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The goings-on around the condom world

Female condoms on the move

Posted by Condomologist on March 9, 2010

Good to see Washington DC taking the lead on some dicey issues: sexual health types like myself get excited when a big city officially goes gay marriage and female condom on you at the same time. I’ve heard rumblings that the campaign to distribute female condoms — which in more politically correct circles go by a gender-neutral name (such as receptive condom) because they can be used anally by men — is not adequately targeting the gay community, and also that it misrepresents itself as the first city to put forth such an effort. And both those gripes probably have some validity. But no matter. It’s pretty bad ass for an American city to make such a bold move.

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The right size search carries on…

Posted by Condomologist on March 2, 2010

Our Swiss friends have found that pre-teens are doing it and doing it and doing it unsafely because their wee-wees are too small for normal size condoms. So it looks like they’re producing an extra-small condom. And if it works out, I imagine there’s a market for older men with smaller penises — assuming we find a way not to emasculate them too much in marketing and selling these things.

Posted in Condom Brands and Styles, News and Current Events, Research and Study | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

NYC Condom Contest

Posted by Condomologist on March 1, 2010

Vote for your favorite design in the New York City Dept of Public Health’s condom contest. It’s good to see a city government willing to pour money into an ongoing campaign to make condoms cool.

Posted in Condom Art, Condom Brands and Styles, Contests, News and Current Events | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Go Kinsey, it’s your birthday!

Posted by Condomologist on June 19, 2009

The Kinsey Institute  at Indiana University has been awarded an NIH grant to study condom use, in particular why heterosexual men choose not to wear condoms or take them off mid-coitus due to lack of sensation. Much needed research, look forward to the results.

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Withdrawal as effective as condoms. Let’s be honest.

Posted by Condomologist on June 9, 2009

While I try to stay focused on condoms on the blog, the fact is that such a focus stems from my larger goal of promoting safer, more responsible sex. And that means providing a forum in which I discuss a means of contraception that can prevent both pregnancy and STDs. But occasionally the word “condom” keeps popping up amidst discussion of some other related topic — in this case the act of withdrawal, or “pulling out”, prior to ejaculation as a means to prevent pregnancy — and I can’t ignore it. The blogosphere is rife with debate and commentary since a piece came out in the June issue of the journal Contraception outlining data which shows withdrawal to be comparably effective to condoms: Couples will get pregnant 18% of the time with typical use of withdrawal, compared to 17% of condom users.  Props to my hometown Philadelphia Inquirer not just for summarizing the issue fairly well, but for highlighting the hypocrisy and dangerous views of some of the sex-postive sexual educator crowd. 

Science isn’t perfect here, as the data collection methods leave something to be desired in terms of providing greater insight and detail into how exclusively withdrawal is used, how exactly it’s used, how often it’s even reported as a method of contraception…but I won’t get into details, as the larger point stands that withdrawal is not only a decent option, but it’s fairly commonly used. Check out the blog from one of the co-authors of the study for a good synopsis of the debate. My goal is simply to bring awareness to the issue and make the point that we need to start addressing all forms of contraception openly and honestly and then believe that users — young people included — have the ability to make an informed decision. That includes information on condoms, of course, and it definitely includes information on abstinence and monogamy.

Still, we see and hear too much from professionals in my field espousing their own personal biases and essentially committing the same sin as the abstinence-only crowd by denying their students the truth — something they vehemently claim to support and practice. Case in point, from the above Philadelphia Inquirer article:

“I’m certainly not outraged by the article, but I’m concerned about how it could be interpreted,” said Dayle Steinberg, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “The whole thing about withdrawal is that it’s hard to control yourself when you’re in the middle of the act. For someone who has no access to anything else, sure, it’s better than nothing.”

The “better than nothing” rap is one of several misconceptions about withdrawal, Jones and her coauthors say.

Really, the CEO of Planned Parenthood, for which I volunteer as an educator, is on record as saying withdrawal is simply “better than nothing?” She’s not arguing with the data — although, to be clear, Planned Parenthood hasn’t yet updated their website to account for this story, which summarizes data which has been around for quite some time — but rather arguing that men simply aren’t that good at controlling themselves. Well most men I know do know when they’re about to ejaculate, but regardless, the point here is that the numbers speak for themselves.

But Steinberg is not alone, and her company includes other very prominent sex educators:

“For plenty of young couples using withdrawal, it doesn’t take long to get to a time when a male partner decides to go without withdrawing on purpose – often without consulting his partner,” wrote Heather Corinna, a Seattle sex educator who runs Scarleteen.com, a popular sex advice Web site.

Yikes! All the comprehensive sex ed crowd is running for cover, quick to rationalize their years of avoiding the withdrawal discussion with stories of irresponsible, incompetent men who can’t be counted on to make withdrawal effective. It’s fair to mention the downsides of a contraceptive method, as Steinberg sort of does, and as we all do in our programming. But if we’ve reached the point where we’re essentially telling women that men can’t be trusted and that their intentions are selfish — and, as such, implying that men have little role to play in the safer sex process — then we’re a long way from doing our job.

