Why "No Glove No Love" Is More Difficult for Older Women

Remember The Who, talkin' 'bout their generation? Maybe to a 20-year-old guy in the 1960s, the idea of wanting to die before getting old sounded pretty cool. But, you would think that, by the time he reached his fifties and sixties, life preservation would be the name of the game. But judging by the rate of condom use and casual sex in this (g-g-g-g-g) generation, they never stopped living on the edge.

STIs are up among in the over-50 set. According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, only 25% of men who had a new sexual partner, or more than one partner in a year, in this age group said they had used a condom the last time they had sex. The generation that listened to The Who are still getting some action; most single men in this age group had sex in the past year, and 23% of those did reported that their last sexual encounter was with a "casual acquaintance."

The problem with condom use is that it is a joint decision between two people. The decision about whether or not a condom is worn during a sexual act is function of the bargaining power between the individuals and the relative costs and benefits of condom use—which is specific to the individual. 

Women face much higher risks in unprotected sex.  For example, the likelihood that a man will get HIV from having vaginal sex once with an HIV-infected woman is between 0.01% and 0.03%. For a woman, though, the likelihood of becoming infected after having vaginal sex once with an HIV-infected man is in the range of  0.05% to 0.09%.* These probabilities seem low, but HIV is just one disease for which this is true. Genital herpes, for example, appears in one in five American women (aged 14 to 49) compared to one in nine men of the same age group. So, the cost of unprotected sex is higher for women and the benefit of non-condom use, in terms of comfort, is lower. This implies that a woman has a much greater incentive to insist on condom use and, even if she doesn’t hold the balance of bargaining power, she still might be successful in imposing "no glove no love."

The bargaining power of a woman changes over their lifetime though. When we are young we have a great deal of bargaining power, which may be why 80% of teenage boys report wearing condom the last time they had sex. When we get older though—especially once we reach an age when the demographics are such that the ratio of women to men is significantly above one—we lose that bargaining power. This isn’t just going to lead to less condom use, but also to higher rates of casual sex as fewer women will find themselves in a position to insist on fidelity, which also reduces the risk.

But there is a solution: younger men could start having casual sex more often with older women. This would even the playing field, so to speak, and I am certain it would be Pareto improving—everyone would be made better off without making anyone worse off.

Another possible solution would be to market a line of condoms marketed to older men. Jack Nicklaus can endorse them, or, if he is unwilling, I'm certain that Tiger Woods is up for the job. They could come in different styles too: the Glenfiddich scotch whiskey condom; the Montecristo Cuban cigar condom; or, maybe, a stylish Mont Blanc pen condom. The marketing could be taken one step further and packaging designed so that when it is ripped open a sexy female voice could say things like: "Today, trading on the New York Stock exchange surged beyond our wildest dreams." I think this could be very popular.

* Padian, N.S., Shiboski, S.C., Glass, S.O., Vittinghoff, E., 1997. Heterosexual transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Northern California: Results from a ten-year study. American Journal of Epidemiology 146 (4): pp 350-357.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Space toilets: How astronauts boldly go where few have gone before

A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.

  • When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
  • Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
  • Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less