He says he doesn't like condoms, so should we use withdrawal instead?
Heather Corinna replies:I am a 15 (almost 16) year old virgin. My boyfriend and I are thinking about having sex. We love each other, we are both mature and know everything, and we both ARE ready. He isn't a virgin, he had sex once before. While having a discussion on the phone he mentioned to me about this round-a-bout and that he doesn't like using condoms. I am completely 100% for condoms and would never risk myself getting pregnant or getting something (even though I know he doesn't have anything). But he insists that he barely pre-cums and when he does "finish" he knows beforehand. I know guys just say that. I've thought about it and maybe after were used to intercourse I'll think about the pull out method. But ONLY if we use another type of protection. What do you think about the pull out method? For the other question I have, what is safer to use, in a girl's point of view? Morning after pill? The Ring? Birth control? How can I get my hands on a Morning after pill? Thanks ever so much. P.S. your site rocks =]
As a product of the withdrawal method myself, you can imagine why I'm not too excited about it. But even if I wasn't, what I know is that it's one of the least effective methods in typical use (only 73% effective), and that even with perfect use (96% effective), it's still less effective than most other methods with perfect use.
Here's the thing: your boyfriend gets to have his own preferences, but he also has the luxury of not being the person to become pregnant because of those preferences. As well, men are less impacted by most STIs than women are, so he gets that luxury, too. A partner really ready for sex, and really being a partner, is going to recognize those differences and take them into account.
It also sounds like you both don't "know everything." (I'm 38, I've been sexually active for decades, and I work in this field for my living full-time and have for years and years, and even I don't dream I can know everything there is to know about sex and reproduction.) The amount of pre-ejaculate a man does or doesn't have doesn't impact if there is sperm in that pre-ejaculate, or how much of it is in that fluid at a given time. And yes, most guys will know when they're about to ejaculate a lot of the time, but sometimes they don't, and plenty are taken by surprise in terms of how fast it happens now and then, which is a big reason why the typical use effectiveness of withdrawal is so low. Too, since he has told you he had a previous partner and that he also doesn't like condoms, you need to presume there are potential risks of sexually transmitted infections, higher even than they would be if he didn't use condoms consistently or at all with his previous partner. If he has never been tested, neither you nor he can know he doesn't have an infection. The fact that he wasn't very direct with you about his sexual history also doesn't say much about his maturity.
You're 100% for condoms, which is really smart, especially with a partner who is new to you, and where you both haven't been practicaing safer sex for at least six months -- that's latex barriers, including condoms, at least one but preferably two full screenings for all sexually transmitted infections for partners who have been sexually active before each, and monogamous partnership for at least those six months. After that period of time and those practices, so long as a couple stays monogamous, then it's okay to talk about ditching condoms, because infection risks will them be known to have been reduced and be unlikely.
Your preferences for condoms are based on your health and your long-term life goals: his are probably based on either not knowing how to use condoms so that they feel best, and is own short-term pleasure. In my book? You win, hands-down. The place your preferences come here are way bigger than the place his are.
So, what does that mean?
You get to choose partners who will have sound priorities: your health and when and if you want to become pregnant, things which strongly impact your whole life, should take easy precedence over a minor alteration, if that, of someone else's momentary physical pleasure, especially when you consider that any method of birth control will often alter the physical experience for one or both partners somewhat. For instance, the birth control pill and other hormonal methods will often impact female sexual response and desire in some way, and usually more so that the way condoms impact men. Heck, withdrawal is a bigger intrusion on everyone's pleasure than a condom could dream of being. If this guy can't get it together to either use condoms, or wait for sex until he has had an STI test and you have obtained a birth control method you can use for yourself that's reliable -- or if you, validly, don't want to go without a condom -- this isn't the right guy for you to be sexually active with.
If he feels very strongly about this preference against condoms, than what that means is that he only gets to choose partners who are down with taking big risks with sexually transmitted infections (especially since the more partners he has without using them, the riskier a person he'll become to sleep with), and who either are okay taking pregnancy risks or who have another sound method of birth control they're using for themselves. That's likely to limit how many smart women who care about their own health will sleep with him, but hey: that's his prerogative. But that doesn't sound like you.
