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Sisters Are (or should be) Doin' It for Themselves.

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Submitted by Heather Corinna on Wed, 2009-09-09 10:28

I'm going to keep this short and sweet. (Well, short for me anyway.)

Why are so many of you kickass, take-charge gals leaving the buying, having and using of condoms only up to the men? I gotta tell you, it confounds my mind.

Often, when we hear from users who didn't use condoms, some typical statements about those scenarios are things like, "We were out," "He didn't have any," "The one he had ripped," or "I told him to bring some, but he forgot," or "I ask him to always have condoms, but he's not always so good about it." Setting aside the fact that when there aren't condoms, the best choice when it comes to protecting your health is to nix sex, or the kinds of sex where you need condoms, where is the YOU in all of these statements and scenarios? Who decided this all needed to be up to him?

Let's face it, I know too well from my job here and from scores of reports that teens and young adults just are not using condoms as often as they should be and when they should be. It's the central reason your STI rates remain so high, and a big reason why we talk so many users through pregnancy scares. Many of you tell me that it's not you and your partners who have or are going to get an STI. The problem is...well, it is. Especially if it's you and your partners who are having sex without using condoms. The folks who don't use condoms, or don't use them all the time are usually also the folks convinced they're not the ones at risk. No one should have to learn that the hard and the heartbreaking way: just take my word for it.

Is the sex you're having up to you as much as it's up to him? (I hope so: if it isn't, that's sex and/or a guy to back away from, or at least time to have a good long talk about consent and equity and make sure it's really up to both of you.) If it is, it doesn't make any sense to put all or most of safer sex, and potentially birth control if you use condoms for that, too, in his hands alone. Plus, since you're the one who could potentially become pregnant (not him), and with many STIs, you're the one who risks the greatest long-term health consequences, it's particularly nutty not to take charge and share responsibility when it comes to condoms.

This isn't all just up to him or all about him. For my mother's generation, sure, but not mine, and certainly not yours. This shouldn't all be up to him, because it's not just about him. It's about both of you.

If you can tell someone to buy and bring condoms, you can go get the condoms yourself and have them on hand. If you've got the maturity to be having any kind of sex, you've got the maturity to keep your own stock of condoms (and lube!). Leaving the condoms up to him also not only can put you at greater risk of not having a condom, you're also potentially setting up a dynamic in your relationship where your male partner is more likely to feel like condoms are a drag right from the get-go. Ideally, safer sex and birth control should be shared responsibilities, not something only put on one partner.

In the late eighties, women accounted for around 40% of condom buyers: these days, it's usually reported at only 30-35%. Are you really going to let women of my generation outshine you with something this easy?

One bonus of taking charge with condoms is that it usually becomes much easier to negotiate condom use, often with no negotiating at all. Clothes start to come off, you reach into your bag/drawer/backpack and hand over a condom. He takes it and he puts it on. You both move forward doing what you wanted to do with no stress. And I absolutely, positively promise you that when you do it just like that -- no muss, no fuss, no "I hate to ask, but" no "I'm sorry but could you..." -- it nearly always works out just like that. You hand it over, it's clear that's what you expect, so he puts it on, and no one apologizes, argues or gets into a powerplay about it. Then everyone gets to have their risks of STIs massively reduced, and if you're using condoms for contraception, your risks of pregnancy, to boot.

You may find pairing this hand-the-condom-over-move with a particular look on your face helpful, if this isn't going as smoothly as I've just described, despite you having the condom and passing over the condom. A look that says "Of course we use condoms. Duh." A look that says, "Any partner of mine does this, which is why I'm not treating it like a big deal." A look that says, "Game on, let's suit up!" A look that says arguing with you about condoms would not only be totally ridiculous, but would result in sex not happening, not now, and maybe not at any time in the future for that matter. And don't apologize for asking or telling someone to use a condom. It's like apologizing for helping someone carry their groceries or apologizing for not spitting in someone's food, seriously. You're doing what you can to protect the health of both of you and to reduce both of your health risks so you and your partner can actually feel good about what you're doing, during and after, rather than worrying about STIs during sex or managing one later. Worry and stress are the biggest pleasure and orgasm-busters there are: this is one way to not only be healthier, but for everyone to have a better time.

Another bonus is that when everyone -- not just guys, but women, too -- makes a point of having condoms around, it's highly unlikely a time will come when there just aren't any condoms. Both of you being out at the same time? Not likely.

One more? Couples sharing responsibility for things increases intimacy. We become closer to people when things are equitable, and when we know we're both being proactive to take care of each other, rather than putting all the responsibility on one partner. A typical -- and crummy -- dynamic that I often see in couples where condom-having is all on the guy involves the guy being responsible for having the condoms, and the female partner being responsible for policing the condom use or mommying the guy about having condoms. The stuff of an awesome relationship and happy, hot sex, that's not. Instead, you both take responsibility for having them and nobody nags or policies. Sounds better, right?

Lastly? Taking charge of your own sexual health is empowering. So, sure, maybe the first time or two in the pharmacy you feel a little awkward or like all eyes are on you when you buy a box. But you get over it, just like the guys do, just like you did when you first started buying pads or tampons. Refusing to go without the things you need to be healthy, and shrugging off anyone who might make you feel embarrassed about that gives you power, rather than letting some snoopy clerk take it away. Doing things like this helps you feel more in charge of your sexuality so that the harder stuff -- like negotiating sex with a partner, like talking about what you do and don't like, or are or are not in the mood to do -- also gets a lot easier.

Remember that you also don't have to do this on your own if you don't feel ready for that yet. You and your partner could go together, for instance, to each get a box. You could also go with a friend or two and all support one another in taking care of yourself this way. If your issue is not having the money for condoms, or feeling funny about going to a store to buy them, remember that you can often get condoms for free from local clinics, like your local Planned Parenthood clinic.

You can do this. I know you can do this. If it helps, I do this, and I've done this for over 20 years, including back when a good part of the population didn't even know about HIV yet or why condoms were so important. You can do this and radically reduce your risks of STIs and pregnancy, and your risk of having to deal with either right now. You can do this, and when you do this, you won't ever find yourself in the position again of having to rely on someone else to take care of you in this way when you are perfectly capable of taking care of yourself. It's a feminist action, in the most literal, unilateral sense. The more you do it, the less you'll be inclined to say you're sorry about condoms, the less often you'll consider going without, the less of an issue condoms and other aspects of sexual safety will become in your life and your partnerships. And you'll find that when you step it up with things like this, you're helped in stepping it up in other areas of your sex life and your whole life.

Which is quite the deal for ten bucks or so and some tiny slips of latex.

Comments

Safer Sex Kits are more fun than Happy Meals

Wed, 2009-09-09 14:33
Lena

I just wanted to give a shout out on the virtue of Safer Sex Kits... it's sort of like a more "grown up" version of a Travel Fun Kit or Happy Meal (well, without the food unless you're talking flavored lubes and condoms...) but arguably even more fun!

Safe, Sound and Sexy: Safer Sex Kit Instructions and Packing List
"What's in Your Safer Sex Kit?" Interactive Discussion at the Message Boards

Hooray for buying your own condoms! I've always been a fan. :) I will also say that free condoms from health centers and clinics, as great and necessary a public service as they are, are OK but I really recommend spending the money on a brand that you and your partner/s like for comfort and safety reasons. I see it as a good investment and even pretty darn "cheap" entertainment when you think of the extremely low price per condom (compared to the $10+ admission per person at so many movie theaters these days, for example.)

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