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Fifty ways to leave your rubber: how men in Mombasa rationalise unsafe sex
  1. S Thomsen1,
  2. M Stalker1,
  3. C Toroitich-Ruto2
  1. 1Family Health International, Durham, NC, USA
  2. 2Family Health International, Nairobi, Kenya
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Sarah Thomsen
 Liljeholmstorget 52, S-117 61, Stockholm, Sweden;


Objective: To explore the reasons why men who have sex with sex workers in Kenya refuse to use condoms in order to develop potential interventions that might help to overcome these barriers.

Methods: We conducted participant observations over a period of 2 months in the bars, discos, shebeens, and guesthouses of Mombasa, Kenya, where many of the sexual transactions are initiated.

Results: Analysis of the participant observations revealed at least 50 reasons for not using a condom, which we grouped into six categories: condoms are not pleasurable, condoms are defective, condoms are harmful, condoms are unnecessary, condoms are too hard to use, and external forces prohibit using condoms.

Conclusions: Some of the reasons men say they do not use condoms would be difficult to affect directly. Others are the result of gaps in knowledge and have not been impacted through better communication strategies. Finally, some of the reasons for not using condoms, such as men’s weaknesses, and the loss of pleasure, could possibly be addressed through the introduction of female controlled devices. However, the most important conclusion of this paper is that men who pay for sex do so because it is pleasurable and many men do not find the male condom pleasurable. Therefore, messages targeted at men who have sex with sex workers may not be 100% successful if they only emphasise the benefits of condom use as disease control.

  • MSSWs, men who have sex with sex workers
  • STIs, sexually transmitted infections
  • men
  • sex work
  • condoms

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  • Sources of funding: United States Agency for International Development.

  • Conflict of interest: none.

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