Get Real! How Do I Convince Him to Use a Condom?


Dawn asks:

I’m 14.
There is this guy I knew for a couple of years now. We are very good,
close friends. As the months went by, we started to get sexually
attracted to each other. About 2-3 weeks ago we had oral sex (I sucked
his penis only). Now we want to do even more. We both want to actually
have sex. I’m really attracted to him sexually. After sexual
intercourse has occurred between the two of us, there’s no way I can
ever forget him. I will have to live my life knowing he was the one who
took my virginity, and that’s fine. But the only problem is…he feels
that there is no need for a condom. He says "there is a feeling he gets
that lets him know when the sperm is coming." Should I believe what he
says is true or should I convince him that a condom is definately
needed?

Heather replies:

Frankly,
if I had a partner — at any age — who, from the onset, was trying to
talk his way out of cooperating with managing risks, risks that I would
bear the greatest burden of, I wouldn’t just insist on a condom.

I would insist on not being sexual with that person at all.

I — and you — deserve better than that. I don’t want to be
someone’s Mom in bed. Yuck! I want an equal partner, a partner who is
my equal.

You may or may not — earnestly, first-time sex isn’t something
everyone finds as memorable as young people often expect it to be –
find the first person you had sex with memorable ten, twenty or thirty
years from now, but it’s a lot more likely they will be if you’re
looking at the kid you had due to their irresponsibility, or living
with the HPV they landed you with. It’s a lot more likely if and when
you realize — and you likely will, perhaps even right when you’re
having sex — that someone put you at big risks for a whole lot of
nothing special.

When we’re choosing a sexual partner, it’s sound to have more
criteria to base that choice on than just if we’re attracted to that
person, and if they want to have sex with us. We are usually going to
find a lot of people attractive in our lives, but we’re unlikely to
have sex with all, or even most, of them, for a whole bunch of
different reasons. Many people may also want to have sex with us: we
aren’t going to say yes to all of them just because that’s what they
want. Some other criteria I suggest considering in these choices are
things like how that person treats you and others in terms of the
respect and real consideration they afford you, how self-aware that
person is as far as what they are ready for, what that person’s primary
motivations are, how informed that person is about sex in general, and
absolutely how ready that person is to have sex in a way which is safe
and responsible.

Many men certainly can feel when they are about to ejaculate, but
it’s also just as common for things to happen very fast in that regard,
which is why withdrawal — "pulling out," as he is suggesting — is one
of the two least effective methods of contraception in typical use.
It’s also why I’m sitting before you to answer this question at all:
it’s what my parents tried to use as birth control. Obviously, it
didn’t work out very well for them. Pre-ejaculate, a fluid which men
emit from their penises when they are aroused, before ejaculation, not
only isn’t something guys can usually feel, especially when their penis
is inside a vagina, it may also contain traces of sperm from a previous
ejaculation which may have the possibility of creating a pregnancy. As
well, even when a guy does feel himself starting to ejaculate, some
won’t be good on their word to withdraw, and will simply choose not to,
even if they promised they would. It’s really dicey, when you’re the
one who could become pregnant, to put a partner in complete charge of
any kind of birth control, especially someone you haven’t been with for
quite some time (more than a couple months), and don’t have a very good
idea about how they behave in a crisis when it comes to standing by
you. In fact, so far with this guy, it sounds to me like he’s already
given you a good idea about if he can put you first or consider you
equally: he can’t.

Withdrawal also offers you no protection against sexually
transmitted infections, which are just as much of a risk — in some
cases more so — as unwanted pregnancy is.

Since he says a condom isn’t needed for intercourse, I’m guessing
that you haven’t been using them when giving him oral sex, either. Be
aware that you have taken risks of sexually transmitted infections with
that alone, then, already. Maybe you didn’t know better, maybe he
didn’t know better, but if you found this site now, that tells me that
at least you, and probably both of you, have the skills and the tools
to look this stuff up to help you inform your choices. So, either one
or both of you didn’t care enough about yourself or the other to do
that, or did it and are taking risks regardless. That’s just not smart,
and it’s also not in the interest of a healthy sexuality for life.
Teens and young adults are only about 25% of the population in the
United States, and yet, about half of all new sexually transmitted
infections every year are in you guys. That tells us a lot about how
important both safer sex in your age group is — and how many young
people are blowing it off — and how important it is to only choose to
have sex when it’s really worth it, and when it’s with someone who
cares about you and your health enough to care about these risks.

