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Talking With Your Partner About Condoms

January 27, 2017

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Talking With Your Partner About Condoms

Preparing to Talk About Condoms

Even if you have access to male condoms and know how to use them, getting your partner to agree to use one can be tricky! Talking about using condoms can be difficult or awkward, especially in the heat of the moment. It can be helpful to think about your personal views and cultural attitudes about sex, condoms, and relationships before trying to talk about condoms with a partner. Once you are clear on what is important to you and what you are willing or not willing to do with a partner sexually, it will be easier to say those things to another person.

Sometimes discussions about sex and condoms are difficult because women and girls:

  • May not feel empowered in their relations with men: if you depend on a male partner for food, shelter, money, safety, or feeling valued as a person, you may not feel you have the power to protect your health or ask that your sexual desires be recognized
  • Are often taught that it is not 'their place' to 'speak up' and protect themselves
  • Feel uncomfortable talking about sex -- sometimes this is from lack of information, and sometimes this is simply because it can be awkward talking about something so personal or intimate
  • May fear rejection -- if you feel your partner may leave you or think poorly of you if you talk about using condoms, or if you feel that your request to use a condom will be interpreted by your partner as a lack of trust or an indication that you are in another relationship
  • May fear a partner's violent reaction -- if you feel threatened, please read our fact sheet on Violence Against Women and HIV

In some cultures, there are more difficulties in negotiating condom use. In some societies, "good" women are those who do not talk about sex, who are passive during sex, and who do not question the faithfulness of their partners. It can also be difficult to discuss barrier methods for safer sex when a woman is expected to bear children or her value in the community is based on her ability to become pregnant.

It may be equally difficult for a woman living with HIV to talk about safer sex if she wants to have children herself. For more information on living with HIV and having children, see our fact sheet on Getting Pregnant and HIV.

Regardless of what country or culture you live in, it is important to remember that you and your health deserve to be respected and protected. Whether you think of yourself as a wife, businesswoman, mother, provider, or friend, your health is a valuable asset -- to you, your family, and your community.

It can also be helpful to identify things that might make you feel pressured to go against your values or better judgment -- and to prepare responses in advance. You may want to try talking through or rehearsing some of these situations with a friend. For some examples, go to:

Some Tips About How to Talk With Your Partner

Now that you are prepared with information about yourself and different kinds of condoms, you are ready to have an honest conversation. Talking about your needs can help strengthen a relationship, both in and out of the bedroom.

Plan to have the talk when you are not getting ready to have sex. When it comes time to have the conversation, let your partner know that you want to talk about condoms because you care about him and you care about yourself. Be honest about what you are willing to do with a condom and what you are not willing to do without one.

You may also consider having a 'sexual agreement' with your partner to work out expectations for condom use. This agreement includes discussing if you are sexual only with one another or have sexual relationships outside your partnership. The terms of these relationships can include strict condom use to protect you both from bringing STIs into your primary relationship.

If your partner says he does not want to put on a male condom and you still want to have sex, you have options:

  • Offer to put a condom on him or be ready with a female condom
  • Reinforce the boundaries that you agreed upon. If you agreed to always wear condoms, tell him you will not have sex without a condom
  • If you are willing to have sex without a condom use lots of silicone or water-based lube
  • Try a less risky way of being intimate -- such as erotic massage or mutual masturbation
  • Explore taking pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP (for HIV prevention only)

Taking Care of Yourself

Safer sex is an ongoing practice that ideally involves condom use every time you have sex, whether you are living with HIV or HIV-negative. Here are some ideas on how you can make condom use an easier, smoother, and more pleasurable part of sex:

  • Think of how you would ask someone to use a condom. Practice some of the lines on your own or with friends, so you will be ready to say them when the time comes.
  • Carry condoms with you, so you will be ready for any unexpected sexual situation
  • Practice! Before being sexual with a partner, practice putting on and taking off a male condom. Try rolling one on and off a banana, dildo, or vibrator. Also try inserting and removing a female condom to see how it feels and how it fits. Studies show that using a female condom at least four times is important before people are completely comfortable with it. It may take some practice, but it's worth it.

It can be difficult to talk about things like safer sex, especially when you are just getting to know someone. You may be worried that you will lose your partner or potential partner. However, it is important to keep the health and safety of yourself and your partner as top priorities. Even if you have trouble at first asking for what you need, do not give up. Your health and well-being are worthy of respect and protection, at any time and all the time.

[Note from This article was created by The Well Project, who last updated it on Jan. 27, 2017. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]

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This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.

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