A new study from CHEST determined the association between penis size, condom failure (breaking, slipping off), and safer sex practices.
By Joshua Guthals and Willow Levine, December 17, 2012. New York, NY.
Does the comfort and fit of condoms have an impact on safer sex among gay and bisexual men? In 2010, Hunter College’s Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST) surveyed nearly 500 men in NYC to get some answers about penis size and condom failure rates. Dr. Jeffrey Parsons, CHEST’s director, says, “This type of public health research is very important, no matter how politically volatile. Studies like this allow us to better understand sexual health and risk so that we can address effectively the health needs of gay and bisexual men.”
What did Dr. Parsons and his colleagues seek to discover through their study? Dr. Christian Grov, the study’s lead author, says he had wondered if a “one-size-fits-all approach to condom distribution” might be inadvertently creating a group of men at risk for engaging in unprotected sex due to problems with condom fit. And the findings of CHEST’s study suggest his initial hypothesis may have validity: close to half of respondents reported condom slippage during sex and almost a third reported condom breakage in the previous three months.
There was also an association between condom breakage and unprotected sex, suggesting that some men may have unprotected sex simply because they cannot find proper fitting condoms. Less than forty percent of those surveyed said it was “easy” to find a condom that fit them.
“These findings indicate that the fit of a condom matters,” says Grov. “A client at an HIV service agency might see a bowl filled with ‘standard’ condoms and have to ask a provider if they have other sizes available. That extra step could make the difference between someone leaving with a condom—the right condom—or going home empty handed.”
In recent years condom manufacturers have been expanding their selection to include different sizes. “Unfortunately, the default condom freely distributed by many health care providers is still a standard size,” says Grov. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has increased the distribution of condoms in a variety of sizes to health centers. However, the findings of the CHEST study show there is more work to do.
In the US, gay and bisexual men are among the most likely to be exposed to HIV. Condoms remain among the best strategies to prevent new transmissions. Offering a wider assortment of condoms could improve the ease and enjoyment – and thus likelihood – of safer sex practices.
About the study:
The results of this study titled, “Self-reported penis size and experiences with condoms among gay and bisexual men,” by Christian Grov, Brooke E. Wells, and Jeffrey T. Parsons will be published in the February 2013 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior. Data were collected in 2010 from 463 gay and bisexual men in at large scale community events in New York City.
Contact: Jeffrey T. Parsons. Jeffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org