The vast majority of available literature on condom failures has focused on inconsistent condom use, ignoring the phenomenon of incorrect condom use. Researchers tend to treat consistent condom users as consistently correct condom users, which is not necessarily the case. Bleaker yet, people with a history of condom failure tend to become distrustful of condom efficacy, misattributing their own incorrect use of the product to the company that made the condom and deterring future use.
However, the data is quite consistent that the vast majority of condom failures are due to human error and not the manufacturing of the condom itself. When used consistently and correctly, male latex condoms are at least 98% effective in preventing the transmission of fluid-spread sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. Below is a list of the most common condom use errors.
- Neglecting to check for an air bubble: 83% of the time
- Neglecting to check the expiration date on the packaging: 71% of the time
- Applying the condom after commencement of intercourse: 25-50% of the time
- Putting the condom on the wrong way: 10%-30% of the time
- Applying an inadequate amount or no lubrication: 25% of the time
- Not pinching the tip: 42-75% of the time
- Not leaving excess space in the tip of the condom: 24-46% of the time
- Not rolling the condom all the way down to the base of the shaft: 15% of the time
- Removing the condom before finishing intercourse: 15% time
- Not holding on the base of the condom when withdrawing to prevent slippage or spillage: 27-31% of the time
- Other nuanced errors included unrolling the condom all the way before applying to the penis and re-using the condom: 7% of the time
[Note: “Percent of the time” refers to the collective sample pool of all condom uses by all participants in the included studies, not condom mistakes per participant.]
Most studies found that increased experience with using condoms did not improve competency. If a person learns to apply condoms incorrectly, they are not likely to unlearn their method. Others found that self-reported lack of information was a contributing factor to incorrect condom use. The CDC reported that 37% of health teachers in the United States are “inadequate” in teaching proper condom application and use. Misinformation and rumors are another source. A review of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that a third of youth believe that they should not leave space in the tip of the condom and Vaseline is a recommended lubrication; one-fifth incorrectly believe that lambskin condoms are more effective in preventing the transmission of HIV than latex condoms.
One major gap in the literature is the minimal acknowledgement of the social and emotional factors of incorrect condom use. “Heat of the moment” syndrome may take precedent over lack of education or information. The literature also ignores that demonstrated condom ability in the laboratory—under lights, cameras, and supervision—may present differently than in the bedroom.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in the bibliography for this piece.