FAQ: Why doesn’t everyone like condoms?
In a previous post, we talked about stealthing, why people do it, and why it’s terrible [Link]. In it, in our discussion about people not liking condoms, we said:
Some people stealth because they hate condoms. Maybe they agreed to using a condom just to get their partner to have sex, and then took it off when they felt they could get away. You don’t have to use condoms in order to have sex, but you have to stick with what you agreed to with your partner. Stay tuned for a future article about finding ways to make condoms work for you.
Well, friends, this is that post! Here is where we’re going to talk about ways to make condoms work for you! This will mostly cover conversations about about external condoms (that go on penises or sex toys), but a lot of this stuff also applies to internal condoms.
Why do people use condoms?
Here are some reasons to wear a condom during sexual activity:
Lowers the risk of pregnancy – Used properly, condoms are 97% effective at preventing pregnancy. This doesn’t mean that there’s no chance of pregnancy, just that it’s less likely to happen.
Lowers the risk of STIs – Again, as long as the condom is used properly, the risk of contracting STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV are lowered. These STIs are passed through sexual fluids, and condoms are a barrier method that reduces the chance of swapping fluids.
As a back-up to another form of birth control – Lots of people use condoms in conjunction with another type of birth control, like the pill or VCF. This adds another layer (pun intended) of protection in the event of a missed pill or the VCF not dissolving properly. On the flip side, the other methods of birth control add a layer (no pun) of protection if the condom happens to break. Also, again, condoms protect against STIs, which other methods of birth control don’t.
Why Don’t Some People Like Condoms?
Below we have a list of just some of the reasons why someone might not want to wear condoms. Honestly, these are all valid reasons. Someone can choose to not wear condoms for whatever reason they want. But if it’s important to you that your partner wears a condom, you don’t have to accept these reasons. You can say no, or decide to do different activities with different types/levels of risk.
- Wearing Condoms Isn’t Real Sex! Some people think that the thin layer of rubber means the sex they have isn’t the “full experience.” We disagree! The sex people have while wearing condoms can still feel good and be intimate. Yes, wearing a condom feels different than not wearing a condom, but it’s not so different that partners don’t feel pleasure or orgasm. Different doesn’t mean bad. It might mean you just have to learn to appreciate a different kind of feeling or sensation. Sex isn’t defined by whether or not people use protection.
- They’re not sexy! That depends! Not a lot of people will find condoms sexy if they treat using them like a chore, or if they rush to put them on the exact moment before penetrative sex like there’s some kind of deadline. Maybe it’ll take a bit of effort, but you can try to make condoms sexy. Keep them near where you have sex, turn putting them on into a sexy game, use lube, do other things while wearing the condom (masturbating, oral, etc). There are ways to start thinking about condoms as sexy.
- Allergies! Most condoms are made with latex, and it’s true that some people are allergic to latex. Non-latex condoms are available in both internal and external varieties.
- Too Expensive! Sure, not everybody has access to free or cheap condos from sexual health clinics or guidance counsellors. And yes, non-latex condoms are often more expensive than latex ones, and often harder to find in stores/clinics. Heck, it can even sometimes be embarrassing to buy them or be seen grabbing free ones. We’re not saying these aren’t real barriers, but they are hopefully things you can prepare for. It’s totally okay to talk to your partner(s) about sharing the cost of condoms, or working together to get more relaxed about being seen getting condoms from wherever you can.
- Uncomfortable! It’s true: Condoms can be uncomfortable. This could be because you’re trying to use one that’s the wrong size for a person’s penis. But not only are condoms available in different sizes (Large, Regular, Fitted), these sizes all fit different between brands. Kind of like how a medium t-shirt from one store fits different than a medium t-shirt from a different store. Just because condoms *can* stretch to fit an entire arm or someone’s head, it doesn’t mean that they’re all comfortable for everyone’s body. It’s can be good to try out different brands and sizes until you find one that works for you.
|Here are 2 ways that you can help condoms feel more comfortable:
- Use Lube! Lube (lubricant) can help increase pleasure and prevent condoms breaking. You can add lube to the outside of the condom or to the outside of the vulva, vagina, or anus. Only use water-based lube with condoms Other types of lube can break down the latex in the condoms, lowering how effective they are.
- Practice! Practice putting on condoms in a room with the lights on. This way you can see what you’re doing, and you can get used to the feeling of rolling them on or inserting them properly. Also, try masturbating while using a condom so that it’s a feeling you are familiar with (and ideally associate with pleasure).
For more info on how to use condoms, check out our info page How to use Internal and External Condoms [Link].
- They Break, So Why Bother? Again, you can fit a whole arm or head inside a condom without it breaking, so they’re pretty solid most of the time. But yeah, sometimes they break. But just because something breaks once in a while doesn’t mean you should never try to use them to reduce the risk of contracting STIs or pregnancy. If they’ve broken for you in the past, maybe try storing them someplace else, making sure they’re not expired, putting them on more gently, or wearing a different brand that fits better. And again, practice helps. Also, using more than one condom at a time (aka double-bagging) increases the likelihood of condoms breaking.
- Not Having Penetrative Sex! Some people feel that if they are just doing oral sex, fingering or kissing, then there’s no need for condoms. Even if you’re not worried about a risk of pregnancy, there are still ways that STIs can be transmitted between partners if you aren’t using some kind of barrier. People can still pass oral chlamydia, oral gonorrhea, HPV, or Herpes from genital-to-genital/genital-to-mouth contact. STIs can come in contact with your bloodstream through nicks and cuts in your skin or gums. Condoms (like dental dams or latex gloves) are barrier methods than prevent the sharing of fluids between partners.
- Religious Reasons! Religious beliefs are a totally valid reason to not use condoms. However, this is definitely something you need to talk to your partner(s) about before you start any sexual activities. Are you open to other types of contraception? Are you willing to have a conversation about other ways you will reduce the risks of pregnacy or STIs? Will you go with your partner(s) to get tested for STIs? What will you do if someone gets pregnant or contracts an STI?
- Long-Term Partners Don’t Need Them! Sometimes people who’ve been together a long time feel like they’ve moved “beyond” condoms, where condoms are something they use until they really “know” each other (aka trust that their partner(s) won’t give them an STI). But unless you’ve been tested for STIs, things can be dormant in your body even if you’re not showing symptoms. And if there’s a possibility of partners being non-monogamous, then it’s good to have some system in place to reduce risk of passing along STIs. Even if you’re not worried about STIs, they’re still good at preventing pregnancy! Some people just feel more comfortable using condoms or condoms + another birth control method, and there’s nothing wrong with that if it helps them feel more relaxed for sex.
Again, these are all totally fine reasons to not wear condoms. You don’t have to wear condoms if you don’t want to. But if your partner(s) wants to use them, and this is something you’re not going to budge on, it may be that you just won’t have sex with your partner(s) because you can’t compromise on your views. There are lots of conversations you can have about reducing risk, other birth control methods, or getting tested regularly. However, if at the end of it you have different ideas about what risks people are willing to take then maybe you are not compatible sexually. And that’s totally fine. It’s not the most fun thing in the world, but it’s a totally valid incompatibility in a relationship. And maybe that’s a conversation you need to have.
- Safer Sex [Link]
- Talking About Safer Sex [Link]
- Protecting Yourself and Your Partners from STIs [Link]
- Making Safer Sex Sexy [Link]
If you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact one of our peer educators. [Link]