June 20, 2009 — -- The federal government has spent nearly half a million dollars to fund a study to find out why some men would prefer not to wear condoms during sex.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded a $423,500 grant to researchers at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.
The Bloomington, Ind., based research team will use the funding to study "barriers to correct condom use," according to a release from the institute.
"This project aims to advance our understanding of, among other factors, the role of cognitive and affective processes and condom application skills in explaining problems with condom use in young, heterosexual adult men," reads an excerpt of the study, which will be funded through May 2011.
But critics aren't so sure that this is the way the government should be spending taxpayer dollars.
One of those people is Jazz Shaw, the assistant editor for the news blog Themoderatevoice.com, who says that if the researchers really wanted to know why guys don't like wearing condoms, they should have just asked the average guy.
"Government at all levels leaves itself open to ridicule by not thinking these things through," Shaw said in an e-mail to ABCNews.com. "Men don't enjoy wearing condoms and we already know this."
"If what the NIH actually plans to study is condom failure rates or design deficiencies leading to difficulty in using the product, they should name the study appropriately and focus on those areas," Shaw said.
Repeated calls and messages to the NIH left by ABCNews.com were not immediately returned, but according to its Web site, it provides more than $30 billion for research every year, making the funding for this study a mere pittance in comparison to the larger picture.
The two leaders of the study, scientists Erick Janssen and Stephanie Sanders, also did not respond to requests for comment.
Asked to elaborate on why, exactly, men often put up a fight when they're asked to wear a condom, Shaw said the feeling experienced during intercourse is altered -- and not for the better -- by the condom.
"The physical sensation is simply not the same," Shaw said.
"Also, it's an interruption when a couple is in the 'heat of the moment' where you have to change focus to something decidedly unromantic," he said. "[It's] pretty much the same as if the woman, at the same juncture, needs to jump up, run to the bathroom and insert a diaphragm. It breaks the mood.
"Men wear them because they are slightly more desirable than a combination of embarrassing diseases, 20 years of child support payments and death," Shaw said. "And if you took the death part out of the equation, a frightening number of us would probably still roll the dice on it if the lady was willing."
Condom Study to Be Carried Out in Two Phases
The project will be split up into two phases, the first to be focused on asking men about "various issues of arousal and sensation, including physical experience and perceptions about condoms," according to the institutes release on the study.
The second phase will be more laboratory oriented and will focus on "penile erection and sensitivity during condom application."
One of the main goals of the study is to understand the link between condom application and the loss of erections and decreased sensation experienced by men.
David Williams, the vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste, a non-profit watchdog group that tracks mismanagement and wasteful spending by the government, said that he is "frustrated" by the grant.
"It's hard to see this kind of research going on when we have such bigger problems as a country that we need to face," Williams said. "The NIH is studying things that on the face of it sounds like it isn't really needed right now or that the answers are pretty obvious at times."
Williams concedes that while the amount of money given to this project is a "drop in the bucket" compared to the total amount of monetary support the NIH doles out each year, he says that cutting back on several projects like this one could go a long way.
"There needs to be more scrutiny over what is and is not funded," he said.
"People don't seem to think the government has priorities and this grant is really just another example of that," Williams said. "We're all trying to make ends meet here and the government is doing a study on condom use."