According to many studies from the last five years, including one by the Center for Disease Control, condom usage among millennials is steadily falling. This is alarming for many reasons, not least of which is that the spread of sexually transmitted infections is simultaneously on the rise (not surprising when the rate of condom usage slides). It appears that much of the sexual health messaging aimed at this age group has had an effect opposite of the objective—many young people feel that condoms are unnecessary, unhelpful, uncomfortable, and a barrier to intimacy. Ouch.
With the increased administration of the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine in young women, there is a misunderstanding brewing, too. According to interviews conducted by the New York Post in 2016, many young women mistakenly believe that the vaccine protects them completely from other infections and diseases, which is untrue. This has lead many women to feel more comfortable skipping the condom during sex with men, putting them at a greater risk of contracting STIs. The popularity of the IUD also has the potential to confuse, as an intrauterine device can protect against unwanted pregnancy but not infections and diseases.
Traditionally, women have not been the party to provide the condoms during a sexual encounter. It’s long been expected that men will show up to the scene with condoms to provide, and there won’t need to be any discussion about the rubbers. In reality, fewer men are bringing condoms into sexual situations these days, citing their desire to have unprotected sex that supposedly feels more comfortable for them in spite of putting their partners at a greater risk. At Sustain, it is our hope that women will feel empowered to provide their own condoms—and condoms that are safe and healthy for their vaginas, at that!—and that they will feel comfortable asserting their needs and concerns in sexual situations, whether those are related to their health or not.
by Emma Glassman-Hughes