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Heather Corinna replies:
For the past few months my period hasn't been normal. I'll go weeks or sometimes a whole month without it. I am currently in a relatively new relationship (about 2 months now) and we've had sex a few times, but he pulls out right before. I know about the risk of pre-ejaculate and such, but how possible is it to get pregnant from it? Also, I want to start using condoms and while I feel comfortable with him, since we've never brought it up I am bit apprehensive about mentioning it. How can I tell him that if we're going to have sex we need to use condoms? I know it sounds simple and it should be, I'm probably just stressing out about bringing it up over nothing. The thing is that we're both pretty religious people and while I'm more than happy with our sex life, I didn't expect it wouldn't happen so soon. So, the dilemma is do I mention the condoms? Or should we quit having sex because of the way deep down we know we should live and behave. I'm not in anyway saying I don't "want" to have sex.. but I don't know if having sex is the best thing for us now. And if it isn't, how do I go about telling him when we've had sex a few times? (I know this is definitely a personal problem for me, but if you were in my position.. what do you think you'd do?)
Another quick one, in my last relationship that lasted 4 years, my boyfriend who was 27 and I would have sex, either vaginally or orally, and he could only become aroused and ejaculate once. With the person I am with now (who is 31) he'll get aroused and ejaculate and an hour later he's ready to go again. Is it just different in every person? Thanks so much for your time.
Withdrawal is NOT an effective birth control method: just ask my parents, anf their parents, and...you get the picture. I also have a fantastic nephew who I adore, both of whose parents swear (and have no reason to lie, really) that they practiced withdrawal PERFECTLY. Apparently not. That's the method that was used more than any other during the baby boom of the last century, when we had more births than at any other time in history. The results are hardly a surprise.
Certainly, it's better than nothing, but not much, especially when you consider that it's pretty likely a male partner will miss pulling out on time at some point. It's awfully tough to think and react quickly when you're in the middle of an orgasm. It's also a heck of a buzzkill: even for those of religions where using any kind of method isn't okay, natural family planning (FAM), when done properly, is more effective, easier to do correctly, and a lot less intrusive. Of course, for those of those groups, it is even more effective to simply abstain from intercourse, choosing to engage in other sexual activities instead which do not create a risk of pregnancy at all.
So, you are putting yourself at a high risk of pregnancy, and you've also opened yourself up to a high risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, too. 31-year-old male virgins are relatively rare: at that age, a guy is pretty likely to have at least had SOME kind of sexual contact with someone before, and it's very important with new partners to practice safer sex for at least six months, which includes condom use and testing, right from the start. Plus, you've had a previous partner, too, so he may also have been exposed to any STIs you may be carrying.
It sounds to me like you want to stop having sex right now MORE than you want to keep having sex and start using condoms. So, let's speak to that first.
Sex with a partner -- or even just with ourselves -- isn't some kind of Pandora's Box where once we open it, we don't get to close it anymore. Sex should always be optional -- EVERY time we have any kind of sex -- and we should always be able to opt out at any time, for any reason. Sometimes, for instance, one or both members of a couple will want to take a break because they just have other stuff going on that needs attention, because of relationship conflicts, illness, or the desire not to have to carry the stress of the risks sex presents. And if having sex isn't the best thing for you right now, and you're having real ethical conflicts about it, then it likely IS best for you to step back and work those conflicts out first.
Per how to tell him that, you might try something like this:
I need to take a break from sex right now. It's not that the sex isn't satisfying for me (if that is in fact true), or that I don't like you anymore. I'm just having some inner conflicts with being sexually active, and I don't feel right about it. Before I can be sexually active again, I need to think about this and work these things out for myself so that I'm sure I'm doing what's best for me. This happened so fast, I feel like I didn't have the time I needed to be really sure it's what I want. Plus, I just don't want to have sex with you when I feel conflicted about it. I'm going to think about this for a while, and I'll keep talking to you about it so you can stay in the loop.
If I were having an ethical conflict with sex with a partner, that's the kind of thing I'd say and do, and I'd expect any partner who cared for me to completely support me in that.
Okay, so that's that. Now, if you decide, now or later, that you do want to come back to sex, but to come back to it using tools so that you are not gambling for pregnancy and disease with it, then that's just what you set as a limit. You make clear to your partner that you may have taken those risks before, but you weren't really okay taking them then, and you're absolutely not okay with taking them any more. You make clear that from now on, it's condoms with all intercourse or no intercourse, and it really is that simple. (And to be frank, when you make it that simple and make it a hard limit, guys really are very unlikely to decline on condom use if it means no sex when they do. And if he does decline for that reason, then he declines, and life goes on.) I'd also encourage you to be sure you're using ALL the parts of safer sex practices, not just one, and that before you become sexually active with this partner again -- if you do -- that you both go get a full sound of STI testing and commit to doing it again six months later. After that, if you stay monogamous and with that partner, it's once a year, as a habit.
Here are a couple links I think you'll find helpful, including our Sex Readiness Checklist, which can help you figure out if now really is or is not a good time for you to be sexually active, and a link to my book, which has a lot of content about negotiating this stuff in relationships:
Too, in case you need to know, because someone can or does become aroused again, that doesn't mean you're obligated to have sex with them again. Heck, women don't even have a refractory period: many of us could have sex all day and night if we wanted, but that doesn't mean our partners must have sex with us, just because we can or want it for ourselves. If your partner wants more sex and you're feeling done, he's got two hands, just like you. :)
Menstrual irregularity is something to have your gynecologist or sexual healthcare provider look into, and they can do that when you also get in there for that STI testing, so all the more reason to make that appointment. But it should be mentioned that it is normal to go weeks or a whole month without it: an average menstrual cycle for women is around 28 days, so many women will go nearly a whole month between periods. But even if you're all good there, know that it's really important for women -- especially sexually active women -- to have sexual/reproductive health exams every year: if you haven't started doing that, you're way past due.
~ Heather Corinna, Founder, Editor & Advice-Slingin' Sister @ Scarleteen.com
Author, S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College