Let’s talk about condoms and sex

Today is Valentine’s Day so it seems like an appropriate day to talk about sex. This article in the Taipei Times today discusses a survey about rates of condom use in Taiwan. It is based on a recent survey of more than 1,000 men aged 15-59 about condom use in Taiwan. Here are some key statistics quoted in the article:

  • 47 percent said they used a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse
  • 32 percent of males surveyed said they had not used a condom during sex in the past year
  • 68 percent agreed that a condom should be used during sexual relations
  • 91 percent of sexually active men said they would wear a condom if their partner asked them to do so
  • 32 percent said they believed using condoms would decrease the amount of pleasure they felt during intercourse
  • 24 percent said they didn’t use condoms because their partner did not want them to
  • 21 percent said that buying condoms was embarrassing for them
  • 10 percent believed a condom only had to be used right before the moment of ejaculation
  • 41 percent of men used a condom the first time they had sexual intercourse

I find the results of concern and these concerns have also been reflected in some conversations I have had in Taiwan about condoms and other matters related to sex. It seems there is a widespread attitude amongst Taiwanese men that condom use is unnecessary. This is combined with women being too embarrassed to buy condoms and/or insist that their partners use them. I have been told that many Taiwanese men will use the withdrawl method rather than use a condom. I have also been told many women will have abortions or take the morning after pill instead of using safer methods of birth control.

Condoms are a cheap, easy and effective way of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. However, it seems many people have failed to get the message! I think the survey results generally reflect a lack of knowledge about birth control methods and sexually transmitted diseases. It highlights a need for better sex education in schools and also public education campaigns to promote condom use.

19 thoughts on “Let’s talk about condoms and sex

  1. wow, I didn’t expect this topic to appear in this blog, but it’s an important issue. Actually, I think that if you compare those stats to other countries of similar development (GDP), you’ll find similar results.

    For example, this relatively recent article in Israel (http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3810614,00.html) : 50% of the youth in Israel didn’t use a condom even though it was within reach (34% if it’s total population), 1/4 of Israelis generally don’t use condoms when having “random sex” (66% in ages 45-54), and it’s quite surprising just how many people report having “random sex” nowadays. A common reason, BTW, for not using a condom was “the partner seemed healthy”.

    Anyways, just trying to say this is somewhat of a global concern. Always good to try and raise awareness…

  2. Fili, thanks for adding some statistics for comparison with other countries. I think the key point is that in wealthy countries where both men and women are well educated there is no excuse for not doing better.

    The appearance of the survey results in the media provided a good opportunity to post something about this issue on my blog. It was something I was concerned about because of various anecdotes I had heard.

  3. My girlfriend says it’s better without a condom for her and she says all her girlfriends here in Taipei feel the same. It’s Taike culture, dude. This is Formosa. Get over it!

  4. Unfortunately, Taiwan is even more schizophrenic about the culture of sex than the US is. See, for example, the porn stores everywhere selling VCDs/DVDs, betelnut girls, massage parlors and soft-core porn on late night tv and contrast that with many families avoiding the “birds and bees” talks with their children, 30+ year old virgins being common (arranged marriages still being fairly common as well), and the public broadcasting or discussion of sex being a huge taboo.

    You are spot on in that education is the key. However, we all know how slow Taiwan is to change and enact new laws and how most Taiwanese are against change completely. Like most problems in Taiwan, I don’t see this one being resolved anytime soon.

  5. I’ve always found it interesting comparing stuff like this to the USA (my home country). I don’t know exact statistics comparable to those above, but here people seem both more open and laid-back about sex ed, and yet more uptight and shy about it, *at the same time*.

    Back home, people are more open about these things, but get really uptight and awkward when education/contraception is mentioned (I think this is a direct result of religion influencing conservative values at school, which have been proven not to work – people have intimate relations but are shy about talking about contraceptionand disease). Only recently have condom advertisements been permitted on TV and radio.

    You’d never see things that I see here: open advertisements for love motels (I have a good picture of the really racy billboard in Yonghe), safe sex commercials on the MRT televisions, and very frank brochures about AIDS given to the public.