Part of our failure to find common ground with the abstinence-only crowd is a failure to address the need to address the cultural values and sexual mores of young people that contribute to astronomical teen pregnancy rates in this country. And one step in that huge process of achieving meaningful dialogue involves accepting young people’s sexuality while encouraging them to engage in meaningful relationships in which they can communicate with and trust their partners. Achieving progress on that front means continuing on with our goal of making sexuality less taboo, but in the process treating teens like human beings capable of making difficult decisions; that might (and often should) mean postponing sexual intercourse until they’ve known their partner for some time, and then it will follow that, if and when they engage in vaginal intercourse, they’re able to discuss condoms, rings, patches, IUDs, pills, and — yes! — withdrawal. But as long as men are pushed to the side and dismissed as pointless in the reproductive health world, and as long as we condescendingly treat young people as not worthy of science-based information, then we have a long, long way to go.

Posted in Activism, Communication, Education, News and Current Events | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

One more reason to support condoms

Posted by Condomologist on June 2, 2009

In the wake of the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller, I think it important to reiterate a point I’ve long made as a professional in the reproductive and sexual health world: I fully support and understand the pro-life (or anti-choice, whatever you want to call it) position — in fact, I can come to no other conclusion, despite my my strong pro-choice views, that abortion does indeed take away life — but I cannot reconcile the views of those who are both pro-life and anti-contraception. If we as a nation seek to reduce the number of abortions, we must make clear to our children that condoms and other forms of contraception are highly effective in preventing pregnancy in the first place if they choose to have sex. Condoms work, they work well, and they have helped avoid untold numbers of abortions. The pro-life stance is respectable, but anti-abortion advocates would be wise to — among many other things, including condemning the kind of terrorism that led to Tiller’s death — step up to the plate and promote a sea change in the way we promote healthy sexuality in this country. And that means an understanding that teenagers and other adults will have pre-marital sex, and when they do, they deserve the right to have all the tools at their disposal to avoid becoming pregnant.

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Oh, Bristol, you just don’t get it

Posted by Condomologist on June 1, 2009

Bristol Palin, now an abstinence spokeswoman for the Candies Foundation, graces the pages of this week’s People magazine, and the cover quotes her as saying, “If girls realized the consequences of sex, nobody would be having sex. Trust me. Nobody.” No, Bristol, if girls realized the consequences of having unprotected sex, they may consider not having sex or they may consider having a sex and using a condom. You got pregnant because you didn’t use condoms, not because you had sex, which amounts to a failure to use protection, not a failure to abstain. Though you didn’t do that either.

bristol_palin

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French First Lady takes on the Pope

Posted by Condomologist on May 28, 2009

From Women on the Web comes news that hottie French First Lady Carla Bruni blasts the Catholic Church’s stance on condoms. Bruni is quoted in the magazine Femme Actuelle:

I was born Catholic, I was baptised, but in my life I feel profoundly secular. I find that the controversy coming from the Pope’s message — albeit distorted by the media — is very damaging. I think the Church should evolve on this issue. It presents the condom as a contraceptive which, incidentally, it forbids, although it is the only existing protection.

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Condom Use Worldwide

Posted by Condomologist on May 21, 2009

The Guardian takes a look at WHO data reflecting the prevalence of condom use around the globe. China comes in atop the list around 90%, with the UK a good ways behind in second, and the US lagging even farther back at 72.8%, behind Vietnam, Iran and others. Check out the data here. It doesn’t take into account myriad factors — presence of other contraceptive methods, China’s one-child policy, condom availability…the list goes on — but it’s interesting nonetheless.

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Porn Remains Mostly Condom-Free

Posted by Condomologist on May 19, 2009

ABC News revisits the question of condom use in porn during this year’s Adult Entertainment Expo. The story makes clear that most studio porn video releases will remain condom-free to cater to an audience that shuns protected sex, but at least the industry has greatly stemmed the tide of HIV transmission with regular PCR/DNA HIV tests of its performers that can detect the virus far sooner than typical HIV antibody tests — generally in about 2 weeks after one contracts it. Two things that struck me were the general disregard — especially amongst entertainers — for other STDs that can be contracted not using condoms (chlamydia and gonorrhea, in particular) and the failure to mention that a good deal of porn being made today comes from outside the California industry — at least a lot of what I come across in my “studies.” The awareness is apparent, but the unwillingess to increase condom use in porn is just one example of the fact that we in the sexual health field must understand that increased condom availability is just one piece of the puzzle; a good many everyday citizens also know full well the risks they’re taking with unprotected sex and simply decide, for many different reasons, that rubbers just aren’t their thing. In porn, they’re just not very realistic, so better to focus on the best testing methods and other forms of risk reduction — such as withdrawal — when it comes to pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

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