Thursday, September 27, 2007

Talking about condoms with a new partner

Some of my women readers, newly in the dating game after divorce or death of a spouse, tell me that they feel uncomfortable asking a new partner to use a condom. "If I ask a man to use a condom, it sounds like I don't trust him," they say. "If I have them on hand myself, he'll think I sleep around."

My belief is that if you can't talk about safer sex with someone, you really shouldn't be inviting that person to be an intimate partner! But I know it's hard, especially if you've been in a long-term relationship and suddenly find yourself out in that scary world of dating, sex with new partners, and the risks that weren't a part of our zesty youth.

I recommend never waiting until the heat of passion to bring up the subject. Instead, when the sparks and kisses signal that sex is likely in your future, have the discussion. Then you've agreed to be prepared when you're ready for the next stage.

In my single past, these were some useful ways to approach the subject:

"I always use condoms with a new partner to protect us both."

"I'll buy the condoms -- do you prefer a special kind?

"Your condoms or mine?"


I've had occasions when a man refused, saying something like, "Sex with condoms interferes with my enjoyment."

I would reply, "Is no sex more enjoyable?"

At this point, of course, I knew the date was over, and I was glad to know in advance that he didn't value my sexual health or his own. If he was willing to go to bed with me without protection, then he did that with his last partners, and they did it with their last partners, and so on.

I don't claim that I used a condom with everyone all the time when I was single. In my younger days, the STDs we were likely to contract were either visible or could be cured with a prescription drug. But I got smarter with age, and became more demanding of barrier protection. If I knew someone well already, someone who had become a good friend, and I knew about his relationships and his sexual health status, we would get blood tests, and then feel comfortable about condomless sex. But that took deep discussions and friendship.

Let me hear from you -- what do/would you say to bring up the subject of condom use?

(photo of Miriam Schuler, known as "Condom Grandma" in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she volunteers in the Senior HIV Intervention Project.)

9 comments:

  1. Harry age 87September 30, 2007

    I agree completely regardless of age of either or both people. When I was visiting my younger sexual partner or mentor in previous yrs, she not only bought the condom of my choice but she put it on my penis as soon as it got hard. There is also a problem if the man has trouble getting hard but it can be done and the woman trying to get it on him may help to excite the man. I can see this as being a major problem for many older couples.

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  2. If you are female and shy about coming across as not trusting your partner, or just don't want to bring up the possibility of serious std's or imply that complete fidelity might not be happening, even in the beginnings of the heat of passion, you can always do the "southern thing." Southerners are good at being indirect for reasons which are the topic of much discussion; somehow this is just part of our culture. Just say that condoms help you avoid getting urinary tract infections from intercourse. I've actually found that they do indeed help with this.

    I agree that people of every age need practice at making condom use more erotic, so that it becomes second nature and even something to look forward to.

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  3. I'm very excited to read the article on Condom Granny, but I was saddened by the answer she gave to the man who asked if one size condom fits all.

    Yes, technically, it will go on a man's penis, or over a sex toy, but for men with thick or larger penises, it may be very uncomfortable. Not to mention that ill-fitting condoms, either too big or too small, are one of the leading causes of condom failure. If the condom's too small, it can break. If the condom's too big, it can slip off. (And this isn't a freak thing. I've had partners that have needed both bigger and smaller condoms, as well as had condom failure due to the condom being too big.)

    They do make condoms in various sizes, and once we start educating people that the standard condom fits MOST but not all, and that having a condom that fits your penis well is important, the less condom problems we'll have and the more pleasure we'll all have.

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  4. I don't have an issue with condoms but I find, unlike when I was younger they do weaken my hard-on. I seem to be larger with age and the problem is getting the condom over the head and remaining hard.

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  5. Anonymous, I know that staying hard when putting on a condom is more difficult as men age, but I wonder if it helps to have your partner put it on for you, making it part of the love play. Also, apply some lubricant to the head of your penis before putting on the condom.

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  6. Thank you Joan for your advice of placing some lube on the head of the penis before unrolling the condom. This has helped.

    I have been using Trojan Magnums but I was wondering if you have had any experience with sheepskin ? I have been told that sheepskin is more sensitive than latex but the thought of using sheepskin is a bit yuk and how would a woman feel abot same.

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  7. Thank you Joan for your advice of placing some lube on the head of the penis before unrolling the condom. This has helped.

    I have been using Trojan Magnums but I was wondering if you have had any experience with sheepskin ? I have been told that sheepskin is more sensitive than latex but the thought of using sheepskin is a bit yuk and how would a woman feel abot same.

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  8. Anonymous, men find lambskin condoms more sensitive, however they do NOT protect against STDs nearly as well as latex.

    Here's what the Mayo Clinic says:

    "Polyurethane and lambskin condoms do not protect against STDs as well as latex condoms do. Read the label on the package to see what the condom is made of and whether it's labeled for disease prevention. If you're concerned about preventing STDs, use a latex condom. Latex provides the best protection."

    (see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/condoms/HQ00463 for more about condom use)

    I assume you want to protect against STDs rather than prevent pregnancy at our age, so stick with latex.

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  9. I would like to know about something to protect me and my partner while having oral sex. I have had herpes in the past and my dermatologist said that herpes can be transmitted even if I'm not having any sores. And what about kissing—this is so difficult—having to tell a partner that I have had herpes and that it could be passed while kissing BEFORE we even kiss.

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