Trying to get teenagers to grasp the importance of condoms is a daunting task. Only 60% of them admit to using condoms regularly. You would probably be shocked to know that these statistics are way better than those of adults over 40, who are least likely to use condoms regularly. How can we preach safe sex when we’re not practicing it ourselves? This is where Bill Gates comes in. He’s vowed to make a better condom so we can all be more responsible about safe sex.
When it comes to condom use and why some people fail so miserably at it – the bottom line is pleasure. Many people feel that condoms reduce the pleasure of their sexual experience. This is not surprising. There is nothing innately great about the ritual of unwrapping a condom and putting it on. Obviously there are some that may prefer condom use – but it can also feel a little clinical. The Atlantic reported this week on Bill’s motivations for making a better condom:
Bill Gates has a foundation that works in Africa to treat AIDS and prevent HIV infection. His research demonstrates that most Africans — like most Americans — don’t wear condoms because the primitive contraption, which has not appreciably changed in 50 years, steals their pleasure. Gates is a practical businessman and a creative inventor. He has proceeded with plans to make a better product after learning that there is widespread dissatisfaction with an existing product. His foundation will give a $100,000 grant to anyone with credible plans to make a condom that “is felt to enhance pleasure.”
The foundation promises that such an innovation would “lead to substantial benefits for global health, both in terms of reducing the incidence of unplanned pregnancies and in prevention of infection with HIV.”
His whole “pleasure based” examination of why so many of us fail at using condoms came under fire pretty quickly by those who think that the pleasure argument is “pervy” and tantamount to “whining.” I think that finding any solution to improving our statistics of condom use is money well spent. Why not explore making a better condom that will increase pleasure for users? What is “pervy” about that? For many of us, the driving force to have sex is how great it feels. Trying to optimize the pleasure of condom use seems like a pretty practical examination to me.
I think we divorce ourselves from the pleasure factor when we are talking about teens and sex because it is easier to push the “safe sex” route than to push the “this will feel better” route. Maybe acknowledging the pleasure factor makes us feel like we are condoning teenage sexual activity. I think it’s time we get over this and get behind whatever will make safe sex more appealing to teens and adults alike.