Hello, I have some questions so I can further my sexual education. I have read your articles on different kinds of birth control and I have some questions just so I don't stay confused. Can you define and tell me the difference when you mention "perfect use" and "typical use"? Also I have a question about failure rate on perfect use. Is the failure rate only from human error or can failure happen for no reason? Like for example the condom, is the failure rate only from not wearing it the whole time, slipping, tearing etc. or can it fail for no reason even if you use it perfectly?
Hi, Lustercross, I'm happy to help clear this up for you! So when we say "perfect use", we're referring to the results found in lab conditions when scientists were testing the birth control. So it refers to when someone uses their birth control perfectly every time (which is pretty uncommon, hence the use of the second term, "typical use"). However, the number that goes with "perfect use" is the effectiveness over one full year, as is that of typical use. So in single uses, condoms CAN be 100% effective; if they do not break, are well within their expiry date, are used for all forms of genital contact, etc, for that particular incident, they are 100% effective.
"Typical use" means the effectiveness out there in the world, being used by the "typical" human who can make errors. So human error is accounted for in the "typical use" percentage. Typical use also takes into account people who don't actually use their birth control method very often; people who check off "condoms" as their method of birth control in a survey, but don't use protection every time -- or even most of the time -- they have sex.
Here is an excellent article that talks about it a bit more:
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