I have a good friend who is one of the most strongly feminist women that I know. She was part of the feminist group on her campus, helped put on The Vagina Monologues, runs a very popular feminist blog, promotes safe sex and gender equality every chance she gets, and is basically a notorious all-around activist loudmouth. She has that pure drive that few people have. A while back, I got a panicked message from her because she had finally lost her virginity, and was now worried about her health.
Being educated about safe sex, she had planned ahead and brought condoms and insisted the guy use them, but when he vehemently protested and then outright refused, she gave in. Now, she was worried about pregnancy and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). This story broke my heart, because even one of the strongest girls I know was pressured into potentially sacrificing her health so that her partner could avoid wearing a condom.
I see this over and over again. One woman who was paying hundreds of dollars for a birth control method she could get for free in her home state if she only waited one month paid out of pocket anyway because her boyfriend refused to use condoms and she was terrified of getting pregnant. “He doesn’t like them,” she told me. Another woman had a high risk for stroke on pills containing estrogen due to her high blood pressure and migraines but was desperate for us to prescribe them to her because she hated her progestin-only pills. Her boyfriend wouldn’t use a condom because he told her “it was against his religion.”
Now, I know that sex takes two and I don’t want to portray this as a story of poor women being coerced by evil men. Women want to have sex just as badly as men do and if condom usage does not seem like an option, many people will choose risky sex over no sex. However, I truly think that men’s sexual pleasure is held at a higher priority than women’s bodies and desires and I want this to change. It is vitally important that women protect their health and understand that their boundaries and requests for safe sex are important and should be respected.
So, if you’re sexually active and know that you prefer to use condoms, whether for birth control purposes or just to avoid STIs, here are some tips that I hope will empower you to control your sexual destiny:
- Carry condoms with you. Planning ahead doesn’t make you presumptuous or promiscuous. You can’t use them if no one has them!
- Don’t be afraid to be firm. Women are taught to be polite and it’s hard for us sometimes to stand up for ourselves. It’s okay to tell someone there will be no sex without a condom. Most people, given the choice between sex with a condom and no sex, will choose sex with a condom. I don’t want to propagate the notion that it’s easy for women to turn down sex because we want it less than men do anyway; turning down sex you want because you don’t have a condom or they won’t use one really sucks. But like I said, a lot of people will agree if you insist and if not, at least you don’t have an STD or pregnancy scare.
- Female condoms, female condoms, female condoms! If they don’t want to use a condom, you can use one yourself. They even have extra benefits; they cover the vulva so you have more protection against viruses like HPV and herpes. They can also be used for anal sex.
Remember, you have the right to state what you want during sex and stick with it. Also, if your partner consistently protests at wearing condoms if you want them to, ask yourself some questions about the safety of your relationship. Putting your body at risk for pregnancy and infection is a big red flag.
Have any of you ever been in a situation where a partner refused to wear a condom when you wanted them to? What did you do?