What women don’t want

Women are just as turned off by condoms as men


What women don't wantContrary to the popular impression that men are the only ones who can’t stand condoms, a recent study reveals that women find rubbers frustrating too. “I’m surprised by the striking similarity,” says University of Guelph sex professor Robin Milhausen, who teamed up with researchers at Indiana’s Kinsey Institute and Oxford University in England on this project.

In some ways, women are more turned off by condoms than men. Many said that the smell and taste of condoms was unenjoyable. Women also reported that condoms signaled a lack of trust in their partners, and made them feel distant. For some, condom use suggested that one partner had a disease from which the other needed protection. Complaints that condoms cause physical discomfort were also common. “[Condoms] can be drying and abrasive,” explains Milhausen, or the latex or lubricant may be irritating. Women also reported that condoms interfered with or decreased their partner’s orgasm and sensation.

In the study, published in the International Journal of STD & AIDS, 77 per cent of men reported that condoms decreased their own sensitivity. More surprising is the fact that 40 per cent of women said the same thing. “That’s no small minority,” muses Milhausen. “We heard loud and clear that they hated using condoms,” she adds, citing previous research showing that 18 to 24 females were least fond of them. “In fact, they asked their male partner to take the condom off in the middle of sex or to delay putting it on.” This was a startling revelation, Milhausen recalls, because it put females at risk of pregnancy and STDs.

While most  condom research examines adolescent and young adult populations, says Milhausen, the 2,000 participants surveyed in this study varied in age and included married people. As men and women get older and enter seemingly monogamous relationships, condoms are often abandoned along with worries about STDs. “That’s faulty reasoning,” says Milhausen, citing literature suggesting “that 20 to 40 per cent of married couples have a partner who is having sex with somebody else.”

As well, all of those surveyed were recruited from a list of people who had either purchased or inquired about a sexual enhancement product from a website. “So if they have issues with condoms,” says Milhausen, “then you can imagine how people who are less open to exploring their sexuality would probably have even more negative attitudes.”


Turnoffs (by gender)

Look of the condom was not appealing
Men 9.0 per cent
Women 10.4 per cent

Smell of the condom was not appealing
Men 30.2 per cent
Women 35.4 per cent

Taste of the condom was not appealing
Men 7.9 per cent
Women 16.7 per cent

Putting condoms on spoiled mood
Men 43.2 per cent
Women 30.2 per cent

Condoms suggest ‘one of us’ has a disease
Men 3.8 per cent
Women 6.3 per cent

Condoms suggest lack of trust
Men 3.3 per cent
Women 12.5 per cent

The condom just didn’t feel right
Men 29.1 per cent
Women 30.2 per cent

The condoms created discomfort
Men 17.7 per cent
Women 30.2 per cent

The condom decreased ‘my’ sensation during sex
Men 77.2 per cent
Women 39.6 per cent

The condom decreased my partner’s sensation during sex
Men 33.7 per cent
Women 58.3 per cent

Condoms made me feel distant from my partner
Men 14.9 per cent
Women 20.8 per cent

The condom made it difficult for ‘me’ to respond physically (‘get hard or wet’)
Men 22.0 per cent
Women 17.7 per cent

The condom made it difficult for ‘my partner’ to respond physically (‘get hard or wet’)
Men 9.5 per cent
Women 8.3 per cent

The condom interfered with my orgasm
Men 24.2 per cent
Women 18.8 per cent

The condoms interfered with my partner’s orgasm
Men 9.8 per cent
Women 15.6 per cent

Source: International Journal of STD & AIDS, Volume 19, September 2008, page 592


What women don’t want

  1. This report is currently in the top five “Most Read” at macleans.ca, and yet has to qualify as one of the Least Commented. Hmm.

    At least, from these data (where older, allegedly monogamous, couples are abandoning it) we can see that it was never a popular method of contraception.

    But it sure looks like the no-glove-no-love campaign for young women needs more work.

  2. I’m surprised the taste is unappealing number for women isn’t higher.

    • I believe the reason it isn’t higher is because people will not try to taste them, therefore can’t respond.

