Photo by Zuzana Ľudviková

Only third of students
always uses a condom

Safe sex is out

Photo by Zuzana Ľudviková
Only a third of UG students always use a condom when having sex, suggests an UKrant poll among 425 respondents. While public health services warn of STDs, students don’t seem worried. ‘Sex with a condom feels like going to a Taylor Swift concert with earplugs in.’
By Lotta Groenendaal and Ingrid Stefan
4 October om 9:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 5 October 2023
om 15:28 uur.
October 4 at 9:27 AM.
Last modified on October 5, 2023
at 15:28 PM.

‘If I wear a condom, I can’t come, and where’s the joy in that?’ 

History student Tom – not his real name by the way, because while he’s happy to talk about sex, he doesn’t want his friends to recognise him – is clear about this. It’s not that he doesn’t know about the risks of STDs, or unwanted pregnancies, but his priority is to experience as much as possible when he has sex. So he only uses a condom if the girl insists. ‘Condom use is just like sports. If you crash, you crash.’ 

Tom is one of many students at the UG who consciously choose to have unprotected sex. A poll conducted by UKrant among 425 UG students reveals that only 30.8 percent always use a condom and 29.7 percent never use a condom at all. And even though many only have one partner, 7.5 percent have multiple partners and still never use protection. 

And that’s a problem. Because not only are STDs becoming more frequent, the risk of pregnancy increases too, warns public health service GGD.

How often do you use a condom? (425 answers)

Altijd / AlwaysMeestal / Most of the timeSoms / SometimesNooit / Never29,9%20,2%19,1%30,8%
Altijd / Always131
Meestal / Most of the time81
Soms / Sometimes86
Nooit / Never127
Altijd / AlwaysMeestal / Mostof the timeSoms /SometimesNooit / Never29,9%20,2%19,1%30,8%
Altijd / Always131
Meestal / Most of the time81
Soms / Sometimes86
Nooit / Never127

20 percent of the students who filled out the UKrant poll only sometimes use condoms, they say.  Of those respondents who had more than twenty sex partners in the past year, only three out of eleven claim to always use them.


Practising unsafe sex is a trend that the GGD survey ‘Sex under 25’ from 2017 already noted: 40 percent of people between twelve and twenty-five years old in the Netherlands were not using condoms anymore, it found. New numbers will not be available until next year, but the signs are worrying. 

‘The people around me think condoms are uncool’, says Jada, a recent maths graduate. ‘They talk about sex and STDs very nonchalantly. For example: I have a friend who never uses a condom. Last night she proudly called me to say that she finally used one and my reaction was to congratulate her. That doesn’t seem right.’ 

Most of the time I was just too drunk to use a condom

Jada, too, has had unprotected sex in the past a couple of times. In these cases, her sexual partners just assumed they wouldn’t use one, and she’d go along with it. ‘I once had a partner that had a problem staying hard when wearing a condom’, she says. 

Take student Hans from the Faculty of Arts. He is currently in a committed relationship, but before that almost never used a condom either, even though he’d pick up multiple partners in clubs and pubs. ‘Most of the time I was just too drunk for that.’

He’s not alone in this. For 19.1 percent of students who filled out the poll, the reason for having unsafe sex is that they are drunk or high. ‘It can blur boundaries’, says sexual health nurse Marion Kasemir with the GGD. 

Mood killer

Another oft-mentioned reason is just not having condoms on you when the moment comes. And lots of students – 13.5 percent – call condoms a ‘mood killer’. ‘I can’t stand the smell of condoms’, one of the respondents explains. ‘They ruin the mood and make me feel gross.’

Do you ask your partner if they use any form of contraception? (416 answers)

Ja, altijd / Yes, alwaysSoms / SometimesNee / No41,6%16,8%41,6%
Ja, altijd / Yes, always173
Soms / Sometimes70
Nee / No173
Ja, altijd / Yes,alwaysSoms /SometimesNee / No41,6%16,8%41,6%
Ja, altijd / Yes, always173
Soms / Sometimes70
Nee / No173

Most students who don’t use a condom for reasons other than having a single partner say the lack of feeling is the reason they don’t rely on protection. ‘Skin-to-skin contact is the best thing ever. Without a condom, I feel a stronger emotional connection’, Tom says. 

Medical student Matthew usually does use a condom, but gets why others don’t. ‘Sex with a condom on feels like a really bad wank’, he says. ‘It’s like having sex with a plastic bag.’

Without a condom, I feel a stronger emotional connection

Luuk, another medical student, only uses them occasionally. ‘Students will be students, no matter the level of education on the importance of sexual health.’

But there are also students for whom condom use is a more practical issue. ‘You can’t really use condoms when having vulva sex’, explains second-year student Ana, who is a lesbian. ‘Neither I nor my sexual partners do that. Not because we don’t want to stay protected, but because they’re just impractical.’ 

