If scientists could create a contraceptive that offers the same protection as the condom; which does not interrupt the flow of sex or reduce the pleasure of natural contact, and could fit any size, then science would be miles ahead on the road to winning the battle against the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
As it is today, that contraceptive has not yet been created. The condom is still arguably the most effective method of contraception and they have gotten more creative with time. They come studded and ribbed, lubricated and of different flavours, they are edible, pleasure shaped, coloured, glow in the dark and are even warming... they are thin and ultra-thin, inexpensive and accessible anywhere. Still, many men and women prefer to have sex without it.
But why, when there are so many options, and in the face of unwanted pregnancies and the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, do so many people still prefer to face the risk and have unprotected sex?
In the United States, formal studies were funded by the federal government to uncover the answer.
According to the ABC News article, "Why are condoms disliked by so many men?", the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development had awarded a grant of close to half a million to researchers at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction to study "barriers to correct condom use".
The reasons unveiled in this study were varied. Some of these reasons outlined in the Reuters article, "Poor fit may explain why men refuse condoms" and the NY Daily article, "Many men refuse condoms because of poor fit: study" include arguments that condoms do not fit right and could reduce sexual pleasure.
Express Woman approached several men and women in central and south Trinidad to identify reasons why they would prefer sex without condoms. While most insisted that sex without condoms was not an option and many opted not to respond, some men identified several different areas including the different sensation, interruption, physical irritations and psychological reasons as deterrents to condom usage during sex.
"It is just awkward," said one man. "You don't go to have sex with a condom in your hand or lying next to you on the bed, so when things get heated and you have to stop to pull it out, open it and put it on, that pause is awkward, unromantic and can kill the mood. There is absolutely no spontaneity in that."
"Why do some men prefer sex without condoms? That's easy," said another man. "It feels different. When you are having sex, you are connecting with this person on so many different levels and the condom is like a barrier. There is limited body to body contact so the sensation you would get is different. Also, the material used to make some brands irritates your skin and some women actually tell you they don't want it because it is uncomfortable for them as well."
"There are women who would tell you that they think sex with a condom leaves them feeling sore," said one man with a sly smile.
"Condoms can be too tight, reduce sensation, pull hair and burst during sex," said another briefly.
"Size does matter," another said. "Condoms can be too big and slip off or too small and burst. Either way it is inconvenient."
Some women identified psychological reasons for their partner's reluctance to have protected sex.
"My ex-boyfriend said he did not like it," said one woman with a snicker. "He said he could not get an erection when he used it."
"Mine told me that if I insisted on using it, I was showing that I did not trust him," she said. "He suggested birth control as an alternative but that was not working for me. It was a bit of a guilt trip for me for a while, but I stuck with it because I was not willing to roll the dice and gamble with my sexual health."