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Author Topic: One Q&A got me thinking...
Letmebeanon
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So I read this article http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/how_do_i_convince_him_to_use_a_condom_when_he_says_we_dont_need_one and have thought about how it might apply to my relationship. I'm wondering about your input, and would appreciate if someone would elaborate with the response here because I'm not sure I agree with it. I do agree the male friend the girl speaks of wouldn't be ready at the time of her writing that. However, I'm not sure I agree with the broad statements of his character and responsibility, and think he may (or may not) be ready for sex once he's better informed. The stuff at the end about age of consent was good, but doesn't apply to me because we're both of age. A warning, this might be really disorganized. I have a hard time with that.

Ok, so why do we have to assume he knows he's putting her at risk? Her partner in this article could very well not be aware of STIs - or thinks the only real risk to consider is pregnancy. Perhaps he just saw a choice of no pregnacy or no pregnancy + extra pleasure. It's not quite comparable to trying to convince a "friend" to drive suicidally because there the risk is completely obvious.

I guess the reason this article bothers me on a personal level is because it seems to suggest my boyfriend's trying to avoid responsibility, disrespectful of my health and possibly manipulative. Also, that he is someone I should refuse to ever have sex with. I'm not sexually active with him right now, likely won't be for some timebut it's still a distinct possibility for the future. We freely discuss information on safe sex. He seems to be stubbornly misinformed in many ways.

We are not in the exact same situation with my boyfriend. My boyfriend seems to think oral sex & hand jobs aren't a big deal. He thought unless someone had cuts on their hands a handjob was safe. (He was told this by a friend, whcih goes to show how unreliable that information source is). At least at one point when I talked to him, he didn't seem to think hand jobs and oral transmitted STIs. I think I told him once that they can, but even after he still didn't seem to understand it was risky behavior. He says he'd feel silly putting a condom on during oral. I think he needs to think about it more, because I think it's a knee jerk reaction to cultural association. Condoms are associated w/ PIV, not oral.

When he was 5 or 6 he was sexually abused by two women. (He told me it's fine to tell the site about this if I ever ask , as long as I didn't have identifying info on him). They touched him, hand to genitals. They may have also done oral. It's hard for him to remember. Nonetheless, he doesn't think that was enough to give him an STI, and that it's no real cause for concern because it was many years ago (he's 24 now) and he hasn't seen any disease symptoms. . those things make it less concerning, but I still think that's enough to justify an STI test even if I was absolute 100% certain he'd never had other sexual activity in his life (it's pretty darn close to 100% certainty). I have repeated this.He's perfectly willing to get STI testing, and in fact went ahead on his own and contacted planned parenthood sbout costs and secured transportation in case he would do that in the future He does however think it's silly for him to get a test when he's a "virgin", that he'll feel silly when they ask him questions and he says "nope no sexual partners"). I think he's so used to identifying as a virgin that he can't get past this.

I think my boyfriend does want to responsible about sex, even though I often don't agree with his ideas on sex, his sex practices or his information gathering. He tries to ask his friends about safe sex practices, and even got advice from one on how to use a condom. Ultimately, they seem to be his main source of information. Which is unfortunate, especially since he never got proper sex ed.

On the plus side, he shows some responsibility. He actually purchased condoms and put one in his wallet in case we ever spontaneously got it on (hey, at the time it would have been a possibility from his perspective) Apparently he also did a little bit of research of his own on birth control (he mentioned methods other than condoms), but I don't think it was extensive. He also offered when he was in boxers (turned backwards), since I was worried about touching precum. I said ok, and he followed through.

I don't think it's totally a thing of him pursuing pleasure at my expense. Well, we both fantasize about him being able to cum on and in me. He told me he's fine with me not getting STI testing, since I'm a virgin. I likely still would though I guess. But can you elaborate on why I'd want to?

Feel free to ask questions. I'm going to talk about this with him more, but I don't know where to start. I don't know what to do about him looking to the wrong sources for information. He seems kind of suspicious of internet sex ed. At one point I know he aimed to masturbate less, and I told him, citing your site, that sex experts overwhelming say masturbation is positive, no negatives. He thinks they may not mention the negatives to counter the overwhelmingly bad press masturbation get (ex. it'll send you to hell). I suppose I could tell him more about the site credentials, and appeal to his rational side (he's often, not always fairly rational).

It's frustrating. True, I'm not sexual with him for now but, as the article said, you don't want to be someones mom when it comes to sexual safety. I'm worried that because of this stuff it wouldn't get to a point where it would be a good idea to be sexual. I mean if in the future my other reasons for not wanting sex got out of the way this probably wouldn't be enough on it's own because he's still willing to put safety, but it concerns me. And it kind of hurts that I try to gather good sound information then he goes and asks one friend's opinion and gives it precedence. I get concerned easily about everything, but still. Do you think he's trying to avoid responsibility? Are there things to be wary of here. I think he's well meaning and not trying to avoid responsibility, but I can't be sure not because of him not but because I'm a very anxious, suspicious person. Also I lack social acumen so I'd be concerned I wouldn't know how to spot bad behavior. I guess seeing the article worried me and I want to know what you think.

