Two different studies conducted by researchers at Indiana University concluded that at least 30% of the time men and women apply condoms upside down on the penis, creating a need to flip the condom over for it to be used.  This "flip" can significantly increase the risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies.

It is well documented by sexual health researchers that condom use errors and problems not only compromise condom efficacy, but may also discourage condom use if people become frustrated or have less pleasurable experiences with them. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that condoms have a 2% perfect use failure rate for pregnancy, but the typical failure rate is 15%.  The gap between perfect and typical use has similar relevance for HIV and STI prevention, suggesting that millions of infections could be avoided by improved effectiveness.


Two different studies conducted by researchers at Indiana University looked closely at condom use errors and problems among college men and women.  One study focused on men who applied their own condoms and the other on women who put condoms on their male partners.  At first glance it may be surprising that both studies showed the same result, which is that at least 30% of the time the condom was applied upside down, regardless if the man or his female partner applied the condom.


It should be noted that health experts worldwide, including the U.S. FDA, state that if a condom is applied upside down it should be disposed of and a new condom should be used as pre-ejaculate may infect or impregnate a partner. 


One might think that the women, having use of both hands to open the condom and prepare it for application, should have a somewhat lower rate of misapplication.  However, the fact that the misapplication rate (30%) was identical to the men who applied the condom alone suggests that the problem is inherent to the design of the condom itself and not necessarily a lack of understanding of how to correctly use a condom.  Put another way, all condoms have a fundamental design flaw in that they do not indicate which way they should be applied.  That is until now.


In just seconds, O-Ring Condom solves this problem. When the luminescent ring, which is visible in the light and dark, is facing down towards the penis, the condom is ready to unroll.  When considering the costs associated with the 30% "upside down failure rate," such as the need to use another condom, the added risks of STIs and unintended pregnancies, and frustrated user experiences, the implications for public health worldwide are enormous. 


Further reading:


Sanders, Stephanie, Yarber, William, Kaufman, Erin, Crosby, Richard, Graham, Cynthia, and Milhausen, Robin. (2012). Condom use errors and problems: a global view. Sexual Health, 9(1):81-95. PDF


Crosby, R. A., Sanders, S.A., Yarber, W. L., Graham, C.A.& Dodge, B. (2002). Condom Use Errors and Problems in College Men. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 29 (9): 552-557.  PDF


Sanders, S. A., Graham, C. A., Yarber, W. L. , & Crosby, R. A. (2003). Condom use errors and problems among young women who apply condoms on males. Journal of American Medical Women's Association, 58 (2), 95-98.  PDF