Using a Condom May Not Be As Easy as We Thought


After a number of years (or decades) as a grown-up, most of us probably assume we got the whole condom thing figured out. Don’t exactly need to be a doctor to understand how it works. But it turns out that using a condom is a lot more complicated than I realized—which makes appropriate sex education for young people even more important.

The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University analyzed 50 studies from 14 countries over 16 years and found that when it comes to using condoms, adults are kinda clueless. Check out the following list of errors for using a condom (which are 98 percent effective—when used correctly) and ask yourself, being completely honest, whether you do it right, every time. Ask yourself if you even knew you were supposed to be doing all of these things, every time. Then ask yourself how much fun (Not!) it would be to go over each one of these steps with your adolescent son or daughter, as part of the “sex talk.”

From the study, here are the top condom errors:

1. Late application: Between 17 percent and 51.1 percent of people reported putting a condom on after intercourse has already begun.

2. Early removal: Between 13.6 percent and 44.7 percent of individuals in the studies had taken a condom off before intercourse was over.

3. Unrolling a condom before putting it on: Between 2.1 percent and 25.3 percent of people reported completely unrolling a condom before putting it on.

4. No space at the tip: Failing to leave a reservoir for semen was reported by between 24.3 percent and 45.7 percent of respondents, depending on the study.

5. Failing to remove air: 48.1 percent of women and 41.6 percent of men reported sexual encounters in which air wasn’t squeezed from the tip of the condom.

6. Inside-out condoms: Between 4 percent and 30.4 percent of people reported rolling on a condom inside out and then flipping it the other way around, potentially exposing their partner to bodily fluids.

7. Failing to unroll all the way: 11.2 percent of women and 8.8 percent of men had started intercourse before a condom was unrolled all the way.

8. Exposure to sharp objects: Between 2.1 percent and 11.2 percent of people had opened condom packets with sharp objects or otherwise exposed the latex to tearing.

9. Not checking for damage: 82.7 percent of women and 74.5 percent of men failed to check condoms for damage before use.

10. No lubrication: Between 16 percent and 25.8 percent of participants had used condoms without lubrication, increasing the risk of a break.

11. Wrong lubrication: In about 4.1 percent of sexual events, people used oil-based lubrications with latex, which can degrade the condom. About 3.2 percent of women and 4.7 percent of men reported this error.

12. Incorrect withdrawal: Failing to promptly and properly withdraw after ejaculation was a common mistake, occurring in up to 57 percent of encounters in one study. About 31 percent of men and 27 percent of women reported this error.

13. Condom reuse:  Between 1.4 percent and 3.3 percent of study respondents had re-used a condom at least twice during a sexual encounter.

14. Incorrect storage: Between 3.3 percent and 19.1 percent of people in the studies had stored condoms in conditions outside of the recommendations on the package.

Admittedly, a lot of these are consistent with common sense, like number 3 (no, you can’t unroll it before putting it on) and number 6 (you can’t use it backwards and then flip it around). And how many people would be grabbing a sharp object, like a pair of scissors, to cut that darn package open? (Well, apparently as many as 11 percent.) But a few of them, such as numbers 5 (what, are we supposed to use one of those vacuum seals?) and 9 (a full inspection? kinda sounds like a mood killer), had me scratching my head.

Hmm. Anybody know of any sex ed classes for 40-somethings?

1. When It Comes to Teen Pregnancy and Sex, CDC Confirms: Teenagers Are Morons
2. {Let’s Talk About Sex} The Best Ways for Parents to Get Ready for “The Talk”
3. Tweens, Sex and the Essence Article that Scared the Crap Out of Me
4. How an Unplanned Pregnancy Changed the Way I Want to Talk to My Kids About Sex

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Wow, I just learned a whole lot about condoms! Thanks Nick and MBB.

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