Condoms Can Be Fun, Too

When it comes to setting the mood for safe sex, pleasure seems to be more of a motivation than fear of pregnancy or disease.

Authors of "Viewpoint" in this week's issue of leading U.K. medical journal The Lancet say campaigns promoting condom use should emphasize how they can enhance the "fun factor" of sex.

Touting the pleasure-enhancing benefits of certain condoms -- whether they be ribbed, textured or twisted -- would represent a divergence from conventional safe-sex promotion efforts, which usually focus on the adverse consequences of unprotected sex.

"Since pursuit of pleasure is one of the main reasons that people have sex, this factor must be addressed when motivating people to use condoms and participate in safer sexual behavior," the authors say in the "Viewpoint."

"Although enjoyment -- and even sex itself -- has been noticeably absent from much of the dialogue surrounding STI [sexually transmitted infections] and the spread of HIV, increasing evidence shows the importance of condom promotion that includes a combination of pleasure-based and safer sex messages."

Most experts told ABC News that they agreed that a new approach was needed to promote safer sex.

"Sole emphasis on disease prevention is no longer working," said Eli Coleman, professor and director of the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. "The authors accurately point out the obvious -- that one of the main goals of having sex for humans is pleasure. It is important that we recognize that sexual health is more than the absence of disease."

Fear-promotion has not stopped the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

"Fear tactics have famously not worked. The spread of STIs is epidemic and devastating," said Gina Ogden, sex therapist and researcher and author of "The Heart and Soul of Sex: Making the ISIS Connection." "Since sex is about pleasure and fun, it makes sense that providing pleasurable, fun materials to make sex safer is a way to help stem STIs."

And condoms need all the public relations they can get.

It turns out the perception that condoms decrease sexual sensation is the key reason more people don't use them.

This finding comes from a study led by The Global Programme on AIDS, which looked at sexual behaviors in 14 countries.

Changing this perception, experts say, is crucial in appealing to those who value pleasure over prudence.

"People do have lots of negative connotations around condom use," said David Greenfield of the Healing Center, LLC, in West Hartford, Conn. "The reality is that people mostly have sex because it's fun and feels good. So why not just deal with that reality and stop pretending it's all about abstinence and reproduction?"

Some doctors have already started adapting a more pleasure-oriented approach to condoms.

"This is an approach that I have used in my practice when teaching women how to convince men to use condoms," said Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University in New York. "I recommend that they tell their partners that the condoms that they have chosen will increase their pleasure and make sex more fun."

Not everyone is sold on the approach, however.

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