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A Purple Orchid


In many relationships there comes a time when you might want to stop using condoms. We have already shown that it is not enough to just leave it to chance, or blind faith.
One solution is to agree to protect the primary relationship. One man said, 'We both had a full checkup for STDs including AIDS early on in the relationship and we both got the all-clear, but we decided to use condoms for a while anyway. Once we had been together for about six months we were pretty sure it was going to be a longterm prospect for us, so we decided we would stop using them. I hate the thought that my partner would ever have sex with anyone else, but we talked about it and made a promise that if either of us ever had an extracurricular then we would make sure we used a condom.'
I might add hastily that talking about the theoretical possibility of other relationships does not mean giving permission for a free rein, nor does it mean a lack of commitment or trust. Perhaps this is something that needs to be included in the agreement so that you both know where you stand and what feels right for you both.
For young or inexperienced people, self confidence has a lot to do with asserting your rights to protection. A lot of young people say they fear losing their partner if they insist on a condom and they would rather cope with an infection than being single. Sad. It is an acquired skill to be able to say, 'Not unless you wear a condom' and mean it, withstanding coaxing, cajoling or threats of abandonment. So that you can be convincing, it helps to rehearse your lines in front of a mirror. You may feel like a geek at first but until you have convinced yourself that, 'If it's not on, it's not on', you don't have a hope of convincing a sexually aroused partner. You also need to be in touch with your beliefs about sexuality and decide what sort of sexual activity you feel comfortable and safe with. People of all ages also need to realize that alcohol will have an effect on your inhibitions and will impair your judgment ... your ability to make decisions that will feel right for you in the cold hard light of tomorrow.
The issue of discussing sex and negotiating safer sex becomes a particular problem in the older age groups when divorce or death of a longterm partner throws you back into the dating game, sometimes after a break of many decades. It is not an easy thing to talk to a partner about safer sex if you have never even seen a condom, let alone had to use one with an unfamiliar partner. A woman widowed in her early sixties said, 'I had only ever had one partner in my life and when he died I thought that was it for me for life. Then a couple of years ago I met this charming man at the club and we started seeing each other regularly, going out to dinner or for picnics. We became very close and to my surprise I found myself physically attracted to him. I didn't dare bring up the subject of sex. I thought it would just happen when the time was right, but there was no way I could ask him about condoms.'
Some men say they don't like wearing condoms because they reduce the feeling ó the old 'shower in a raincoat' argument. For some at least this is based on experience of the old-style condoms that were made of thicker rubber than they are today. Yet for many people the feeling of safety is much more relaxing and possibly more satisfying. So it's a trade-off. On the other hand, reduced sensation might well be an advantage when you consider the proportion of men who have a problem with premature ejaculation. Another reason we hear for not using a condom is that using a condom interrupts sex; but if rolling on the rubber is seen as an integral part of making love, then it may develop a more erotic reputation.
Protection gets down to figuring out the risks but this has to be translated into action. That means both men and women knowing how to go about negotiating safer sex with a potential partner and then being motivated, under any circumstances, to stick to the agreement.
The bottom line is that your future health has to come first. That means weighing up the risks against the benefits and making the decisions that will make your personal safety, and that of your partner, the main priority. Talking about it means that the decisions are mutual. One doctor working in the area of sexual health told me, 'If you can't talk to a prospective partner about their sexual history and about using condoms, then perhaps it's not such a good idea to be having sex with them at all.'

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        Last updated:† May 16, 2002