Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: It's Not Sex, and It's Not Education

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  • Sacha,

    This is sounding like a climate change argument.

    I enjoy anecdata as much as the next person but I'd say the onus to provide evidence before generalising from one person's experience falls very much on the shoulders of those trying to make that case, not on everyone else. Some research has already been linked to.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16586 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    “Show me evidence” seems like a dismissive response to the honest sharing of experience.

    An 'honest sharing' of experience does not insist that it is universal.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16586 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    I've got no real opinion about mass education for the gay, though, that seems fraught.

    Ben, can you explain this? I can't parse this remark in any way that doesn't make me picture mass gay brain-washing "Clockwork Orange" styles. Gay kids get their "mass" sex education at school, sitting next to straight kids.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4349 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    the fact that the member just looks so fucking stupid

    Did you have to bring up McCully again?

    Wait, a) you call your cock McCully, and b) you're turned on by the thought of a too-tight condom?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I’d also be interested in hearing from male readers who don’t suffer a loss of pleasure or function with condom use.

    Yes, this please. I've had some remarks off-site, but that doesn't really help balance the discussion.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4349 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I'd also be interested in hearing from male readers who don't suffer a loss of pleasure or function with condom use.

    Indeed. I'd like to hear from the guy who actually prefers them and would wear them even in a monogamous and trusting relationship. Or the woman, for that matter. There's still a risk of STIs, after all, and you could die from them, or become infertile. Surely if there's no difference it would be as sensible as covering your mouth when you cough, even at home, and it reduces the slight risk of unwanted pregnancy from a contraceptive pill failure.

    It is. But it does point to some of the things we've been discussing here -- proper fit, and skill in application included.

    Yup, I'm sure that I could be healed, if I considered my problem an illness rather than a personal quirk, with a very low damage risk, a whole lot less than, say, using a car.

    Some research has already been linked to.

    Yes, it said:

    "Personal factors such as aversion to the condom, consumption of alcohol or use of drugs prior to sexual intercourse, and anxiety and depression all were negatively associated with condom use."

    Couldn't say it plainer, really. It's not the most important factor - religious objection is. But the conclusion:

    "Beside social stigmas and personal reluctance, prevailing moral norms and religious interdicts also adversely affect use of these devices in many communities. Because of their disastrous consequences in the domain of public health each of these barriers must be effectively addressed."

    Kind of what I'm sayin'. Just painting my own picture of it.

    An 'honest sharing' of experience does not insist that it is universal.

    Point to where I insisted it was universal. Please.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8432 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    “Show me evidence” seems like a dismissive response to the honest sharing of experience.

    An ‘honest sharing’ of experience does not insist that it is universal.

    I don't believe Ben insisted his experience was universal.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18804 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    I'm guessing that Lucy posted the research while Ben was writing, and it's often hard to spot stuff at the bottom of a page if things are moving fast.

    The thing that gets me is that while it makes sense at an intellectual level to talk about presenting accurate risk information, humans are notoriously bad at making appropriate decisions about risk, and that's when they're not teenagers at the mercy of hormonal impulses and alcohol (a huge factor in unprotected sex). I think a more utilitarian approach (providing information in such a way that risky behaviour is minimised) is probably justified here. The hard part is not going off the alarmist deep end so you lose credibility - there are plenty of resistance movements to safety campaigns pitched at adults.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 809 posts Report Reply

  • Fooman, in reply to Lilith __,

    There used to be an outfit in Ferry Rd that made those. Quite a market among those with allergies to latex, apparently!

    In my youth, I used to help my father out with some bits and bobs construction work during the university holidays.

    One of these jobs was to do some maintenance work at Carter Products NZ production facility in Paritutu, just across the road from Dow Agrichemicals (as it is now).

    Carter Products parent company at the time was Carter Wallace, which counted amongst it's brands one named after those from Troy.