At 14, chances are that it’s pretty hard for you to get sexual
healthcare: you probably aren’t getting it yet if you’re like a lot of
14-year olds. As a young guy, if he’s like lots of other young guys,
he’s probably never had testing for sexually transmitted infections. He
may not even have ever bothered to find out what both of your risks
are. At your age, a pregnancy is probably something you don’t want yet,
and aren’t likely ready to handle, practically, financially,
emotionally or interpersonally. And becoming pregnant at your age poses
health risks to you (and a child) that are far higher than they are
even for women just a couple years older.

Here’s what I think you deserve.

I think, for starters, you deserve a sexual partner, now and at any
time in your life, who doesn’t try and shirk responsibility for,
literally, a few minutes of his own pleasure (and probably not yours:
the majority of women won’t reach orgasm from intercourse alone), which
could change the landscape of your whole life. You deserve a partner
who, rather than trying to talk his way out of being safe with sex –
especially when you’re the one who will pay the biggest price if things
go wrong — is totally invested in cooperating with you to be sure that
you’re both being as safe as you can. You deserve a partner who not
only doesn’t try to ditch condoms, but who comes with his own and is
going to put one on without you even having to ask him to. You deserve
a partner who has the maturity are care for you to easily recognize
that unprotected sex puts you at some high risks, and could have a huge
impact on the rest of your life. You deserve a partner who you don’t ever
have to convince needs to treat you with basic care and respect, and
sexual responsibility is all about care and respect in my book.

You deserve to only have sex — of any kind, including oral sex –
at a time and space in your life when you feel capable and confident
when it comes to advocating for your own well-being, and in the context
of healthy relationships you know how to choose and to know if they’re
sound or not pretty easily.

I also think you deserve a partner, and to have sex at a point in
your life and a relationships, where you don’t see having any kind of
sex as "giving" them something, but as sharing something together.

The idea that a partner "takes" virginity is really pretty telling.
If it seems like that, feels like that, that says to me that you’re
probably not yet in a place where you understand or have experienced
your sexuality as reciprocal and really about both of you giving and
taking, not just one of you. You deserve a partner who tries to keep
your sex life balanced, rather than just pursing the sexual activities
which are most likely to get him off and not you.

I’ll be plain: without this and all those other things up there,
intercourse or other kinds of sex are just not likely to be worth the
risks you take for it. You’re probably not going to be even enjoying
yourself very much during that sex, let alone how you may feel about it
afterwards. It just doesn’t make sense, when we’re choosing to take any
kind of risk, sexual or otherwise, to risk lots of unwanted or bad
stuff when it’s not likely we’re going to get much out of it or having
taking those risks be worth our while. This is likely what, in economic
theory, is referred to as a "zero-sum" gain. That means that at best –
if nothing goes wrong — you’re still not likely to gain anything: not
a lot of pleasure, not an orgasm, not love, not more friendship, not a
magnificent experience you’ll fondly remember for life. That at best,
nothing bad will happen, but nothing great will probably happen either,
which makes only risking the bad stuff a bit of a losing proposition.

If this guy really is a good, close friend, I also think you deserve
to be treated like a friend. We don’t put out friends at huge risks
because we want a few seconds of what we think might be increased
pleasure. Let’s say I really liked driving insanely fast, and got a
charge from it. I liked the risk involved. My trying to convince you to
drive like a suicidal maniac with me would not demonstrate my being a
friend to you: it would show that I want to have fun and care more
about that then putting you in harm’s way. That’s no way to treat
someone we don’t even know, let alone a good friend.

What I posit is that you take a few steps back right now.

Take a break — at least for a bit — from having any kind of sex
with this guy. Do some research (I’ll give you some links when I’m done
here to help you do that). Think about what you really want in terms of
your sexual life and a sexual partner: think about what you really
deserve. If your esteem is low, then maybe think about what you think
your mother, your sister, your best friend deserves. have a good look
about what you two are like together besides with sex, and what the sex
you have had so far — and oral sex is "actual" sex — has been like for you.

If you still want to be sexually active, start with a visit to your
regular doctor, a gynecologist or a sexual health clinic and both get
started on your sexual healthcare and talk about safer sex and birth
control. If you can’t even find a way to do that yet, it’s probably not
a good idea to be sexual with others yet: you’ve got to have a way to
take care of yourself in this regard to protect your health. Explore
your own sexuality first, by yourself, with masturbation and find out
about more of what YOU like, by yourself, so you can bring that to a
partner. Then, if this guy still seems like someone you want to be
involved with that way, have a couple serious talks about all of this,
and make clear that what’s gone on already (again, if you haven’t been
safe about the oral sex), and what he’s proposing just isn’t acceptable
when it comes to the bar you have for someone who is worthy of being
sexual with you. Make clear that you deserve better than that and
refuse to accept anything less. Show him the research you’ve done. Make
clear you expect him to have the same tests you had done with your
sexual healthcare done for himself. Make clear that — if you do still
feel ready, and able to really take care of all you need to to actually
be ready — you expect a sexual partner who, if he wants to do
grownup things, can be a freaking grownup. Again: you’re not his Mom,
so you shouldn’t need to tell him to wash his hands before dinner or
wear a condom with sex.

