’m negative, you?” and screw away with condoms, or actually without them (you get the pun, though). We may even protect ourselves from pregnancy in other ways, and if we’re 50 plus, having vaginal sex with other people in our age group, odds are we’re not going to be as worried about pregnancy.

So, while it’s great to applaud that younger people are using condoms, I’m still curious as to why. I know I haven’t always been safe, and as I’ve gotten older I’m definitely not as safe as when I started having sex at 16 (then I used both condoms and another form of contraception). I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but I’m just saying…

For more in detail findings from the 9 papers that encompass the NSSHB, start with Cory Silverberg’s insightful writing over at About.com.

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