My sex-ed in school was… not entirely honest. And not necessarily because of the right-wingers wanting to scare me out of having sex. They lied to get us to use condoms. They said flat out that there is no difference in sensation if you’re wearing a condom and if you’re not. They said to guys that if you perceive a difference, you are imagining it. They said to girls that if a guy complains about decreased sensation, he is probably lying (or imagining it).
A while back, The Atlantic had a remarkably good piece on the deficiencies of condoms and our inability to talk about it:
If we’re honest, many of us do see condoms as robbing us of pleasure, stealing some excitement and spontaneity from intimacy, and dulling the intensity of sexuality. It’s okay to say that. These factors are the primary reasons that still only 60 percent of teenagers claim to use condoms. These factors warrant acknowledging. From there, condom usage declines as people grow older. The number one reason we have seen given time and again for refusal to wear condoms is the reduction of pleasure.
It is politically incorrect to acknowledge the truth and simplicity of the condom’s inadequacy. Criticism of the condom opens one to righteous demonization and condemnation. Condom defenders often stifle honest and helpful discussion about sexuality, unplanned pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections. [...]
Following the announcement, Gates came under ideological fire. Gawker called the argument that condoms reduce sensitivity one for “creeps” and “pervs,” while Popular Science reacted by concluding “men are idiots.” Salon likened any criticism of the condom’s detrimental effect on sexuality to “whining.”
If it prevents people from using condoms, it’s significant. Complaining that people are putting pleasure before their well-being frankly makes you sound like abstinence advocates. Which isn’t to say that there is no argument for saying “suck it up, young man, this is one of those things you have to do.” But you have to acknowledge that it’s sometimes not going to happen. And the likelihood of it happening would go up if Gates happens to be successful.
There is significant upside, and no downside, to finding a way for sex with the condom to feel better. But like my middle school sex-ed class, there is a fear of admitting the obvious – the truth – because people will use it to justify not doing the responsible thing. And maybe it will. It is not that dissimilar to what I have seen to be a refusal to discuss coitus interruptus honestly. In fact, talking to sex ed boosters about it is actually quite reminiscent of talking to abstinence-boosters about teenage sex in general. “Comprehensive” has its limits.