You know the facts. You’re aware that new HIV infections are on the rise, and the old fashioned, low-tech condom is still the best way to protect yourself and your partner(s).
The thing is, knowledge isn’t always enough.
In the heat of the moment – especially when sex is combined with alcohol, drugs, and/or an insanely hot partner – it’s easy to throw caution to the winds.
If you want to use a condom every time, you’re likely to run into some of these arguments:
He says: “I’m negative.” (Or, “My viral load is undetectable.”)
The reality: Serosorting (using HIV status as a decision-making point in sexual behavior) doesn’t always work, especially with an anonymous partner. He may be lying; or he may be mistaken (or not even know) about his status. It takes about three months of waiting after your last risk of exposure to HIV before you can be pretty sure you’re really negative. During those three months is when a lot of new infections happen. Condoms take the guesswork out of the equation – and they protect you from a slew of other STIs as well!
What you can say: “That’s great, and I still want to use a rubber.”
He says: “It’s a mood killer.”
The reality: It is if you let it be. The release and capture can be playful and sexy. It can also be fast. Like a boy scout, be prepared: have that condom ready, whip it out, and get it on. Practice makes perfect. Think about ways to make condom use a part of foreplay.
What you can say: “For me, sex without a condom is a mood-killer because I can’t relax.”
He says: “I can’t stay hard with those things.”
The reality: It’s true: guys sometimes lose their erections when the glove goes on. You can always get him hard again once he’s suited up. Try adding a drop of silicone lube to the inside of the condom or the head of the penis to increase sensation. And experiment with different brands of rubbers, sometimes fit can be an issue.
What you can say: “I can help with that.”
He says: “I’m too big.”
The reality: Condoms come in all sizes, including jumbo. Find one that’s tight enough so it won’t slip off, without being uncomfortable. Condom size is determined by the diameter, so make sure you are accounting for girth when choosing the correct size condom!
What you can say: “Try one of these.”
He says: “I’m on PReP”
The reality: Most men who go on a daily ARV drug (like Truvada, a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine) don’t stop using condoms. If you’re both on PReP, or if one of you is negative and on PReP, then you’re in good shape. If he’s on it and you’re not, you aren’t protected.
What you can say: “That’s great. I still feel more comfortable using a rubber.”
He says: “I’m allergic to latex.”
The reality: There are condoms made out of polyurethane (plastic) that protect against HIV and other STIs. There’s also a hypoallergenic synthetic latex called Polyisoprene, which some guys prefer. Look for condoms which are labeled “non-latex.”
What you can say: “This one’s latex-free.”
He says: “We already barebacked once.”
The reality: That doesn’t mean you can’t still swap infections. Maybe one of you has an STI, but didn’t pass it on during that first hookup. Maybe he’s had other partners since you guys last had sex (or you have.)
What you can say: “Yeah, and it was a mistake. I want to use a rubber every time.”
He says: “It’s not that big of a deal.”
The reality: There are guys who don’t see HIV as a serious issue. Your partner may think it’s an out-of-date problem, like a mangled cassette tape, or else an inconvenience that can be handled with a few pills. He may think contracting HIV is inevitable, so why worry. Or he may believe that condoms don’t protect anyone anyway.
What you can say: “It’s a big deal to me. I don’t want to put either of us at risk.”
Behind every one of these arguments is the same message: “I want to talk you into having unsafe sex with me.”
Your guy is expecting you to make a judgment call at a moment when you’re probably not too rational. He’s also expecting you to trust him. That’s just not reasonable if you don’t know each other. Have hot sex with the guy, but don’t be putting your life into his hands.
Think about the issues ahead of time, and decide what kind of sex you’re comfortable with. If you want to use a condom every time, make that a serious pledge to yourself. Stock up and be ready.
Then, when you’re out and about and getting it on, remember to honor that commitment to your own life and health.