Editorial: Stay safe: Condoms aren’t redundant


Illustration: Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

Using condoms is not just for birth control. Condoms can help prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Editorial Board

From sex education in school to those awkward talks with our parents, one message has consistently hit our generation regarding sex: be safe. It may very well seem like the last thing any of us need is another preachy voice telling us our business, but realistically, too much good advice is never a bad thing.

When talking about safe sex, one of the biggest elephants in the room is condoms. Universally known as the easiest, cheapest method of birth control — short of abstinence, obviously — condoms rightfully have a prominent place in our society’s sex talk.

Used in various forms for hundreds of years, condoms have proven their value over and over as a means of preventing pregnancies when used properly. With more modern forms of birth control available, such as orally taken hormone treatments — i.e., the pill — condoms can sometimes be thought of as “extra protection” or as redundant.

While oral birth control is effective, its use, and the use of other medicinal contraceptives, does not render condoms useless or unnecessary. They still provide a valuable service by preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Of course, male condoms are not relevant to all sexually active individuals or sexual acts. The same kind of protection can be achieved with similar devices, such as female condoms and dental dams. These may not receive the same kind of attention “regular” condoms get, but they can be just as effective and far more applicable as safeguards against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

With the Centers for Disease Control estimating about 110,000 cases of STDs in the United States, the issue is undeniably one that every sexually active person needs to be aware of.

HPV makes up the bulk of these transmissions. The CDC says most people will actually get HPV at some point in their lives, yet those who become infected usually will not exhibit overt symptoms. Additionally, most of the time HPV will be cleared up by a body’s natural immune response.

Since most of the time no bad consequences will happen from infections, this may sound like a relief. But in reality that same lack of consequences can lead to exposure through ignorance.

People can tell themselves they are not promiscuous enough to be exposed to STDs, and many might be right. Without trying to scare anyone, the fact remains that one time is enough for pregnancy or infection.

Instead of relying on the various talks — or in many cases, lectures — we were all probably subjected to as the only times for discussion about safe sex, we should want to talk about the issue. It might seem out of place to talk to your partner(s) about the precautions you want to take or not take, but there really isn’t any more appropriate place.

Despite the social taboos we have on talking about sex, we still do it. Certainly, not all sexual partners are going to be intimately close, but a good rule of thumb is that if you do something with another person, you should be able to talk about it.

That rule can keep you from blinding yourself to the realities of the world in which you are participating. Far too often, safety concerns are swept under the rug simply because we do not know how to approach a situation, preferring instead to just not think about it.

While it is not the place of a newspaper or anyone else to tell you how to live your life, sometimes we all could use a gentle reminder. So do what you wish, but understand that sex is something that can and probably should be enjoyed safely. Realize that despite the plethora of options now on the market, condom use is not — and probably will not be for a long time — redundant. A willingness to discuss this with your partner saves you, and them, from future harm.