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Sam W
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Hi letmebeanon,

A few thoughts. I am glad that you are trying to research safer sex, and that he is too. However, as you've noticed, not all sexual information is equally accurate. The fact that he seems dismissive of the info you find is, I will admit, a red flag for me. It doesn't mean he's selfish, but it does mean that he is privileging other people's opinions over something you've clearly taken the time to research. And, it means that there may come a point where you two fundamentally disagree about the safest way to proceed sexually is (although it sounds like you disagree on some sexual matters already). For instance, he really should be tested for STIs, since they can be transmitted via oral or manual sex, and some STIs won't show visible symptoms in the majority of cases.

I do think there is room for growth, as he does seem willing to learn and make an effort to take precautions to keep you feeling comfortable. I can't say for sure is he's "trying to avoid responsibility," because I haven't spoken to him about it. So, if you haven't already, it might be a good idea to have a frank talk with him about all the concerns you've voiced to me. Is that something you would feel comfortable doing?

Also, just as a side note, while it's good he bought condoms, storing one in his wallet is actually not a good idea. Storing them like that long-term can actually cause the latex to break down from the heat and the friction. It would be better to keep them somewhere cool and dry, like a bedside table.

[ 01-27-2014, 09:30 PM: Message edited by: Sam W ]

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Redskies
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Letmebeanon,

Personally, I think that advice column is very appropriate to the question it's answering. I'm identifying some differences between that question and what you're asking about. First, that asker was already being sexual with the person described, and they were discussing being further sexual in a very real, immediate sense. You and your boyfriend aren't currently sexual in those ways, and you're discussing this as a possible future thing rather than an immediate and planned thing. Your boyfriend's current lack of knowledge or wish to use condoms for certain things doesn't have any immediate impact on your health and isn't causing you to have misinformation or do anything that you might not choose to if you had better information. Your boyfriend's opinions are, currently, simply his own opinions and wishes, and not putting you at risk or convincing or pressuring you in any way - at least, if I'm understanding what you wrote correctly.

Second, I personally read in that question a significant degree of power imbalance. I can't speak for Heather about whether that was also in her mind while she was answering, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was. The whole of the question suggests, to me, that in multiple ways the asker does not feel in an equal position to the guy, and that would certainly make me feel that the asker was potentially unsafe with him, and it would be my priority to address that and to keep the asker safe if I were answering that question.

Your boyfriend's history of abuse may be playing a part here. Sometimes, people who've been assaulted do find it very difficult indeed to accept that something they did not choose, and something which they may still find disturbing, traumatic or shameful, was still a kind of sexual contact and potentially exposed them to STIs. If someone already feels ashamed, or has some kind of icky body-feelings about what was done to them, the possibility of STIs can be too much to bear.

Some STIs can be transmitted by what was done to him, and it's also possible for some STIs to be asymptomatic for many years. A full STI testing would be the best way for him to take care of his sexual health, and also of yours if you choose to be sexual with him in the future in ways which can transmit STIs. Getting STI testing after an assault or abuse can be deeply traumatic for some people, and that's a very real thing. Some things that can help with that are to ask the clinic anonymously beforehand how they take care of people who've been abused or assaulted, and to ask about confidentiality. If the person is happy with the confidentiality, they can then disclose, if they choose, to the healthcare provider doing the testing, and ask for any sensitivity, time or support that they need.

"Virginity" is a social concept, rather than anything else, so your boyfriend can absolutely continue to think of himself however he sees himself. We all have a right to define our sexual lives only by what we have chosen to do, and not by what anyone else has forced on us. Abuse or assault isn't sex.

Sadly, infections don't care about consent. So even if we didn't have any kind of sex, if someone else did something to us and if that something can transmit infection, from a healthcare perspective we need to acknowledge that X thing was done to our body (or simply that STI testing is needed, if that's an easier thought for a particular survivor). For your boyfriend, one possibility that honours his own feelings and reality while still giving healthcare providers the relevant information they need might be "I have had no sexual partners, but I was abused a long time ago, and I've never had any STI testing."

Per your own STI testing, if you've never had any kind of sexual contact that can possibly transmit STIs, then your chance of having any STIs is extremely low. The reason that some testing is still suggested is that a few STIs can be transmitted in other ways than sexual contact. It can also be a nice way of supporting a partner who's getting tested, and a demonstration of openness and commitment to both partners' health and well-being.

--------------------
The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Letmebeanon
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Thanks. I'd be willing to voice the concerns, but I think I have to some degree already. I think I might carry on with the topic longer rather than making a brief mention.
So, how strong of a red flag do you think it is? I think he might be taking their opinions over mine because of their sexual experience and his suspicious-ness of online sex ed. Not that it completely excuses it, but it's a partial explanation. I do think he's privileging not just his friend's over mine, but his own over mine based on automatic assumptions and other stuff.