    The product made at this facility was the "lambskin" condom. One of the items of work that we did was to reline a concrete gutter - it was my job to take out all the rotting concrete that lined this gutter, which the briney brown liquids from the barrels full of sheep guts, upon arrival from the freezing works, were sloshed down to an effluent pit. That festering pile of rubble that I hacked out seemed to attract thousands of flies to the skip I was slowly filling up - I vividly remember a black swarm float up, darken the sky, and settle back down each time I delivered a wheelbarrow of mucky delight. Five tonnes of stinking, rotten concrete, all removed by (my) hand over the course of a summers days. Lots of breaks for fresh air.

    Anyway, after removal from their fetid barrels, the guts were then cleaned, treated, sliced, stretched over mandrels (yes, shaped like man "drills") and baked. We were the only ones in the place as it had been shut down to pause in production, so I wandered about at break times (to get away from the stench of the work I was doing). Thousands upon thousands of the phallic formers for the shapes lay in racks next to the ovens. I was amused by the QC testing station - dozens of the product, pegged up like washing on a line, filled to the brim with an indeterminant liquid, beakers waiting underneath to catch their load if spilt/split.

    The reason for the shutdown (this was in the early 90's) was that there was a gut glut when it came to prophylactics - such material would only protect against pregnancy, as they were porous to the human immunodeficiency virus, and they had fallen out of favour. These days "lambskin" is marketed as a luxury choice - supposedly having a better feel than latex, or as an alternative to those allergic to latex, who now are also accomodated by the polyurethane variety, which do filter out the HIV('s). But both the lambskin and polyurethane (I am sure there is an awfully appropriate pun in there in Māori) variety are not as elastic as latex - meaning fit and slippage is more of an issue.

    Aside from a prurient teenage interest in the manufacturing of this rather interesting product, I also got out the experience one of the hardest working experiences of my life, and a cool work story, without having to join the police. Didn't get paid for the work, but.

    Cheers,
    FM

    Lower Hutt • Since Dec 2009 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to BenWilson,

    Do you have any statistics to the contrary? Show me the statistics on why it is that condoms don’t get used, and in particular when it results from male lack of interest. Show me that you’ve done any research into the matter at all. All you’ve done is repeatedly deny my experience is of relevance.

    Check the references I already provided. I won't pretend to have done in-depth research but I did do a few keyword searches on the big medical databases and none brought up male inability to use condoms or severe distaste for them as major factors in heterosexual condom non-usage. (I didn't check the papers focusing on homosexual behaviour, as that hasn't really been where this thread has gone.)

    I may be misreading it though – it’s not clear to me what the base rate of people who have been infected at some time during their lives was – the data seemed to be saying how many are infected now. Any insights from your scientific mind would be helpful.

    STDs suffer from chronic underreporting and discovery, because of their often asymptomatic nature. Those data, as I understand it, are for infections *in a particular time-period*. When you add in those who are un-diagnosed or infected over their lifetimes, rates are going to be much, much higher than that. The rates I've heard bruited about are in the 25-30% range for young people in NZ, depending on ethnicity and area. Whatever the exact figure, it's way, way higher than it needs to be.

    I’m not entirely sure what you meant in this analogy by riding a bike or taking a bus, however, because it seems to be suggesting that I should have been taught simply not to have sex, or perhaps to have it only with my hand, or the girls hand, or only when I’m already somehow in a committed relationship. Can I ask you to elaborate on what you meant by this?

    Well, yeah, that. If condoms impair the experience that much for you, then have non-penetrative sex or have sex in committed relationships where alternative contraceptive methods and STD testing are options. PIV is hardly the be-all and end-all of sexual experience, after all. If it is for you, and condoms make it not worth it - well, as you said earlier, casual sex in the modern environment (any environment, really, STDs aren't novel) isn't for you.

    You can't expect or ask people to have unprotected sex with you. The judgement of whether someone is safe, STD-wise, is not one people should be asked to make. For that matter, you're at the same risk making that judgement about them (and about their contraceptive status, if you're a guy and they're a girl.) Sometimes it'll be fine, individually. Over a population it won't be.

