The frightful discovery that the blessed thing didn’t work.
You hate them, but you use them. In the old days, the purchasing of a condom was a male right of passage. Remember the dreaded first trip to Mr. Jones drugstore? You leafed through bunch of magazines, feigned interest in various pharmaceutical products, fondled the shaving cream and the rock candy. Then you nerve up, you approached the counter and made the dreaded request, your casual demeanor belying the sweaty palms and palpitating heart, from your fear that this gentle drugstore owner, who used to serve you malts at the counter when your legs didn’t even reach the floor, would think you a sex fiend. Then again, maybe you just stole your rubbers from your older brother.
Those innocent days are gone. Now, in the age of AIDS and of teen pregnancy, condoms have come out of hiding. No longer are they behind the counter at most drugstores; rather, they sit on the shelf with the other respectable products. A number of schools are even distributing condoms to high school students to promote use.
The Odds – Breakage
The greatest fear among condom users is breakage. Just what are the odds that your protection will rupture? Once again, studies offer varied results, ranging from 1 in 100 to 1 in 8 for vaginal intercourse. Condom breakage can often be attributed to inexperience, insufficient or incorrect lubrication, or simple age of the condom. Breakage from manufacturers defects is much less common. The International Organization of Standards (ISO) has established standards for condoms for resistance to breakage (using tensile and airburst tests), as well as for holes and leakage. In a tested batch of 200 condoms, defects are not permitted over 3.5% for weakness, 1% for water leakage, and 8% for incorrect dimensions. Thus your odds of getting a condom that cannot pass that weakness test are at most 1 in 28; for leakage, the odds are 1 in 100. Most condoms sold on the market meet or exceed these standards.
Even if your condom does break, though, pregnancy or infection is not necessarily inevitable. One U.S. study reported 430 condom breaks resulting in 19 pregnancies, for pregnancy odds on a broken condom of 1 in 23.
Source: “Condoms – Now More than Ever,” Population Reports, Population Information Program, John Hopkins University, September, 1990.