Condom conundrums

Sex on Tuesday

Photo of Khristina Holterman

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Content warning: sexual assault

I thought I might orgasm, so I tried not to care when I felt the sudden sensation of his bare skin inside me. 

He’d torn the condom off. Damn it. 

I was actually proud of myself because I’d remembered pre-hookup to put condoms in the drawer next to my bed. This seemingly small task was a big deal to me because it eliminated a possible excuse: He couldn’t say he didn’t have a condom. I had one right next to us. 

But yet again, I’d underestimated the endless determination of a “no condom” male. There’s always a loophole, even if it means quickly yanking the condom off between positions. 

It was ruthless, animalistic, selfish and yet, I could barely protest, begging him to “just pull out” between breaths. I knew it was a losing battle; I’d felt it too many times before. 

I used to hook up with a guy who always had an excuse. Maybe influenced by his older age or the desire to keep hooking up with him, I was convinced when he said I was the only girl he was sleeping with and therefore I couldn’t possibly get an STD from him. He was the first strictly “no condom” guy I’d ever hooked up with. 

After he inquired about my being on birth control and I assured him of my IUD, he asked if I’d be okay if he didn’t wear a condom, quickly adding that he could if it would make me more comfortable.

It wasn’t really a question, though. Because the first time he asked it, I admitted that, yes, it would make me more comfortable. To which he said, well, many things. 

“But it just feels SO much better without one, don’t you agree?”

“I promise I’ll pull out, I’m really good at it.”

“Condoms don’t fit me well.”

And my personal favorite: “I’m allergic to latex.”

At that point, what could I do? Provide the condoms, sure, but force one on him? Unlikely. I thought if I wanted to keep hooking up with him I’d have to forfeit my safety. And so I did. With the next guy, too. And the next one, until I stopped asking, “Do you have a condom?” altogether. 

It’s reckless, I know, but in those moments, horniness and a desire to please took over. STDs and pregnancy became afterthoughts, reduced by a conviction that his nakedness might bring us both more pleasure.

But it’s not like I was alone in this thought. I was shocked to learn how many of my friends also do it without a condom. I grew to think that was normal — succumbing to male desire. I, and countless others I know, have taken Plan B more times than is recommended in a lifetime. It’s almost always up to women, the ones who will be most marred by unprotected sex, to deal with the consequences.

I used to complain to my partners about the many tribulations of birth control. From the age of 15 I started taking the pill, and after the intense hormonal roller coaster of three failed brands, opted for an IUD. The pill severely messed up my hormones and I cried almost every time I saw my boyfriend. 

Why wasn’t he going through this? Why was I alone in sacrificing my mood and body for our pleasure? The things we do for sex. Scratch that — the things women do for sex. 

Of course, I don’t blame women or anyone for having unprotected sex. If you’re in open communication with and have trust in your partner, then why not? The problem, however, is when we aren’t given space to express our wishes. And as is often the case in casual hookups, that means our comfort can often go overlooked. 

It’s in those moments that I learn how little my voice as a woman can be heard in sexual situations. Porn and hookup culture often teach young women that their safety and desires aren’t of foremost importance during sex. It’s demeaning and dangerous that, as women, we often don’t feel secure enough to voice our sexual preferences. 

Condoms are a hard topic to navigate. It took me years to be confident enough to refuse sex without one, but eventually, I did. As women, we shouldn’t have to carry the sole burden of birth control, but in the world we live in, it seems we often do. And unfortunately, I don’t know when that will change. 

Sometimes a guy’s unwillingness to wear a condom does make or break the act of having sex. But why does he hold the power to decide that? His pleasure shouldn’t be the only factor. It’s a two-way street and any man not willing to accept that probably isn’t going to make you cum anyway. 

I know the guy who shamelessly ripped off his condom mid-fuck didn’t make me cum. The only thing I came to was a long-overdue realization: It wasn’t worth it.

Khristina Holterman writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact her at [email protected]