Working in sexual health we talk about sex… a lot. As part of that, we talk a lot about how to have sexual experiences that are both safe and consensual. Let’s face it; sex is a lot more enjoyable if everyone feels protected and respected!
For National Condom Day this year, we have decided to tackle the most common questions we get asked about condoms, which are ‘How can I tell my partner/s I want to use condoms?’ and ‘How can I respond if my partner/s gives an excuse not to wear condoms during sex?’
Firstly, it’s important to remember that every person has the right to use contraception/protection to prevent STIs and/or pregnancy; the right to choose what activities they participate in, and the right to change their mind about what they want to do at any time.
Despite this, some people still feel uncomfortable asking their partner/s to use a condom. Often this discomfort stems from fear about what their partner/s will say. A lot of the time though, partner/s will be happy to use a condom (they may have also felt awkward asking!) so it can be useful to plan ahead and have condoms ready. However, if this is not the case, here are a couple of responses you can give to excuses for not using a condom.
“I don’t have an STI – I don’t need one”
Many STIs, like chlamydia and gonorrhoea, often don’t show any symptoms. You cannot tell just by looking at someone (or yourself) whether or not they have an STI. You could suggest you both get tested together, but you might also want to use condoms to be safe from pregnancy too.
“I find it difficult to stay hard/I can’t cum”
Some people do find it more difficult to keep an erection using condoms. There are a range of different reasons for this. One might be because they try to put the condom on just before penetrative sex. Without stimulation they may start to lose their erection (especially if they are not used to putting on a condom); this could cause some anxiety and they may not be able to regain the erection.
If this is the case, you could suggest they practise putting on a condom by themselves. They can try masturbating with a condom on to get used to the feel of it and how their body reacts. This way they can learn how to stay hard and how to orgasm. It is something that gets easier with practise and it will help them feel more confident having sex while using a condom.
“They’re too small/they hurt”
If a condom is hurting, there might be something wrong that needs to be checked out. Condoms come in a range of different sizes, so if the ones they have tried using feel too tight, you can suggest they try a different size. Alternatively they may be allergic to latex, but if this is the case there are different varieties of latex-free condoms available.
People will give a range of reasons as to why they do not want to use a condom. The above reasons come from a lack of knowledge around condom use or a potentially painful experience with condoms.
But what do you do if the reason is?
“I don’t want to”
This reason has nothing to do with lack of knowledge or difficulty using condoms. This is ok; they are allowed to have their preferences.
However, if you are made to feel uncomfortable for wanting to use a condom, this is NOT ok. If you feel that you cannot ask them to use a condom, or they try to make you feel guilty for asking to use a condom, this is NOT ok. If they try to have sex with you without a condom, or remove the condom during sex, this is NOT ok. Everyone has to be aware and enthusiastic about what is happening for sex to be consensual.
If you do not feel that you can have an open dialogue with your partner/s about condom use, then this may be a problem. Being able to communicate your thoughts and feelings about sex is an important part of any relationship (regardless of whether it is a long-term relationship or a one-night stand). Furthermore, if someone still refuses to use a condom even after you’ve asked them to, then they may not be ready to have sex with you yet. No one should feel they have to have sex without a condom just to please their partner/s.
If you have any other questions about condoms or sexual health, you can speak to one of our nurses on the helpline.