If he really is up for all of that (though it sounds clear he’s not
there yet), take your time getting to intercourse. So far, you’ve given
him oral sex. Now you’re talking about intercourse: both of these
activities are really primarily about his pleasure, not yours. If you
two are going to be sexual and step it up to activities with more
risks, be sure it’s worth those risks, both sexually and emotionally.
Try doing some activities which are also about you: is he a good
partner in that respect? Can he practice safer sex without argument or
attempts at manipulation with other activities you’re doing? Does it
all feel good to you, not just for him, so far, physically and
emotionally? Is he good at listening to what feels good for you and
responding to that, and do you feel able yet to communicate openly
about it all with him so he CAN listen and be responsive? Do you two
get along well after sex is over? Is he handling your sex life together
well when it comes to respecting your privacy, rather than telling the
whole world you two are having sex? If all of that goes well over some
time, the two of you also do well together outside of sex, AND he is
totally ready, willing and able to step up to the plate with real care
and responsibility, then it makes it a lot more sensible to consider
intercourse with him if that’s something you want.

Do just be aware that at 14, chances are good that it’s not legal
yet for you to be having intercourse and possibly other kinds of sex.
If you’re the one under the age of consent in your state, province or
country, it’s not you who would get into trouble: if he’s over it,
especially if he’s well over it, he’s the one for whom sex with you
would be criminal. Now, it’s not your job to be responsible for him::
he should be the one addressing issues like this and making this choice
for himself. But statutory rape charges would probably hurt both of
you: even though you wouldn’t be charged with a crime, having a legal
case or crime as part of your sex life is not the way to a sound sex
life that can be healthy and drama-free. Being dragged into court to
talk about your sex life is a really invasive, humiliating thing to go
through. And everyone deserves a sex life that doesn’t even remotely
resemble a Jerry Springer show episode. So, I’m always going to suggest
that anyone underage consider those laws — whether or not I agree with
them — in their sexual decision-making.

Okay? Really, think about what you deserve. Don’t settle or rush in.
Raise a high bar for sexual partners, and don’t accept anything less.
Doing that not only makes it a lot more likely that you will have a sex
life you both enjoy and which is as healthy for you as possible, but a
lot more likely that you feel good about yourself as a whole, now and
later on.

Here is that extra information I told you I’d pass on for you to look at:

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  • http://onlyaerik.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

    This —

    Frankly, if I had a partner — at any age — who, from the onset, was trying to talk his way out of cooperating with managing risks, risks that I would bear the greatest burden of, I wouldn’t just insist on a condom.

    I would insist on not being sexual with that person at all.

    Is the perfect reply.

    Your friend only wants to talk about ways not to get caught driving drunk instead of drinking responsibly? Don’t ever ride in a car with him, even when he’s sober.

    Same essential principle.

    We owe that level of respect to ourselves in order to extend it to others.

  • http://www.nazilieskill.us invalid-0

    Forget the extortion. Tell him it makes him last longer.

  • http://feministblogproject.wordpress.com invalid-0

    The idea that a partner “takes” virginity is really pretty telling. If it seems like that, feels like that, that says to me that you’re probably not yet in a place where you understand or have experienced your sexuality as reciprocal and really about both of you giving and taking, not just one of you. You deserve a partner who tries to keep your sex life balanced, rather than just pursing the sexual activities which are most likely to get him off and not you.

    I wish somebody had told me this when I decided I wanted to start having sex. Sadly, my abstinence-only eductation didn’t leave much room for lessons about sexual empowerment . . .

  • http://onlyaerik.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

    @ John Hanks: did you just call Heather’s response extortion?

    Are you stupid?

    Are you so taken in by this myth of male weakness to their libido that you’re actually saying when a woman refuses to fuck you, that’s taking you hostage?

    You realize you’re insane, right?

  • heather-corinna

    I think we can safely presume comments about women or anyone else electing not to share their bodies with someone who won’t treat them with care and respect as being extortion to be trolling.