Posted on | March 9, 2010 | 4 Comments
Two (18%) of the ladies in my life have been allergic to latex condoms. The general population is supposed to be allergic to the proteins in natural rubber latex at a rate of 0.37%, at least according to this article, so 18% seems awfully high, especially when you exclude the women with whom I didn’t use condoms (shame on me), which bumps the rate to 29%. (Seven women have given me the privilege of determining in a standard field test whether or not they are sensitive to latex condoms during vaginal intercourse, 2 have had a reaction, so 29%.)
Of course, I’m not waiting for a women to break out in hives before I switch from latex to a polyurethane or other plastic condom. If I hear anything about stinging, I immediately switch to the plastic ones. The change means that I have to be more careful about using lubrication, because plastic condoms rip easier, something I’ve learned from personal experience. This extra attention to lube seems like a disadvantage until you read on the package that the plastic allows you to wander away from water-based lubes, so you if you’re turned on by Turkish oil wrestling…
In any case, I have experienced, on more than one occasion, a woman getting so annoyed by the stinging of the latex that she pressed me just to take the condom off, so every time I talk to teens about condoms, I warn them about the signs of allergy: I tell them that if either a boy or a girl experiences stinging during sex, it probably means that they are mildly allergic to latex and that they should switch to one of the plastic varieties instead of forgoing condoms altogether.
I’ve been putting this information out into the wind for hundreds of classes of teens over the last five years, so you can imagine how happy I was when one girl hung back after a class to asked me privately, “What did you say about stinging?” I didn’t have to be asked twice to re-explain my warning about possible latex sensitivity. She nodded her head in recognition and explained to me that she had been stinging so asked her boyfriend to stop using condoms.
I asked what her birth control method was and she explained that her boyfriend pulled out. Any sex-ed curriculum has to criticize withdrawal as a method of birth control. But even though it’s not the best method, mainly in that it doesn’t protect against STIs, it is a method and I’m always careful not to go too far in criticizing it because I don’t want teens thinking that they might as well just complete the act, which is significantly worse. Pulling out has a contraceptive success rate of around 70% (for teens, 81% for adults) whereas not pulling out is 10%. (What that means is that over a period of a year, if 100 teen couples practice withdrawal as a method of birth control in the absence of any other method, 30 will get pregnant. Whereas, 90 couples in a group of 100 using no method at all will get pregnant. So clearly, pulling out is a lot better than nothing at all.)
(As a side note, the oft-repeated warning about sperm in the precum is something of a myth. It’s possible for there to be sperm in precum, but it’s by far the exception rather than the rule and I’m pretty honest about this when I lecture on anatomy. The only time there is sperm in the precum is if a man doesn’t pee between orgasms. I don’t think that it’s likely for a guy to have so many orgasms that he doesn’t have time to take a piss in between, but I suppose there are always overachievers and to them I say, congratulations about being able to cum so much, but pee in between anyhow.)
Anticipating, correctly, that I was going to disapprove of their practice of pulling out and give her a reprise mini-lecture on condoms, the girl blurted out, “He doesn’t time it. He pulls out way early and jerks off on my stomach.” How sweet. She was sticking up for her boyfriend, and I was really touched by that. Much of the sex ed that kids get is pretty openly anti-male, treating guys like as-yet-unactualized rapists and disease vectors instead of the innocent kids that they are. She had clocked this bias and didn’t want me thinking bad things about her boyfriend, who in actual fact sounded like he was doing a good job in the pulling out department. (His career is just beginning, but if he keeps it up, he could make the Olympic team and one day be the world pulling-out gold medalist.)
I got the message loud and clear: She needed me to like her boyfriend and to like them as a couple before another single word of mine would go into her earholes. That was easy. I just said what I was thinking: “Well that’s exactly how you do it. He sounds really sweet.”
She agreed, “Yeah.” And her face lost its tension and she wasn’t yet late for her next class, so I took the ten second window I had to say exactly what she knew I would say, which is that they should really try using plastic condoms, like Avanti, even if they were being faithful to each other, and I re-emphasized how, despite the great career that her boyfriend had ahead of him as a pulling out champion, withdrawal was a dangerous game to play. She promised that they would try.