This study examines condom knowledge, attitudes, access, and practices in rural Mwanza, Tanzania. From 1999–2002, six researchers carried out participant observation in nine villages for a total of 158 person-weeks. Many villagers perceived condoms negatively for multiple reasons, for example, the method's association with infection or promiscuity, reduced male sexual pleasure, and cultural understandings of meaningful sex. Men controlled the terms of sexual encounters and reported that they would use condoms only with risky partners, but few perceived their partners as such. Use of condoms appeared to be very low, primarily as a result of limited demand, although barriers to access also existed. These qualitative findings contrast with inconsistent survey reports of relatively high condom use in the same population. Intervention efforts should address the tradeoff between possible short- and long-term consequences of condom use, particularly for men, for example, reduced pleasure versus reduced HIV risk. If possible, surveys should assess the validity of reported condom use through comparison with other data, including qualitative findings and distribution/sales records.