Ask Miss Meghan: Are Condoms Really That Effective?

Dear Miss Meghan,
My friends and I were wondering if you could settle a debate for us: How effective are condoms really? The package says they are 98 percent effective, but we’ve heard a lot of stories about people getting pregnant or STIs even when a condom is used.
-Jimmy

Dear Jimmy,

I’m going to answer your question assuming that you are talking about male condoms, if that is okay with you. The answer to your debate over battle hats is that condoms are only as effective as the persons using it.

The wonderful folks who make condoms have a certain standard that they have to maintain in order to distribute their product here in the USA, and I’d wager that no one is sitting around the factory poking holes in every few just for fun (lets chalk that one up to urban legend).

Most latex condoms are 98 percent effective against pregnancy, and highly reduce the risk of transmitting an STI, but that assumes you do everything 100 percent correctly, every time.

Yes, correct condom use is more than just putting it on. The first step is to make sure the condom is not expired. Second, you want to make sure that you are using the correct size. Penises come in all shapes and sizes.

If you have condom that is too big or too small, it can slip off or reduce circulation and/or pleasure. Length of the penis is less an issue than width (with a shorter penis, just do not unroll the condom all the way). Plenty of websites have explanations of how to find your correct condom size.

One of my favorites is condomania.com/TheyFit. TheyFit is actually a custom line of condoms, and from the site you can print off a measuring tool that gauges width and length. The TheyFit brand can be pricey, but if you call Condommania they can recommend mainstream brands that are similar in size.

Once you have found the correct size, and are sure that the condom you are using isn’t expired (and that there are no holes or tears in the package), you want to put it on the (erect) penis before it gets anywhere near your partner’s genital area. Pre-cum can contain semen, so if gets near the vaginal opening or on the outside of the condom, there is a higher risk of pregnancy.

When putting a condom on, you want to leave a bit of room at the tip, so it is helpful to squeeze the tip (getting any air out as well) as you roll it down all the way to the base of the penis. Lubricated condoms can be slippery fellas, so use two hands, or have your partner help.

Once it is on, there are still a few more things to do to ensure proper usage. If at any point it slips off or rips, put a new one on (again, because of pre-cum). Finally, when done, you need to hold onto the base of the condom while you are pulling it out, and then take it off.

If you take all these steps, every time, then condoms are 98 percent effective. Research has provided us with a “typical use” rate of pregnancy which is around 86 percent (a 14 percent chance of pregnancy).

If you do not use any type of birth control over, there is an 85 percent chance of pregnancy, so I think that, even without perfect use, your odds are much better with a condom than without.

If you want to know more about condoms, other birth control, STIs, or other sex related questions, stop by the Campus Center the week of February 7th-11th where we will be tabling for Safer Sex week with demonstrations, sex jeopardy, condom roses, and Ask-a-Nurse.

Also Love Lines will be held Wednesday, February 9th at 8pm in Cole Cinema and don’t miss the Vagina Monologues.

Happy Safer Sex week ya’ll!

Sincerely Safer,
Miss Meghan

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