One of the most annoying memes that I can remember ever since I got involved with LGBT stuff outside of college is this idea that it's gay teens and young adults who, because of the hormones and empty spaces between their ears, are not using condoms and are getting infected.
Why, if they had witnessed the 80's and 90's/didn't think they were young and invincible/would turn down the Beyonce and pick up a newspaper, then we would have those STDs licked.
Goddamn young people, always going on my property with their non-latex-wrapped penises....
I'm inspired to post about it now because I came across an article by someone I never heard of before, and its second sentence was something I've heard a lot before:
Young men are often the most prone to abandon safe sex in the heat of the moment, as they view the disease in a less-serious light than we do.
What annoyed me most about this idea back when I was actually young enough to have it applied to me was that it went against my actual lived experience. When it came to safe sex, it was always older men who needed to be reminded about it (often several times).
And of course the author, David Toussaint, linked to absolutely nothing to back his claim up. It's an observable and quantifiable claim that many government agencies and health organizations would be interested in confirming, i.e., the sort of factoid intellectually curious people would spend 5 minutes on Google confirming before basing their opinions on it because it's so clearly out there.
So what does science have to say about condom use by different age groups?
Teenage boys reported using a condom use 79 percent of the time during the last 10 times they had intercourse with a girl, while teen girls reported using a condom 58 percent of those encounters, the study found.
But condom use declines with age, and by the time people reach 50, only one in five men and one in four women uses a condom, the study found.
The data was compiled by researchers at the University of Indiana, who documented the sexual experiences and condom use -- or not -- of 5,865 Americans aged 14 to 94.
The drop in condom use is not due to a lack of sexual activity among older Americans, because Americans are sexually active "well into old age (80+)", according to the study, which was funded by a condom maker.
They even put out a nifty graph (click to enlarge):
Well, that study was mainly about straight people. Here's one that focused on sex between men:
The study, published online ahead of print in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, tapped the largest sample of its kind in the United States to examine condom use among MSM. In collaboration with the OLB Research Institute at Online Buddies, Inc., researchers were able to include data from nearly 15,000 men.[...]
Additional key findings include: Rates of condom use were highest among men ages 18-24.
Canadian data on a narrower age interval shows the same trend:
This study utilized data from the Canadian Community Health Surveys (CCHS) to examine condom use among unmarried, not living common-law (UMNCL) Canadians aged 20-34 years. Males(59.9%) were more likely than females (49.9%) to report using a condom at last sexual intercourse. Condom use at last intercourse was more likely among younger respondents aged 20-24 (63.7% males; 53.8% females) than those aged 25-29 (56.0% males; 47.1 females) or 30-34 (54.7% males; 42.2% females).
Now when it comes to why young people are more likely to use condoms, I have nothing to offer but idle speculation. (They're more recently inculcated with safer-sex messaging? They never tried sex without condoms? Older people get bored with condoms? Older people who have avoided STD's don't appreciate how much condoms themselves have helped them to avoid them? Maybe this is just one part of a larger trend?)
But we should be starting with facts and then speculating. Doing it the other way around - presuming that young gay men are airheads, therefore they use condoms less! - is just silly.