  3. Is this the next trend? The media subtly turning people off condom use? I use them, my boyfriend has no complaints, it IS 2009 – and we both find them infinitely more appealing than sexually transmitted disease or unplanned pregnancy. Sure, they’re not perfect, but they’re a lot better than the alternative, and in our relationship of trust and open communication they are second nature. Neither of us have multiple partners, but until such a time that we might decide to start a family, condoms protect both of us. There’s no dirtiness implied or horrid inconvenience, we are making a decision for our health and welfare. What could be more important???

    Take responsibility!!

    • I was surprised how many people concur with my own feelings regarding Condoms. I have disliked how much they have interfered with my intercourse I have more often resigned myself to sexual expression that is climaxed through mutual masterbation.

      But as a gay man I am still alive and I am 57

    • For Michelle. I think you need a boyfriend that you can trust, or maybe the other way around. I see none of your proclaimed trust in your comment, if there was you could leave the disease part out, couldn’t you?

  4. Condoms aren’t terribly appealing, but compared to an unwanted pregnancy, or mood swings/blood clots from a hormonal method that only females can take, they are the cat’s meow.

  5. While I can understand the reaction to condoms, the reality is unfortunate for those who ignore the risk factors. With adults marrying at a later age, an extremely high divorce rate and lower statistics on monogamy in and out of marriage, the likelihood of multiple sexual relationships increases the risks of acquiring one or more STD’s. While some of these may result in short unpleasant episodes, others pose considerable risk to health.

  6. I can’t believe you need a study to tell if people would prefer condoms or not. Of course given the circumstances people would prefer to do without. That is a no brainer. I’ve never heard of people who actually would rather use it than go “naturale” because it feels better. This is the 21st century! We are educated, there are std’s, aids, unwanted pregnancy and the usual baggage and tripe which unfortunately comes with sex. If you’re married and you expect to cheat on your wife or vice versa then just get a divorce or at least come clean with it. Once found out your marriage partner will not want to be with you again anyway. There are too many variables today, too many people who think multiple partners are the norm, cheating is good or normal, and or a succession of conquests weekly is also o.k. We are supposed to be an advanced civil society – unfortunately most people are morally corrupt. Why or how did sexually transmitted diseases start? because dumbo, people are not meant to do all the things they wish to do. So hence the condom – best invention or weapon against an increasingly immoral human race.

    • I agree with you and I also think people shouldn't get involved into such things without love. we hear all the time talking about sex, but so little about love making. Isn't it funny?

  7. I just can’t believe Macleans published ’get hard or wet’.

    • Me too. That was the most astonishing thing about this article.

    • Nor me. But I’m just immature.

    • Well they are quoting “International Journal of STD & AIDS”, it made sense to clarify the question.

  8. I find it remarkable that this article implies married couples who are in monogamous relationships should continue using condoms in case one of them decides to cheat. That’s ridiculous!

    If you think your partner is cheating, you’ve got bigger things to worry about than just condoms. Perhaps kicking him/her out of your bed/house/life would be a start! Frequently when a partner cheats, the relationship is lacking in sex anyway.

    If a spouse is lying and cheating, I can only hope they have one last shred of decency and respect for the oblivious partner and uses a condom with the outside party.

  9. Can’t we do better than a condom? I agree with most of the respondents; they smell awful and taste horrible.

  10. We're all stuck with condoms until we come up with something better. Imagine what life would be like without them! I think they are great compared to the alternative…

  11. I think people shouldn't get involved into such things without love. We hear all the time talking about having sex, but so little about love making! Isn't it funny? This should be the basis of a love relationship, not something to do when you're too horny or bored or frustrated with your job. So, if there is love, there is no need of condoms. I am 33 and had several lovers in my life. I never use condoms and I am very happy with this..and healthy! I am always checking the health status of my lover before and, in addition, I am using a very special but simple natural contraceptive method. Some call it coitus prolongatus, some sexual continence or taoist way of making love. You can find more about it in Tantra or Tao schools, or in some Yoga centers. I recommend it as the best way of enjoying lovemaking.