Condoms are the simplest way of birth control, and not only, but they are also suitable for preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They are balloon-shaped medical devices that are worn on the male sexual organ before copulation.
They are broadly used due to so many reasons. They can be readily bought in any supermarket, and do not cost much. They are easy to store and carry.
They can be used almost in any type of sex be it vaginal, anal, or even in oral (and yes, they may be flavored too).
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They provide complete control to males, and also sexual freedom. As they can help keep some of the most dangerous infections away effectively.
They prevent pregnancies and infections by providing a physical barrier. It seems that nothing could be simpler than condoms. Nonetheless, it appears that there is so much mystery around them, so many questions asked.
Going back into the history
Condoms are older than most people may think. Modern condoms are now more than 150 years old. First latex condoms were manufactured way back in the mid-19th century.
Initially, they were created more to prevented diseases like syphilis than for birth control.
However, most people will be further surprised to know that the history of condoms is even older. It could be as old as 2000 years!
It seems that in some cultures, people used animal membranes or intestines to prevent pregnancies, and even to avoid contracting diseases.
Condom like devices made of sheep bladder or intestine are mentioned in ancient Roman history, and even in Greek mythology .
It seems that more serious efforts to create a condom-like device were made in middle ages, somewhere in 15 and 16th century. It was the time when in some cultures use of condoms made of sheep bladder or intestines became common.
Whereas, other cultures used linen or other similar membranes soaked in various medications to prevent both the disease and pregnancies .
Despite centuries of efforts, the real breakthrough in male contraception was only achieved in the mid-19th century when latex condoms were created.
Since then, lots have improved. Synthetic latex allowed to create better and thinner condoms of higher quality. Nowadays, condoms are made from not only latex but from many other materials too.
Regardless of the progress and increased choice in condoms like dotted, extra-thin, sensitive, flavored, and so on, they are not an ideal solution for all the problems related to sexual life.
They have their advantages and disadvantages, and they remain covered up in so many myths.
Advantages of condoms
There is a reason why condoms continue to be a popular method of contraception. Specialists, researchers, and even individuals would agree that they provide a high degree of control over birth control, perhaps 98 to 99%. Modern condoms rarely break .
Secondly, they are not just a birth control method; they also save from STIs/STDs. Sexually, transmitted infections have remained an issue since long.
HIV infection may have peaked, but then hepatitis C is emerging as a graver problem along with other diseases like HPV, or antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea.
Condoms, when used for contraception, is an instantly reversible method, unlike other methods like a vasectomy. Moreover, it is entirely non-invasive.
It is the only highly effective non-invasive contraceptive method available to males. Another effective way is vasectomy, which is a surgical method.
Male contraceptive pill, or injections, failed to take off as a primary method of birth control due to low effectiveness and associated side effects.
Condoms are also highly affordable and readily accessible. Just think of female contraception pill, it needs time to work, but a condom is an instant solution that does not require any preparation.
Finally, one of the less-discussed advantages is that it may help with premature ejaculation in some cases.
Side effects of using condoms and condom disadvantages
There aren’t many disadvantages of condoms; nonetheless, one issue could be difficulty in using them regularly. Some men find it uncomfortable to wear them before sex.
Perhaps, the most common complaint is that some men cannot enjoy sex with condoms due to diminished sensation. However, it is more a matter of getting used to them.
Finally, though rare, few men may get allergic reactions to them, or the scents, lubes, and other chemical used in the condoms. Usually, this side effect can be overcome by changing the brand or using condoms made from different materials .
Another issue is finding the right size condom, which is easier said than done. There isn’t much choice in the case. It could be especially challenging to find the perfectly fitting condom for those with a below-average sized or extra-large penises.
Quality is another issue with many condoms brands. Some of the cheaper brands are not made for prolonged sexual acts and are prone to slipping or even tears.
Although a lot is discussed how men feel about using condoms, however, it must be understood that not all women may like the sensation of condoms.
The theme of altered sensation cannot be underplayed, as both, the genders have sex primarily for pleasure, and reproduction isn’t its primary aim.
Condoms, though highly effective, aren’t 100% effective in preventing pregnancies.
Another less discussed themes could be that in some cases, condoms may promote unhealthy sexual practices in some parts of populations, as many may wrongly think that condoms can protect them from most STIs and other issues.
A condom may not be expensive, but for sexually active men, even cost may become an issue. Especially for those engaging in sexual activity on a daily basis, or having multiple sexual acts. This could be especially true in scarce resource settings.
Myths surrounding condoms
A condom may break or slip off and get lost in women’s body
That is rarely the case if a few things are taken care off, like using the condoms properly, choosing the right-sized condoms, and also selecting the good brand.
In rare cases, if it breaks or slips, it can be easily removed from the vagina, and women can use emergency contraceptive pills.
Condoms reduce sexual pleasure and decrease man’s libido
There is no reason to believe that they reduce desire, though older men with erectile dysfunction may have a problem wearing them, or they may lose erection when pausing to wear them.
In such cases, the problem is not with a condom; instead, a treatment for erectile dysfunction must be sought.
Some men may indeed feel reduced sensation with condoms. However, things have changed a lot in recent years, and there are ultrathin condoms available, and they are so good that one can barely say if he is wearing the condom or not. It is also a matter of getting used to them.
Condoms are not for large size penis or ineffective for small size penis
Condoms should be used only when in a casual relationship
It is entirely wrong to think that condoms should be used only when in a non-serious or short-term relationship. They can also be used by those in a serious relationship or by married couples.
Condoms do not protect from AIDS/HIV
Again, a completely wrong kind of belief. Condoms help protect from almost any type of sexually transmitted disease. This is not just a view; it is something proven by numerous clinical studies when one partner was known to have an infection and other not.
To sum up, condom are and will remain one of the most dependable ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies and spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
There are no real side effects of condoms and advantages and comfort that they provide are far greater than their disadvantages.
- Khan F, Mukhtar S, Dickinson IK, Sriprasad S. The story of the condom. Indian J Urol IJU J Urol Soc India. 2013;29(1):12-15. doi:10.4103/0970-1591.109976
- Lieberman H. A Short History of the Condom. JSTOR Daily. Published June 8, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2019. [ link ]
- Condoms. Nhs.uk. Published December 21, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2019. [ link ]
- Latex Allergy | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment. ACAAI Public Website. Accessed July 24, 2019. [ link ]