    “Show me evidence” seems like a dismissive response to the honest sharing of experience.

    When discussing sex education, I am entirely comfortable calling the anecdata fallacy. One person's experience is not enough evidence to change the overall message about the necessity of condom use. Broadening the message, sure, but people have been throwing around terms like "challenging the essential nature of condom use", and...that essential nature remains, for casual penetrative sex. And I feel like that's not really being acknowledged.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’d also be interested in hearing from male readers who don’t suffer a loss of pleasure or function with condom use.

    Pleasure, a little; function, no (other than the intended loss of "function", of course).

    Indeed. I’d like to hear from the guy who actually prefers them and would wear them even in a monogamous and trusting relationship.

    My wife and I used condoms as our sole form of contraception for years, up until I had a vasectomy. She had solid reasons for not wanting to take the pill etc..

    OTOH I really didn't learn to use them properly until after I was a father at age 18. Not sure what that says about anything, but there it is.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    the fact that the member just looks so fucking stupid

    Did you have to bring up McCully again?

    Boom!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18804 posts Report Reply

  • DCBCauchi, in reply to Sacha,

    This is sounding like a climate change argument.

    Indeed. It involves zealots.

    Since Feb 2011 • 320 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to BenWilson,

    I'd like to hear from the guy who actually prefers them and would wear them even in a monogamous and trusting relationship.

    It's probably not that uncommon among new parents. Hormonal contraception can be a problem when you're breastfeeding, and while breastfeeding usually has a contraceptive effect, having a second line of defence is a good thing if you want to recover from baby #1 before starting baby #2. Midwives will proactively ask if you're sorted, and if not, write you a script for a 144-pack of condoms. Cue hollow laughter from new parents.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 809 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    > I've got no real opinion about mass education for the gay, though, that seems fraught.

    Ben, can you explain this? I can't parse this remark in any way that doesn't make me picture mass gay brain-washing "Clockwork Orange" styles. Gay kids get their "mass" sex education at school, sitting next to straight kids.

    Sure. I don't want to comment on it. I hope that existing sex-ed is sufficient, but I really don't know - homosexuality was illegal when I received my own sex-education, and not much discussed for several years thereafter. I'd like to hear from gay people how it worked out for them - were there any glaring shortcomings? One that I can particularly see is that in any discussions, there would be pressure on anyone who had not come out, to not say a damned word, and make no inquiries. Kids at school can be really hard on gays.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8432 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to James Butler,

    My wife and I used condoms as our sole form of contraception for years, up until I had a vasectomy. She had solid reasons for not wanting to take the pill etc..

    This was also true during my marriage. The pill made me incredibly ill - I lost a stone in six weeks - we didn't want kids yet, and we could get condoms on prescription. So yeah, every time we had penetrative sex in a (then) monogamous relationship, we used a condom. For years.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4349 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Maybe universal was *overstretching* (if you'll forgive the word in this context). But then that's exactly what I'd say Ben has been pulled up for doing in this thread a couple of times already, wouldn't you?

    I guess this is the phrase that motivated me to bother commenting:

    unsatisfying sex in a large number of instances is exactly what condom use is all about

    By all means, share an experience. But why the urge to insist it's definitive or common? It's OK to be an outlier..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16586 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to DCBCauchi,

    I’d like to hear from the guy who actually prefers them and would wear them even in a monogamous and trusting relationship. Or the woman, for that matter.

    That would be my relationship, and a few other people I know. Not everyone's cup of tea, but - anecdotally, admittedly - I know a few women who prefer them for reasons of hygiene, and others who just really can't afford to get pregnant (including me). Guys generally seem prepared to go along with it, even if it's negotiable.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    the essential nature

    yeah, that sort of thing too

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16586 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    I'd like to hear from gay people how it worked out for them - were there any glaring shortcomings? One that I can particularly see is that in any discussions, there would be pressure on anyone who had not come out, to not say a damned word, and make no inquiries. Kids at school can be really hard on gays.