    And yet, when it comes to talking about doing it, well, nobody does. I know that plenty of Taiwanese do so, in numbers not much different from the Americans – in Taipei at least, but unlike Americans, nobody talks about it. From the way people (don’t) talk you’d think they were all virgins. But they’re not.

    I didn’t edit out most instances of the word s*x to be coy. I’m quite frank. Your blog settings flagged my comment as “spammy” and I think it’s because I used that word over and over again and the software didn’t like it.

  6. jenna and The Expat, thanks for your comments. I think you both make important points about somewhat contradictory attitudes toward sex in Taiwan.

    Robert Redbird, unless you have something more intelligent to add to the conversation I won’t be publishing any more of your comments.

  7. great post, thanks.

    I just wanted to add/point out also that this social phenomenon, if you will, is largely due to societal stigma, and that while educational efforts are nonetheless vital and important, solutions to address societal stigma should also be in place.

  8. Its not just Taiwanese men. A South African female friend recently told me that the foreign community in Taichung is rife with STDs such as clamydia and herpes – perhaps anecdotal evidence that foreign residents are also not using condoms or sufficient protection themselves.

    I also have personal experience whereby some Taiwanese women will resort to the morning after pill or abortions rather than practice safe sex, the former of which is actually very damaging to the body if taken regularly.

  9. Ben, thanks for that information. Perhaps I shouldn’t have framed this as a Taiwanese problem. It is a more general problem of people of all nationalities not paying enough attention to safe sex messages.

  10. If it is any consolation, Sheng Li store on Heping/Fuxing in Taipei has a lovely, kitschy V-day display of “I Love You” pillows, pink teddy bears, cheap red wine, Ferrero Rocher, Korean “his and hers” handcuff necklaces and…a shelf of condoms. Just below the cheap wine.

    Hey…being safe is more important than being classy!

  11. Taiwan’s birthrate is one of the lowest in the world and you want people to use more condoms??

    (I kid, I kid.)

  12. I think part of the problem is that the response “32 percent said they believed using condoms would decrease the amount of pleasure” is not taken seriously. There seems to be a societal expectation that men should just have to live with that.

    It might be more helpful to address their problem. Many men seem to be unaware that the type of condom can make a big difference for the comfort of the wearer. Personally I find using ripped condoms are a lot more pleasant to put on than the other types. So if someone feels condom use to be unpleasant – maybe they can just try using a different type.

  13. Stefan, I think you mean ribbed not ripped. There are all kinds of different of condoms available. People can have fun experimenting until they find the one that suits them best. 😉

    blogOfNeurons, it does seem a little counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

  14. Taiwan already is a dying country, in terms of world global birth rate. So yes, Blog Nuroni has it dead right: why use condoms. Let them eat cake, as Redbird above said, who was right on. Why did you ban him, David?

  15. Albert, I hope that if people are going to have children it involves some kind of planning and forethought. Suggesting that all people should just stop using condoms is just promoting risky and irresponsible behaviour. Furthermore it would lead to both an increase in sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Let’s separate the use of condoms from discussions about birthrate. It is quite possible to increase the rate of condom use and increase the birth rate.

    For the record Redbird was not banned. I just suggested that he needed to improve the quality of his comments in the future.

  16. I am confused about a technical point. Okay, the survey was of men aged 15-59, and about half of them seem to use condoms. Is there any way of knowing what percentage of respondents were married, and trying to get their wives pregnant?

  17. Zla’od, you make a good point. I don’t have a copy of the original survey to see if that was included in the data. People who are married or in long-term relationships may be trying to get pregnant or using other forms of birth control. Understanding this would help improve interpretation of the data.

  18. I guess some bloggers see disagreement as “low-quality”. I for one agree with redbird. Loosen up a bit and stop telling the forumosans how to live!

    Public education is fine, but the sex lives of Taiwanese people is none of your business.

  19. laowai, I think something that has come out of the comments here is that this is not just a Taiwanese problem, but a problem around the world. My intention in writing this article was to encourage people to practice safe sex.

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