The Posturing of Condoms

Jessica Gleason/Staff

I’m not too aware of many sexy responses to the question, “Can I take the condom off?” Honestly, at this point, I just get excited that the guy even asks. Maybe this is just my experience — it’s possible — but most guys haven’t even had the decency to ask. So at the question, I think, “Wow, this person respects me enough to look to me for some decision-making. Cool.”

But, they also don’t respect me enough not to ask. In fact, they don’t respect me enough to think of removing a condom as a problem for both me as well as them. Sure, men produce an alarming substance, full of some pretty serious agents out to quite dramatically affect my body. But, for all they know, I could have my own power agents of change. I could be filled to the brim with chlamydia. Removing that condom could be inviting a whole lot of itching and burning and feverishly awkward conversations to the party.

But this thought doesn’t occur to them. With the hopes of enjoying some rubberless sex, the first route of logic they pursue is whether I’m on the pill, so that they can avoid that worst case scenario of accidentally growing something inside me. It is about how their sexual experience will affect me. Not too many wonder about how my sexual participation might affect them. I’ve had one partner text me the next day as an afterthought, “You’re clean, right? And on the pill?”

As flattering as it is that these men assume I’m “clean,” I have no idea how I’m giving that impression. I have come to the conclusion that, as I am a girl and very short, I don’t seem particularly threatening. STIs seem threatening, but not me. This makes me wonder if this is a logic that many women follow to a similar conclusion about themselves: “I seem benign because I’m a girl and I study a lot; I’m not frightening because I’m a girl and we met at a poetry reading; I’m harmless because I’m a girl and I wear a lot of pink.”

I’d like to say there is a common denominator.

Recently, The Daily Californian published an article on a study analyzing the attractiveness of body posture. Led by UC Berkeley researcher Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk, the study found that, consistent across gender identifications, people are generally more attracted to open, expansive body posturing as opposed to closed, contractive postures.

Sure, men produce an alarming substance, full of some pretty serious agents out to quite dramatically affect my body. But, for all they know, I could have my own power agents of change. I could be filled to the brim with chlamydia.

“(Expansive) postures are perceived as an indicator that the person is dominant, has access to resources, and is willing to share them — these are qualities that people find desirable,Vacharkulksemsuk is quoted in the article.

In general, these findings make sense to me. I like confidence, and if someone’s posture screams “confident,” I probably would find them more attractive. Even more so, I think that when I feel attractive, I subconsciously adopt an open stance, an expansive gesture, an accessible disposition.

And yet, I can’t help but stumble on the idea that this rule can be applied across genders. I can accept that confidence is universally attractive, but I also think there are so many other factors to account for in analyzing female posture.

What about the societally inflicted inclination to be petite, small, contracted? How tangible is the effect of exterior influences on desirable posture? These questions swarmed my brain on my first reading of the article. I don’t like to think of attractiveness in simple terms. I like to think of attraction as complicated, and I think it’s important to acknowledge societal influences. There is something about this study that didn’t immediately sit well with me, even after admitting to myself its validity in my own attractions and impulses.

It only clicked when I applied it to my condom conversations.

It sheds light on my issue of lacking attractive ways to say, “Wrap your dick before you put it in me.” It certainly isn’t the most open, expansive move to cover someone’s genitals in a sheet of latex; the act calls for a somewhat closed-off and contracted posture. Condoms are asking the guy to take on this unattractiveness, to close themselves off. It is their sperm-filled masculinity they think of first in confronting the dreaded condom, and expecting them to feel less and feel less attractive is apparently asking a lot.

In response to, “Can we do it without the condom?” I tend to curl somewhat inward, pull my arms toward my torso. Saying the word “no” naturally makes me contract. Not feel very open and sexy. Sometimes I find it isn’t worth it. I shrug and say OK, and start paying attention to something else. It is apparently asking too much of me as well to sacrifice feeling attractive.

This is a problem. Obviously open conversation is an incredibly important part of a healthy sex life. Still, it’s a showdown, and I hate that I can see it stemming, at least partially, from a desire to be attractive. It’s a situation I don’t want to be in, but it still happens. It’s embarrassing and it’s stupid and it’s a circumstance that gets forced on me without my say.

Thus I have pledged to begin experimenting with very expansive postures as I judgmentally stare down my dumbfounded sexual partners holding condom packets. I will gesture openly as I open the metallic packages. I will confidently think to myself that I’m doing them a favor.

But, I still will say that there is significance in not being asked for unsafe sex, a weight lifted.

Until that is the norm, I will confidently — with an open, expansive posture — answer: “No.”


Contact Emma Rosenbaum at [email protected]