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One in three women told condom was 'too small' to use, research finds

Exclusive: 'The condom, when inflated, would be approximately the same size as an Alsatian'

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
@mayaoppenheim
Friday 04 January 2019 23:46
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One in three women have been given the excuse the condom was “too small” to use, new research has found.

A study shows issues related to condoms not being big enough were cited by just 4 per cent of people, despite such a high number of women claiming to have heard men use the excuse.

Researchers sought to dispel this fallacy by testing condoms with an air compressor – discovering they expanded to well over the average penis size which a previous study by the NHS and King’s College London found to be 5.16 inches long.

The study, carried out by engineering firm SGS Engineering, found the condoms measured approximately three feet long by one foot wide when fully inflated.

A spokesperson for the company said: “The condom, when inflated, would be approximately the same size as an Alsatian.”

Researchers, who spoke to 1,000 single Britons to explore people’s attitudes to condom usage, found just a third of sexually active 18-24 year olds always use condoms, while 41 per cent of sexually active people across all age ranges do so.

Some 70 per cent of people said the reason for not using a condom every time they had sex included using another contraception method – with the most popular forms including the pill (24 per cent), withdrawal method (13 per cent), and sterilisation (10 per cent).

One in ten said they did not use condoms because "they smell weird". Some 20 per cent said they did not use condoms because they were uncomfortable and 16 per cent said they reduced sensation or pleasure, while 8 per cent said they get wrapped up in the moment and forget.

Of the three-quarters of people who cited another contraception method was used, a third of these assumed this was the case without any proof. The research also found half of people experienced an unplanned pregnancy after not using condoms.

Although condoms are up to 98 per cent effective at avoiding unwanted pregnancy and protecting against STIs, 15 per cent said that they do not trust condoms and worry they may burst or split. But only 3 per cent of these fears are based on this actually happening to them previously.

Natalie Richardson, a spokesperson for SGS Engineering, said: “The findings were surprising – particularly how anti-condom some men seemed to be, despite them not considering any other contraceptive methods.

“Potentially women are being told the excuse as a way of avoiding condom use because of sensation reasons. However, in most cases the risks far outweigh the benefits of ‘increased sensation’.”

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Ian Green, of HIV and sexual health service provider Terrence Higgins Trust, said condoms continue to be the best way to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

The chief executive said: “There is the right condom out there for everyone. Penises come in a whole range of different shapes and sizes – and condoms do too. For example, if you do find standard condoms too small, then you should try a king size option.

“Last year we saw big jumps in rates of both gonorrhoea and syphilis, which is why more needs to be done to promote condom use, the range of different shapes and sizes available, and the importance of regular testing. This is particularly true among groups most affected by STIs in this country, which includes young people, gay and bisexual men, and people from BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) communities.”

Karin O’Sullivan, of the Family Planning Association, said regular sized condoms are suitable for most penis shapes and sizes.

Ms O’Sullivan, who has worked in sexual health for the past 30 years, added: “We would advise anyone who knows that regular condoms aren’t suitable for them, for whatever reason, to carry appropriate options with them so they can have safe sex."

A spokesperson for online sexual health provider SH:24 said health providers need to move away from giving out “one size fits all” advice about contraception.

“When patients come into a clinic, they can often assume all condoms are the same size so we also want to see better education around choices and how to use condoms properly,“ they said.

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