    A year later I was in a lesbian relationship with absolutely no idea how two women went about having sex. But the sex ed we got (what there was of it) didn't cover sex for pleasure. So no tips on how to perform oral sex for either gender.

    What sex ed should be doing, IMO, and what the Family Planning program appears to at least be attempting, is making sure that kids of every gender and sexual orientation understand the mechanics of pleasure of every gender. Nobody's going to be harmed by knowing how to give head. You can't possibly know which kids are the non-straight non-vanilla ones, but it doesn't matter because EVERYONE benefits from exploring a broader idea of "sex".

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4349 posts Report Reply

  • Rageaholic, in reply to BenWilson,

    I'd like to hear from the guy who actually prefers them and would wear them even in a monogamous and trusting relationship.

    I am not the actual guy, but I was in a monogamous and trusting relationship with a man who would sometimes prefer condoms because the slight dimishment of pleasure meant he could actually go for longer, which he also enjoyed.

    I think making more widely avaliable a variety of condom types and sizes would make a huge difference. I had a (different from above, obvs) partner who didn't like condoms so we had no PIV until we had been tested. While I was at Family Planning they asked if I needed any condoms, and I got some extra-large ones on a hunch. Sure enough, my partner had never tried them or even thought to, and he said they were significantly more comfortable and easy to use.

    Eden • Since Nov 2010 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    It's probably not that uncommon among new parents. Hormonal contraception can be a problem when you're breastfeeding

    Yes, it's one hell of a dangerous thing to rely on.

    My wife and I used condoms as our sole form of contraception for years, up until I had a vasectomy. She had solid reasons for not wanting to take the pill etc..

    Wow. How many years?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8432 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    +1 to Lucy and James. Vasectomy is the alternative for me and I'm still too squemish.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2229 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Danielle,

    Artisanal condoms! They're the next big thing.

    As long as we don't start going down the same road as clothes shops and getting 'vintage', or 'pre-loved' condoms.

    Oh, and you said 'anal'. Heheheheheh.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2390 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Actually, data here wasn’t that hard to find. Here’s a highly relevant Kinsey Institute study from last year: Condom Discomfort and Associated Problems With Their Use Among University Students.

    Nearly one third reported discomfort, including tightly fitting condoms, vaginal irritation, and loss of sensation. Discomfort was associated with breakage (p = .0001), incomplete use (p = .0001), and less moti- vation to use condoms (p = .018). Gender moderated the latter 2 findings. Adjusted findings indicate that students reporting discomfort were 3.6 times more likely to also report breakage (p = .0009). Continued investigation of this topic is warranted.

    It does note the surprising paucity of research in this area:

    One potentially important aspect of individuals’ experiences with condoms, however, has not been sufficiently addressed by previous research: discomfort associated with condom use.

    Men and women reported problems in roughly equal measure. Men:

    Among these men, the most common form of discomfort described was that the condom was too tight (36%). The next most frequent comment was that con- doms caused a loss of sensation (30%). As one male noted, “loss of sensation—sex becomes boring.” Other comments (provided by 3 or fewer men) included erection problems, allergies to latex, condoms are too big, and con- doms cause dryness.

    And women:

    We organized into categories the 44 comments from women who provided written comments regarding their dis- comfort. Among these women, the most common form of discomfort described was that the vagina became irritated (43%). The next most frequent comment was that male part- ners complained the condom was too tight (27%). Twenty percent of the comments indicated that the man lost his sex-ual pleasure as a result of condom use. Other comments (made by 1 woman each) were that the condom was too big for the male partner and that condoms made sex uncomfortable for both partners.

    So apart from their own discomfort, women noticed their male partner’s loss of sensation. Problems were associated with unwillingness to use condoms – and to condom failure. Can I propose that we retire the word “anecdata” now?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18804 posts Report Reply

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