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Negotiating for Condom Use

February 2011

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Know What's Out There

When it comes to condoms, you have a choice of two kinds of products: the male condom and the female condom.

The Male Condom

  • The male condom is less expensive, more popular and easier to find.

The Female Condom

  • The female condom has two flexible rings connected by a latex sheath:

    • one ring is inserted in the vagina
    • the other one rests outside the entrance to your vagina
  • You are in control of putting in the female condom and taking it out
  • You can even put it inside yourself before you plan to have sex
  • It is a good idea to try it out beforehand to see if it's comfortable for you

Oral sex carries less risk of HIV transmission than vaginal intercourse, but there is still some risk involved. You can use a condom without lubrication or a dental dam (a square of latex that is placed over the vagina or anus) to make oral sex safer. (See TWP's info sheet on Oral Sex.)

  • Dental Dams: Dental dams are available at drug stores, online, and at specialty shops that sell sex supplies
  • Nonoxynol 9: Some vaginal contraceptives use a spermicide called nonoxynol 9 (N9), which is great at killing sperm and preventing pregnancy, but should not be used to protect against HIV

First, Think About Sex and Condoms

Talking about using condoms can be awkward, especially in the heat of the moment. The good news is there's a lot you can do to prepare beforehand. An important first step is to think about your views on sex, condoms, and relationships.

Spend some time thinking about your answers to these questions and, if you are comfortable, talking about them with a friend.

  • What role does sex play in my life?
  • Who do I have sex with?
  • What am I looking for in a partner?

Next, take some time to think about how you feel about condoms and how you feel about taking risks during sex.

  • Have you had sex with a condom?
  • Have you had sex without a condom?
  • In which situations would you have sex only with a condom?
  • What might make you consider sex without a condom?

Once you are clear on what's important to you, it will be easier to express that to another person.

Next, Talk to Your Partner

"Honey, do you have a condom?" Asking your sex partner to use protection can be difficult. But now that you're equipped with information about yourself and different kinds of condoms, you're ready to have an honest conversation. Talking about your needs can help strengthen a relationship, in and out of the bedroom.

Plan to have the talk when you're not on the verge of having sex. Think about what you want to say in advance and identify a few scenarios when the conversation could take place. It might be hard to start the discussion the first time, so be prepared with a backup plan.

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 don't want to do without one. Ask your partner how he would feel about different scenarios and think creatively.

If your partner says he doesn't want to use a male condom, you still have options:

  • Be prepared to take matters into your own hands and be able to put a condom on him or be ready with a female condom (see animation on how to put on a condom:
  • Tell him you'd rather not have sex without a condom, and mean it
  • Try a less risky way of being intimate -- such as erotic massage or mutual masturbation
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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.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
Ten Common Fears About HIV Transmission
Condom Basics
More on Condoms and Dams

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