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How to ask your partner to wear a condom

WORDS BY COBY RENKIN

Because safe sex is everyone’s responsibility.

While in conversation with some girlfriends recently, I realised we’ve all been made to feel like a ‘prude’ at some point in our sexually active lives because we preferred to use a condom

Whether it was by the 24-year-old man who told me he “Wouldn’t even know how to use one,” or by my friend’s friend, who said she’d be lessening the experience for her partner, we’ve all experienced it in some way. But why are women so often made to feel less than for having a preference that ultimately protects both them and their partner? Is it really as common as it appears to be within my friendship group? 


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I surveyed a small sample of Australian women on their experiences and 90 per cent of them said that yes, at one point or another they have felt judged by a partner for wanting to use a condom. Of those that said yes, 74 per cent said that it had stopped them from asking again, whether it was with the same partner or someone else. This is clearly a problem.

Women are putting themselves at risk because they’re worried about how their sexual partners might react in the moment and how their reputation will be affected. They don’t want to be seen as ‘paranoid’ or ‘inconsiderate’. So I asked four of the women who responded to my survey to detail their past experiences and tell me what advice they’d give to women who found themselves in the same situations. 

Bella*, 22

I once had a stand-off at a music festival with a guy I had met who had taken me back to his tent. I asked him to put one on and he said they were “So old school” and that he was “clean” even though he had never had an STI test. We ended up arguing for a few minutes until I said “I’m not doing anything without one”. We both went completely silent. I was looking at him, he was looking at me. It felt like an hour. After 30 FULL seconds, he finally broke first and yelled out “Fine!” I felt like I was such a nag but really I was looking out for both of our sexual health and well-being. Who puts up THAT much of a fight over a little bit of latex?? 

It took a while to finally muster up the courage to ask other people to use protection. But I realised that by not asking, I’m making it unsafe for myself and any future partners. Sexual health is not talked about enough, and starting that conversation with anyone, even if they aren’t a potential sexual partner, is the best thing you can do.

If a penis owner makes you feel even slightly uncomfortable or makes you feel crazy for suggesting wearing a condom, remind yourself that you’re a boss ass queen that deserves a guy who puts one on, no questions asked. You deserve to feel safe and sexually liberated when getting down and dirty! 

Kate*, 20

I recently got diagnosed with HSV-2 – this is a result of giving in to guys even when I’d prefer to use a condom. I’ve had guys try and tell me they are clean and have been tested and I’m on the pill so they use it as an excuse to try to pressure me into not using one. Even when I say I’d prefer to use one, the guy would try to dismiss me and be like “Nah it’s all good, you’ll be fine,” and just proceed.

Do not give in. You can end up getting an STI or STD that isn’t treatable. I would lay out the boundaries over text first if possible, as it’s easier to be stronger over text than in the moment when they are with you. If it’s a sexual casual partner then explain to them over text that you would like them to wear condoms every time, and that it is not optional. 

Louisa*, 21

I like to regularly donate blood and one of the prerequisites of doing so is, naturally, having safe sex. That’s why (alongside not wanting to pop out a kid at 21) I always ask my sexual partners to wear a condom. Though in my experience, nine times out of 10, it always ends in one of two ways: petty excuses like “But my dick’s too big!” and “It feels like nothing when I have one on” or being judged for not being on the pill or some sort of contraceptive, as if it’s my job as a woman? It’s pretty poor if you ask me.

Having to constantly fight my point and justify why I want them to wear a condom eventually just got tiring after a while (not to mention it’s a real mood killer when you’re laying there tits out and they decide to pick a fight), so regrettably, there have been times where I’ve reverted to just going in with a ‘Louisa, you’ve got to pick your battles’ mindset. This shouldn’t be something women have to go through though and the mentality around condoms needs to change. 

I’m now in a healthy relationship where my partner assumes that the default is using a condom as opposed to the other way around. This has been a revolutionary step in helping me realise I needed to raise the bar (that is: my standards) because for every man out there who will disrespect you for wanting to use a condom, there’s another who won’t even question it. Prior to my relationship though, I remember one night thinking, ‘Enough is enough.’

If I committed to standing my ground with at least one toxic man who refused, perhaps it might force them to actually take a step back and reconsider the role that consent plays in sex (which includes the use of protection). But at the end of the day, that still leaves the onus on me to educate these men, which shouldn’t be the case. Though I do believe it’s better than nothing until broader societal values around condoms change. So, I say stand your ground, and if there are times you can’t win the battle, commit to not seeing them again. 

Sadie*, 21

My ex-boyfriend would say to me that it didn’t feel as good with a condom, that he shouldn’t have to wear one because I was on the pill. But we were pretty young, I was really paranoid about pregnancy and I didn’t think it was fair that that burden go entirely on me. He told me (using names) about how his friend’s girlfriend lets him cum inside of her with no condom whilst she’s on the pill, that it was common… and that we should do it anyway. It made me feel like I was being a downer when really I just felt far too stressed about pregnancy to have fun without it and would spend the next few weeks stressing until I got my period.

I’ve only slept with one guy since then. He was a few years older than me, [and had] presumably been with a lot more people than me, and I didn’t know him that well, so I was scared and a bit embarrassed to ask him. But as I realised it was heading in that direction before it got too heated I just said, “Hypothetically speaking, if I wanna have sex right now do you have condoms?”

He said, “Yep should I get them now?” I said yes, and that was that. He didn’t make it into a big deal at all. As it really shouldn’t be! My advice would be: it’s your body, sex is for your enjoyment as much as it is his, it’s not fun if you’re not comfortable, so if you want him to wear one then tell him. If he makes it into a big deal, then he doesn’t respect your body and you probably shouldn’t be having sex with him.

*Names have been changed

For information on misconceptions surrounding condoms, head here

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