Dear Dr. G,

I just started a new sexual relationship. As I am encountering some trouble with using barrier protection, I am hoping to get some advice from the expert. I am an absolute believer in safe sex.

I believe in protecting myself from sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Therefore, condom is the best option for me.

Despite multiple attempts in using the condom during intercourse, I find the barrier technique cumbersome, and limits physical contact. Just like as some would describe it as “taking a shower in a raincoat”. I am sure my girlfriend feels the same way!

I currently have a regular sexual partner whom I trust. Hence, I am contemplating to go all the way, showering without the raincoat!

Before I get caught up in the rain with infection or unwanted pregnancies, I would like to put Dr. G on the spot on the issues of desensitisation of using condoms.

Is it true that both men and women loath the use of condoms as it reduces physical contact? Are men more affected than women?

What are the risks of catching a sexually transmitted infection and unwanted pregnancy with a regular sexual partner?

Lastly, can you recommend any condoms that I can still enjoy my shower but still wearing the damn raincoat?

Rain-man Raymond

A male condom is a sheath-shaped barrier device rolled onto an erect penis during penetrative intercourse, reducing the probability of pregnancy and sexually transmitted pregnancy. Male condoms are typically made from latex, and less commonly polyurethane.

Condoms made from sheep intestine labeled “lambskin” are also available, based on the idea it provides more natural sensation. In fact, lamb intestine condoms were recorded for its disease-prevention use at least since 1564 in China.

A condom is designed to roll onto an erect penis before sexual intercourse to provide physical barrier blocking semen transfer. As pleasure plays a central role in motivating human sexual activities, any artifice that interferes with the pleasure of sex is likely to be non-pleasurable and accepted reluctantly. The male barrier method is well described to interpose a mechanical barrier between sex partners, limiting the physical contact, reducing the tactile sensation and attenuate heat transduction during sex. The reduction in sexual pleasure, as compared to natural unprotected means, is one of the main reasons people cite for eschewing condom use.

The description of “using condom is like taking a shower with a raincoat on” or “eating candy with the wrapper on” typically depicts the feelings of men who loathe the rubber.

However, there is relatively little information available on the relationship between the pleasure-perception and condom utilisation behaviour. One study involving college participants of 80 women and 35 men in their early 20s assessed the perception of pleasure in protected and unprotected vagina intercourse. Both men and women reported unprotected sex as more pleasurable than protected intercourse. The men’s pleasure rating for unprotected sex was higher than women; similarly men’s “pleasure decrement” is much higher than the female counterparts. In other words, both men and women believe condom reduces the pleasure in sex and men are more bothered by this.

Although some may absolutely detest the “raincoat” and the “wrapped-candy” phenomena of using the condom, the proper use of condoms can ensure a pregnancy rate of less than 2% per year. The barrier technique also attributes to significant reduction in transmissions of gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV, but also a lesser extent for viruses such as genital herpes, Human Papillomavirus and syphilis.

Condom usage does not bother most couples in sexual pleasure reduction. However, many condom manufacturers are thriving to develop the thinnest barrier without breaking point, during the vigorous act of intercourse.

However, condoms are well recognised to be on the WHO list of essential medicines, as the most effective and safe medicine needed for contraception and disease prevention. In reality, there are many types of condoms that couples can choose from that can ensure safety that does not compromise on pleasure.

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