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Letmebeanon
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Sorry, Redskies, didn't see your post. I'll keep that in mind. I thought my situation is different. For the Q&A Heather did, I suppose it is possible he was being sexual selfish, I just didn't know that there was enough info to assume that. I think understand where she was coming from more now. I think I was also reacting emotionally. Yes, I have been thinking that my situation is kind of different. So, were you inferring the power differential because of a more prominent age difference and it being implied that the boy wouldn't have sex with a condom?

Anyway, I wasn't saying my boyfriend couldn't consider himself a virgin, though I can see why you'd say that since I put it in quotation marks. I just saw him as being invested in the concept of himself as a virgin more than the reality. I do think So I guess it's probably good for his STI testing to be done ASAP as opposed to when we start being sexual? And how could I support him if he needs it? He might or might not.

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Sam W
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The degree to which this is a red flag is a little bit dependent on some other factors. For instance, is he pretty good about taking your opinions into account on other issues? To me, the bigger issue is one that is potentially going to arise if he wants to engage in a behavior that has a risk (either for STIs or pregnancy)without the proper precautions because he doesn't believe the risk is there and you don't want to engage without them. That isn't so much of a red flag as it is roadblock in the relationship (although, if he were to try and push or dismiss your boundaries around safe sex aside, that would be a red flag).

I will say that I can see where his distrust of online sex info might come from. If you think it would be valuable, you can encourage him to make an account here, so that he could take a look for himself.

As far as STI testing goes, sooner is better than later, if for no other reason than now you have the information of the result, rather than a "what if" in the back of the mind. If it turns out that he tests positive, the best thing you can do is reassure him that you care for him regardless and don't see him as "dirty" or bad because of it.

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Redskies
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I also put "virginity" in quotation marks, because everyone has their own, different, definition of what it is.

I think it's important not to push your boyfriend into STI testing, because it's his body and therefore his choice, and there's also the possibility of it being much more loaded for him because of the abuse. You can certainly let him know that it's important for his health, and you also have the right to decide you're not comfortable being sexual with anyone who doesn't have up-to-date negative STI test results, if that's what you wanted for you. To support him, you can listen to any concerns or worries he wants to tell you about, recognize those worries, and see with him what he and you could do to address those worries or make them easier for him to deal with.

I think it's likely not so helpful to you to discuss the advice question in detail, but as you asked, trying to be brief: there isn't an age difference mentioned in the question. "This guy" (and not "boyfriend", or "partner", or anything, or even focusing on "friend") makes me wary, coupled with "there's no way I can ever forget him" - is she more invested than the relationship warrants, or than he is? = power difference. "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" - she's putting a lot of weight on this. Is he? Cultural norms of "loss of virginity" being a bigger deal for a woman than a man = probably not. Therefore, probably a power difference. Also, that phrasing is not wildly positive - more concerning for someone who's also expressing that it's a big deal to them. "the one who took my virginity" - suggests a framing of intercourse as a man being more active and her being more passive = probable power difference. The kind of sex they're talking about, she can get pregnant and he can't: major difference in possible consequences. "Should I believe what he says is true" no, never a good idea to put more trust in someone else than in our own self (or a healthcare provider) when it's about our own body or health; she's considering putting inappropriate trust in him: creates a power difference (or he's set one up). "Should I convince him" why does she need to convince him, or think that she does? A statement or request should be enough, and if it isn't or she doesn't know that it should be, there's a big power difference right there. Again, with all that I speak only for myself, as I can't speak for Heather.

--------------------
The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Letmebeanon
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I'll try not to be pushy. I talked to him and have better understanding why he's taken his attitude toward the info I gave in those conversations, so I feel better.
Ok thanks. I was asking because there was possibly a power differential I didn't see, and social subtlety isn't my strong suit so I thought it might be a good sample reference if I ever needed to identify a power differential in any relationship the future.

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Sam W
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I'm glad to hear that the talk with him went well and that you're feeling better about things. Going forward, is there anything else we can help you with?
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Letmebeanon
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Not related to this, no. When I get around to it, I'll probably make separate topics. Thanks again.
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Heather
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I'm back around, for the record, so while it looks like this is pretty sorted, as the person who wrote this particular piece, I'd be happy to answer any leftover issues or concerns you have.

I'd also add in that it might be worth having a chat sometime about someone saying they discount work online. Especially since some of us who provide this kind of information online also have done so in books, in clinics, in schools and other settings! Online is just one more place to work and provide information, and while, by all means, one still has to do what we can to assure information online in credible, like we do anywhere else, I would say stating online information, just by virtue of being online, in unreliable just isn't sound.

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Letmebeanon
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I didn't phrase that right. He isn't skeptical of the sex ed here because it's online, but for different reasons that aren't necessary to go into(he tends to be skeptical about different things). I've talked to him about it and whether or not it changes his views I think he'll consider it.

Thanks for the offer! I'm good for now.

[ 01-31-2014, 05:34 AM: Message edited by: Letmebeanon ]

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