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