Bill Gates has a foundation that works in Africa to treat AIDS and prevent HIV infection. His research demonstrates that most Africans -- like most
Americans -- don't wear condoms because the primitive contraption, which has not appreciably changed in 50 years, steals their pleasure. Gates is a practical
businessman and a creative inventor. He has proceeded with plans to make a better product after learning that there
is widespread dissatisfaction with an existing product. His foundation will give a $100,000 grant to anyone with
credible plans to make a condom that "is felt to enhance pleasure."
The foundation promises that such an innovation would "lead to substantial benefits for global health, both in terms of reducing the incidence of unplanned
pregnancies and in prevention of infection with HIV."
Following the announcement,
Gates came under ideological fire. Gawker
called the argument that condoms reduce sensitivity one for "creeps" and "pervs," while Popular Science reacted by concluding "men are idiots." Salon likened any criticism of the condom's detrimental effect on sexuality to "whining."
Gates is working to open the conversation to the introduction of factual evidence and looking at what really drives behavior. The pleasure factor is an
auspicious beginning, but a frank and honest discussion about condoms should not end there.
For decades, the myth that pre-ejaculate ("pre-cum") can impregnate women has been a reason people advocated condoms. The propaganda posits that pre-ejaculate fluid contains sperm, and therefore any penetration without a
condom can cause pregnancy.
The truth is that the chance of pregnancy by pre-cum is so remote that it is a statistical nonfactor. Two separate studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health found no sperm in
pre-ejaculate fluid, as did a
study conducted by Connecticut State University in conjunction with Princeton University
. The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel also failed to find any trace of sperm in pre-ejaculate fluid, and the Kinsey Institute at Indiana
University maintains that "pre-ejaculate rarely contains sperm." Despite the
overwhelming evidence -- some of which is readily available at sources like WebMD -- some continue to propagate the myth, maybe
because they believe the end justifies the means. But a serious problem warrants an honest discussion, even if not all of the evidence helps make a case
Sex researcher Dr. Rachel Jones at the Guttmacher Institute recently published a study in the journal Contraception that found that the "withdrawal method of birth control
is nearly as effective as condoms in preventing pregnancy." By the study's measures, "pulling out" had a failure rate of four percent, while condoms had a
failure rate of two percent.