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How to talk about condoms with your partner

Some people find it difficult or embarrassing to talk about condoms. But condoms are an effective way of preventing pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In fact, they’re the only method that can prevent all three! Read on to find out how to comfortably talk about using condoms with your partner.

What kind of sex needs a condom?

Condoms are used for vaginal, anal and oral sex. They are needed whether you are having sex with a partner of the opposite gender than you or the same gender, or multiple people!

Why is it important to talk about condoms?

Not everyone is willing to use condoms, so don’t assume that your partner will want to or have one to hand. The only way to know is to talk about it. Agreeing to use a condom or not is also part of consenting to have sex.

Consent

Who should bring up the topic of condoms?

Both people are responsible for talking about contraception such as condoms - not just a man or just a woman. In some cultures, it is especially hard for women to talk about condoms because the man holds the power in the relationship.

How should I bring up the topic of condoms?

It’s normal to feel awkward or embarrassed to talk about condoms, but it doesn’t have to be this way! Here are some ideas to help you decide when and how to bring it up:

Bring it up sooner rather than later: It’s best to talk about condoms before you start having sex. This will mean you know what to expect and won’t get carried away in the heat of the moment.

Ask questions: Do you use condoms? What kind of condoms do you like? Do you like flavoured or textured condoms? Do you have a condom with you?

Explain why you’re bringing it up: It isn’t a sign that you don’t trust them – it’s a way of showing you care and that you want to protect you both.

Be direct: Tell your partner that you will only have sex if you use a condom because you want to protect both of you.

Remember the details: Talk about who will get the condoms and from where.

What can I say to persuade someone who doesn’t want to use a condom?

You can still have great sex with a condom: Explain that you can make condoms part of the fun by putting it on for them, using flavoured or textured condoms, and knowing that you can both relax as you don’t have to worry about your health. 

Using a condom shows you care: Explain that a good partner will want to take care of their own and their partner’s sexual health. It shows they care if they use a condom.

Condoms don’t harm our health in any way: Explain that there are no negatives to using condoms, but not using them could result in pregnancy, STIs and HIV.

Condoms are not costly and are easily available: Explain that they are often available free from sexual health clinics or healthcare professionals. They are also sold in many shops and pharmacies.

Try to dispel any myths: Some people believe myths about condoms like they aren’t ‘manly’. You could try to explain that they’re not true. Other people may have religious reasons for not wanting to use a condom.

Let's talk about condoms!

Here are a few questions to help kick-off discussions on the issues you need to talk about! You can share them on social, on WhatsApp or just get talking.

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What if my partner refuses to use a condom?

Talk about it

Communication is so important when it comes to sex. Try to start a conversation to understand why your partner won’t use a condom. You might find that they believe a myth about condoms. If you understand their thinking, you might be able to encourage them to use a condom.

Share the facts about not using condoms

If you are a woman having sex with a man, remind him that he is not going to get pregnant, but it is a possibility for you. Explain that you want to use a condom so that you do not get pregnant and protect you both from STIs.

If you are a man having sex with a man, explain that HIV is more of a risk from anal sex than vaginal sex. Therefore, it’s a good idea to use a condom to protect you both.

If you are a man having sex with a woman and don’t want to risk her getting pregnant, explain that you want to use a condom to prevent it.

If you are a woman having sex with a woman, explain that you could still pass on STIs or HIV from sharing sex toys or oral sex. Therefore, it’s a good idea to use a condom on sex toys or a dental dam when having oral sex to protect your health.

Say no if your partner refuses

Think about whether you really want to have sex with someone who won’t use a condom. You always have the right to say no to sex and this is the best thing to do to protect your health.

What can I say to a person with HIV who won’t use a condom?

If your partner isn’t undetectable, you could get HIV. Try using the tips above to persuade them to use a condom. If they still won’t use a condom, read about taking PEP or PrEP to protect you from HIV and contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancy. But remember, condoms are the only way to stop STIs. So, think carefully about whether to have sex with them or not.

What can I say to a client that won’t use a condom?

If you are a sex worker, it can be difficult to negotiate using a condom. Your client might offer you more money for unprotected sex without a condom or be nasty if you bring up the topic of condoms. However, your health is the most important thing, and no-one should take that away from you. If your client refuses to use a condom, you might want to refuse them.

Remember, assault and coercion are not okay. You could seek support from a trusted friend, a healthcare professional, or the police if you experience this.

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