sex means the wearing of condoms for all sexual encounters except
those between long-term couples who have remained strictly monogamous.
Without wishing to sound cynical, how can any of us be sure these
days that our partners have not had sex with anyone else? This
becomes a matter of trust, but no exceptions should be made with
casual partners, or in short-term relationships.
Health experts recommend
that condoms are still used even after a couple have been dating
for a few months, as one could still 'stray' without telling the
other and bring risk into the union. Some men and women entering
new liaisons are demanding health certificates from the prospective
partner, showing clearance from various sexually transmitted diseases.
Unfortunately, we know that AIDS, for instance, has a prolonged
incubation period. Therefore, these certificates are virtually
meaningless. Condoms should still be used all the time.
These have been called many things over the years French
letters, rubbers, johnnys, gloves and sheaths and, in years
past, they were regarded as a bit of a dirty joke. Men who
used them were seen as slightly desperate and teenage boys kept
them in pockets and dashboards of cars, hoping to 'score' someday.
They were the single man's answer to the problems of unwanted
pregnancy, but, after the advent of the contraceptive pill, they
were always thought of as a poor substitute.
Who could have imagined
that one day the humble condom would be raised to such heights of
importance and fame, be spoken about freely in polite conversation,
advertised on TV and sell in a variety of colours, sizes and fragrances?
They are now freely available and many sex educators want
them to be accessible to males and females of all ages, even teenagers
in school who arguably need them more than anyone.
Perhaps one of the biggest
shifts in attitudes regarding condoms is that they're no longer
regarded as the sole responsibility of the male. Once, it
was always up to the boy to buy, bring and wear them and a 'decent'
girl would never be seen dead with one anywhere on her person.
I went through my entire teenage life without ever seeing a condom.
I remember a boyfriend taking a packet out of his pocket once
and, when I realised what it was, I was horrified. Needless
to say, nothing happened, and later he told me he threw the thing
into the river as he walked home, full of self-disgust and remorse!
Such were the values in my circle in the sixties. Boy,
have things changed!
Now, females are encouraged
to buy their own condoms so that, if they feel like having sex and
the guy is unprepared, they still have protection if they choose
to proceed. Expressions like 'no glove, no love' and 'if it's
not on, it's not on' are now commonplace and they provide a neat
way for women to make it clear that sex without protection these
days is tantamount to suicide. I'm amazed at how many men,
women and teenagers still admit that they haven't used condoms.
Panic sets in after the event and they ask me what their chances
are of contracting particular diseases. Next time, panic before,
Any objections to wearing
condoms usually come from men who claim that they lose sensation
when they're sheathed. However, some women complain that it's
'unromantic' and messy, taking away all mystique from the sex act.
My suggestion is to make the condom part of the action. Guys
have to be aroused before putting on the sheath, obviously, so why
not let this procedure constitute part of foreplay? The woman
can roll it on seductively and both can derive pleasure from making
a game out of it instead of regarding it as a nuisance.
Condom-wearing is not
too bad when the two people know each other, but I'm often asked
about the etiquette surrounding condoms, particularly with new couples
or casual lovers. Does one flash the packet over cappuccino,
and if not, when is the right moment to mention protection?
There's a very good TV advertisement that says it all, really. A
man and a woman are going for it on a windswept beach, and suddenly
the woman stops and asks the guy if he has protection. It
turns out to be a commercial for sunglasses because he pulls a pair
on and they go on making love. That is virtually what has
to happen with condoms, as coldblooded as it might seem. New
couples should discuss them before they get to the heat of passion,
because it's too easy to reach the point of no return and decide
to risk sex without protection. Even the word 'protection'
is a good reminder of why we should use condoms in the first place.
It used to be protection against pregnancy, and now it's to safeguard
sexual health, prevent disease and save lives.
I usually advocate waiting
for a period of several weeks to several months before having sex
with a new person. This is as much for emotional as physical
health. In that time, the subject of condoms should come up
and both parties need to make it clear that protection is expected,
with no exceptions. If both the man and the woman carry condoms
with them, there should be no risk of impulsive breaches of this
The two myths I'd like
to dispel on this subject are: that a woman who carries her own
condoms is signalling to any guy she dates that she's available
and she's expecting sex; and that the easy availability of condoms
leads to promiscuity.
for one's own choices and well-being is the adult thing to do.
If a teenager of either gender intends to have sex anyway, isn't
it better for him or her to plan for it by buying condoms? They're
going to experiment, whatever we say, and at least they're not running
the risk of pregnancy and/or AIDS by rushing in without protection.
If kids want to use condoms, they're going to find them, whether
or not they're in school locker rooms or public toilets. Also,
these days, girls should be equal in this as in other areas of life
why should it only be up to the boy?
What if he happens not
to like wearing condoms? Should she give in just to please
him? I am still often told of cases where girls are pressured
into having unprotected sex, either by boys who refuse to wear a
condom, or because a condom isn't available. First of all,
no-one should ever have sex under pressure or just to please another
person. In particular, now, with the health risks that abound,
everyone needs to be more assertive. I'm sure boys get pressured
too in these situations. They don't want to appear like wimps
to their mates or girlfriends, and girls don't want to look like
'bad sports'. I can only say, that whatever age you are, this
matter is just too important to bypass because of ego, false pride
or embarrassment. Remember, each one of us is responsible
for ourselves. It's no use blaming another when we get sick
or things go wrong.
So, it's just a matter
of promising yourself you won't have protected sex, being honest
about this with any sexual partners you may have, carrying your
own condoms and making it clear that if you're a guy, you expect
to wear one, and if you're a girl, you expect the guy to wear one.
There are now different
types of condoms which is good news for couples who crave
variety. Guys who are bigger or smaller than average need
to check out size factors for fit and comfort. Girls, buy
standard ones till you get to know him better! Certain lubricated
condoms can cause irritation so trial and error may be required.
Also, there are now ribbed ones to add stimulation for the
woman, different colours and ones that glow in the dark. If
you have to use them anyway, make it fun, I say. The adult
product shops usually carry a whole array of condoms and you can
experiment till you find the one that suits you best. Keep
in mind that they do have a limited life so check the use-by date.
As to their effectiveness, the AIDS Council gives the statistic
of 99.9 per cent so that's not too bad. Obviously,
they can break, so be careful. If one does break just as the
man ejaculates, it might be advisable for the woman to douche immediately
and for both to get up and wash themselves. This will reduce
the incidence of infection and STDs, at any rate.