Obviously, you both have another option, which is to have more talks about this and come to a sound agreement.
What I'd propose is best, especially given that he does have a sexual history, is using condoms for the first six months you two are sexually active, and also until he gets a current STI test. You can add a second method of birth control to condoms -- like a hormonal method -- if you'd feel safer using two, which is always a good idea. If you talk about how to use condoms in a way that feels good -- most guys don't know to put a couple drops of lube inside the condom before putting it on, for example -- make clear that almost ANY method of birth control involves some alteration to someone's pleasure (and those which aren't reliable increase everyone's stress, which impacts sexual experience, too), and that you have a smart limit about what risks you're willing to take and a strong expectation of a partner supporting you in making smart choices, he may well change his tune. Has he ever tried using a female condom before? That's something else you can try, and he should be open to trying at least a few more times with different condoms and ways of using them before putting you at risks you don't want to be taking. You might also talk with him about how different the risks you're both taking are: he's got no STI risks or risk of pregnancy with you, and you have both with him. Does he really understand that? Does he care, for real?
If despite those conversations, he still makes all of this about him and a silly little piece of latex, I'd say he doesn't have the kind of emotional maturity someone needs to have to be sexually active with someone else yet, and your best bet is to either wait for sex with him until he does, or move on from this relationship to a partner who has it more together. When we are with someone who we know is more vulnerable or at risk than we are, what we should do is make concessions to account for that, not try and dismiss those imbalances or discount them so we can get exactly what we want from our better position.
As far as your own birth control choices, go, emergency contraception -- the morning after pill -- also is less effective than many methods, and isn't a sound solution as an ongoing method of birth control, since it'll cost you around $30 - $50 every time you use it, which would add up fast if someone was using it every time they had sex. It's not meant to be used as regular contraception. That's because it's not as effective as many methods, because it's very expensive, and because it'd be a lot of hormones to put into your body regularly (it also doesn't tend to leave a person feeling very well for a little while). But having a prescription for it around in case you do ever have a condom break, or are using another birth control method you suspect may have failed, is a good idea. In the United States, those under 18 need a prescription for EC, which you can get from your regular doctor, your gynecologist or a sexual or general health care clinic. Once you have that scrip, you can fill it at most pharmacies.
As far as hormonal contraceptives go, methods designed for consistent use in advance of sex are far more effective, and the birth control pill, the ring and the patch are all combination hormonal methods with the same perfect use and typical use rates.
What method of birth control is the right one for any given person is about levels of effectiveness, cost, access, side effects, and how easy it is for a person to use that method correctly and consistently. The pill, for instance, is very effective, but some women don't care for the side effects or have health conditions which don't make the pill safe for them, and some just can't remember to take a pill every day. Almost every method has pros and cons, so what the best one is is very individual. We have a great birth control walk-through to help users find their own best options here at Scarleteen, which you can walk yourself through right here: Birth Control Bingo! You'll also see effectiveness rates for every available method on those pages.
Okay? So, stick to your guns, gal. When you have a limit -- and this is a smart one -- know a limit trumps a preference. The person whose preference conflicts with your limit always has the option of just not having sex with you, which is not a big deal for either of you: no one's life is deeply impacted by just not having sex. And the best scenario for any of us to have sex with someone else in is when our limits and boundaries are both honored, understood, and put in the proper perspective. You pregnant, risking pregnancy or with an STI vs. him feeling ever-so-slightly-less penis jollies is a pretty easy difference of perspective to suss out and prioritize.
Here are a few more links for you to read yourself or share with your boyfriend:
- Emergency Contraception (Plan B or the Morning-After-Pill)
- The Buddy System: Effectiveness Rates for Backing Up Your Birth Control With a Second Method
- Condom Basics: A User's Manual
- Your Map to the Condom Aisle
- Hey, Boyfriend! Male Reproductive Choices
- Be a Blabbermouth! The Whats, Whys and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner
- Safe, Sound & Sexy: A Safer Sex How-To
- 10 of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Sexual Self (at Any Age)