The best defense against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases is abstinence. The next best thing is a condom.
However, some students question the effectiveness of certain brands of condoms distributed by University Health Services.
One resident adviser, Jordan Gibbs of Robie-Andrews, said that at least two students recently reported that condoms they got from University Health Services broke during intercourse. In both cases the students had to seek emergency contraception the day after to reduce the risk of pregnancy.
Gibbs said in both cases the students said the condoms were used correctly. The students blame the quality of the condom for the break.
The University distributes the Lifestyles brand and another “generic” brand to students at no cost. They are available at University Health Services on the Gorham and Portland campus. Many RAs also put condoms in a small bin on each floor.
“My residents were complaining that the University should get better condoms,” said Gibbs. “It’s better to have something than nothing, but I don’t want my residents to feel like every time they have sex they have to get emergency contraception.”
Gibbs said now she isn’t comfortable giving out condoms to students.
Planned Parenthood reported that two out of every 100 condoms that are used correctly would break.
“Nothing’s 100 percent,” said Sue Martin, clinical director of University Health Services. “They do break sometimes for no reason.”
However, Martin believes the problem lies more in improper usage than defective condoms.
“I don’t know if when you’re 18 or 19 you’ve mastered that [proper condom usage]. Some people are 30 and 40 and still don’t know the right way to do it.”
Martin said while University Health Services offers pamphlets and counseling to any student with questions, many are uncomfortable talking about condom usage. The result is that many students use condoms improperly and they break.
“We’re not going to take flashlights and go on nookie patrol to say `Stop, you’re not putting the condom on right,'” said Martin.
At this time University Health Services will not conduct an investigation into the quality of the condoms it distributes because it hasn’t received any complaints.
“All of the condoms are tested,” said Martin. “I feel very comfortable that they are good condoms.”
A 1997 study conducted by Family Planning Perspectives revealed that 23 percent of men between the age of 17 and 22 reported experiencing at least one condom break in the previous year.
Graduate student Darren said he once experienced a condom break during intercourse. He said he and his partner weren’t really sure what happened or if they should seek emergency health care for possible pregnancy or STD infection.
“It was kind of scary,” said Darren. “But she was a lot more nervous than I was.”
Darren said he feels there is a lot more at risk for females in situations where condoms break or when condoms aren’t used at all.
“I was mostly scared about pregnancy because I know it’s a lot harder for a guy to contract an STD,” he said. “If I was a girl I’d want a guy to wear a condom all the time because there’s so much at risk for her.”
Darren said it’s sometimes tempting not to use a condom especially when a woman doesn’t say anything.
Sometimes it’s difficult for women to speak up and make sure their partner is using a condom, especially in the heat of the moment, said Naomi Caron, freshman vocal performance major.
“Females might want to impress a guy,” said Caron. “Some girls think that guys want a girl that will give him everything he wants. I think a lot of females do things they don’t want to do because they’re afraid.”
Caron said when she was younger it was easy for her to be influenced by the wishes of her male partner not to use a condom.
“Even though in your head you think you shouldn’t, you don’t have too much time and you might doubt yourself so you don’t say anything,” she said. “You don’t think about any serious consequences.”
However, now Darren and Caron feel like they can put their fears aside and speak up for their personal safety.
“If you’re comfortable enough to have sex with someone you should be comfortable enough to say something about a condom,” said Darren.
University Health Services has resources available to students who experience a condom break. They offer emergency contraception that reduces the risk of pregnancy. There is also screening available to check for STD infection. For more information contact Student Health Services at 780-5411 in Gorham and 780-4211 in Portland.
News Editor Steve Peoples can be contacted at: [email protected]