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How do I convince him to use a condom when he says we don't need one?

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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 definitely needed?

Heather Corinna 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:

written 17 Oct 2008 . updated 21 Jan 2014

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