Bisexual students, too, complain about the use of condoms as being something better suited to heterosexual intercourse.


However, all that unprotected sex can have real consequences. For one thing, there is the risk of pregnancy when students don’t use other protection, like the pill. That happened to Tom and his girlfriend when his condom ripped. She had to have an abortion. It hasn’t changed his attitude about condom use, though. 

Among his friend group, pregnancy scares aren’t much of a topic either. ‘Most of my friends are probably more scared of holding a twenty-minute presentation than they are about getting someone pregnant. The chances are low if you pull out, and I’d rather have this low chance than not enjoy sex at all. Sex with a condom feels like going to a Taylor Swift concert with earplugs in.’ 

Meanwhile, the GGD is seeing a rise in the number of young people with  gonorrhoea. Of the survey respondents, 13.7 percent report having been diagnosed with an STD at least once – usually chlamydia and gonorrhoea, which make up about 81 percent of all cases. ‘A buddy of mine got chlamydia and gonorrhoea at the same time. That kind of made me think twice’, says one of the students.

Have you ever had an STD? (424 answers)

Ja, verscheidene keren / Yes, multipletimesJa, één keer / Yes, only onceMisschien – ik heb nooit een diagnosegehad / Maybe – never got properlydiagnosedNee / No9,2%9,2%77,1%
Ja, verscheidene keren / Yes, multiple times19
Ja, één keer / Yes, only once39
Misschien – ik heb nooit een diagnose gehad / Maybe – never got properly diagnosed39
Nee / No327
Ja,verscheidenekeren / Yes,multiple timesJa, één keer /Yes, only onceMisschien – ikheb nooit eendiagnosegehad / Maybe –never gotproperly diagn…Nee / No9,2%9,2%77,1%
Ja, verscheidene keren / Yes, multiple times19
Ja, één keer / Yes, only once39
Misschien – ik heb nooit een diagnose gehad / Maybe – never got properly diagnosed39
Nee / No327


Yet 71 percent of students never ask for an STD test when having sex with a new partner. And 20 percent of the poll respondents who never use a condom also never ask their partners for a test. ‘I can imagine people find it awkward’, Jada explains. ‘Which of course, it shouldn’t be. I don’t want to come over as strict, demanding this from my partner. But maybe I am too scared to bring it up.’ 

The risk and discomfort don’t outweigh the pleasure

‘Sex without a condom is a question of trust’, Hans feels. And Matthew agrees: ‘If I’ve known someone a bit longer, like a month, and we’ve already had sex before, then I will simply trust their word that they are clean without seeing a test’, he says. 

But maybe the biggest problem is that students believe that STDs are easily treatable. ‘It’s just one shot’, one student says. ‘After that, you just have to be careful for seven days. The risk and discomfort don’t outweigh the pleasure.’


Tom, too, only sees treating an STD as mildly inconvenient. ‘It sucks, but just for a few days.’ In his social circle, people are more worried about bed bugs than getting an STD. ‘The nice thing about STDs is that no one can see them. Nobody knows what’s going on in your pants.’ 

Sexual health nurse Kasemir worries about that attitude. She is concerned about the increasing antibiotic resistance and the growing demand for healthcare, which could potentially strain the healthcare system. In addition, HIV is an STD you carry with you for life. ‘I worry about students using condoms less frequently, because I’ve heard that they do want to, but find it challenging to bring the matter up in practice.’ 

It is already hard to get a test, students complain. Because while the GGD offers free STD tests for those under the age of twenty-five, gay men, or sex workers, there are only a limited number of slots per week, Kasemir explains. Students can also go to their GP, but that will cost them 150 euros from their deductibles. 


For Jada, it was one of the reasons to change her ways – that and the fact she contracted genital herpes. ‘STD tests are more expensive than condoms, so why not just use condoms?’

She now looks for partners with whom she feels confident talking about sex and using protection. ‘An easy way to bring up the topic is to just lay out a couple of condoms on your bedside table; that instantly starts the conversation.’ 

Nearly half of the survey respondents who have had an STD reported a similar change in attitude. Just like Jada, they claim to be more careful now in choosing their partners and making sure to use a condom. For them – and all students, for that matter – Kasemir has a tip. ‘Carry multiple condoms, maybe three. That way, you can use them in the evening and the next morning, allowing for the possibility of multiple rounds. Sex should be enjoyable and worry-free. The fun can be ruined if you wake up and start thinking, do I need to get an STD test now? Could I be pregnant? Why didn’t I say no?’

An earlier version of this article stated that interviewee Jada had had ‘lots of unprotected sex’. This turned out to be only a couple of times. The text has been adjusted accordingly.