The loathed—and loved—condom.We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, and that all want to have sex without a condom, because it just feels better.
Well, not exactly--at least not according to the results of a major study just published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, which reveals a total shocker: that men and women consistently rate sex as highly arousing and pleasurable, with few differences based on condom or lubricant use.
In addition, the study, which was based on the results of 5,865 respondents, found no significant differences regarding men's ability to achieve erections based on condom and lubricant use.
"We've seen [results like this] for some time in smaller studies, but it was interesting to see it in a large national study," lead study author and sex researcher Debra Lynne Herbenick told Yahoo! Shine. "Then again, sex is usually good and pleasurable, and it's nice to know that even when people take steps to make sex safer, as with condom use, or more comfortable, as with lubricants, that the overall experience of sex so often remains enjoyable. Just goes to show that sex can indeed be safe and pleasurable."
The news-and it is news to be sure-is the latest to come out of the largest nationally representative study of sexual behaviors ever fielded: the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, conducted by a team out of Indiana University in 2009, by contacting randomly selected households. Because the amassment of resulting data is so extensive, researchers have been sifting through it and meting out findings slowly, starting in 2010, with past info including a description of more than 40 combinations of current sexual acts, patterns of condom use by adolescents and adults, and the percentage of Americans delving into same-sex encounters.
"The epidemiologic studies assessing human sexual function and behavior in the US that were started 60 years ago by [Alfred] Kinsey are continued now by Herbenick and [Michael] Reece," said Irwin Goldstein, MD, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. "Understanding current condom use offers healthcare providers an opportunity to educate those people uncomfortable with condoms, but for whom lack of use may lead to significant sexually transmitted infection health risk."
The latest findings, which are nationally representative and include men and women from 18 to 59, focus on pleasure, ease of arousal, orgasm and pain associated with sex. The aim of this particular line of questioning, the study explains, was largely to gather information that doesn't exist elsewhere, especially when it comes to the use of lubes.
"Lubricant use among women, and among male-female couples, is particularly poorly understood," the study reads, "as much of the lubricant-related literature is related to the use of lubricant among men who have sex with men in the context of condom efficacy related to anal sex."
For the survey, participants were asked about their most recent sexual act with a partner--be it giving or receiving oral sex, or vaginal or anal intercourse--and then about condom and lube info, as well as details relating to pleasure. And we repeat: As far as pleasure went, no significant differences in ratings were noted for either men or women based on condom or lubricant use. "Ratings were consistently high," the study reads, "among each group."
So what's a girl to think? That all the lines men have fed us since high school, about condoms ruining everything, are lies? That these researchers happened to find thousands of very honest lovers--or some very indiscriminate ones?
Could be a little of each, according to our own thoroughly unscientific Facebook poll, which asked if sex is more or less pleasurable when using a condom.
"There is a lot more feeling without a condom for the man," said one guy. "On the other side, most men last longer with one, and most women like that part."
To which a woman responded, "Less pleasurable. Seems like men last too long because sensation is muted and that can cause chafing. Also, knowing one partner's experience is dulled dims it for the other partner, too."
With a condom, added another woman, "There's less heat (and I don't mean passion, I mean actual skin temperature being conveyed from the sheathed member), which makes it less wonderful than naked skin."
But several actually said that sex was hotter with a condom, simply due to the relief of reducing the risk factor.
"We are both free to go, um, further, and be more liberated in the sexual moment," noted one man. "And that is more pleasurable."