Category Archives: Monologues

Dear Husband, When Will The Condom Come Off?

The reality of TasP (treatment as prevention) is having a profound effect of serodiscordant couples today. Scientific evidence shows that under certain conditions, the risk of HIV transmission is so low that doctors now recommend some serodiscordant couple have condomless sex if they want to get pregnant. But for many, updated evidence cannot match the deep-seeded fear of contracting HIV. Armed with sources and facts, this monologue is a personal letter from an HIV positive woman confronting her husband’s apprehensions to start having condomless sex. 

DearHusbandDear Husband,

We have been in this relationship for a year and you know how I feel about you. I think you are the most wonderful man in existence, in my unbiased opinion. We share many interests, we have fun together, and in spite of my HIV status, the sex has been great. There have been no major challenges with my status until now.

As I long for a time when I could have condomless sex and exchange body fluids, an intimate act that feels like none other, condoms are an increasing reminder that we have a barrier between us. Regardless of how much lube one uses there is no condom available that does not feel like a condom. The female condom is okay but as my colleague noted, it is like having sex with a garbage bag inside you, complete with the noise of the crumpling latex.

I did get pregnant the good old fashioned way with my first child from a previous relationship and she is not HIV positive, nor is her father. I want to have another baby, but somehow that conversation gets diverted each time I initiate it. As you very well know, I do want to get pregnant naturally and our doctor recommended we try the good old fashioned way, like other hetero-couples wanting to have a child. We are in a committed, monogamous, trusting relationship. We know each other’s sexual health and HIV status. Scientific evidence presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) and discussion leading up to CROI left me feeling hopeful that soon the condoms would be put to rest.

Gus Cairns explains the outcomes of the latest PARTNER study which is showing promise while waiting for the final results in 2017. The PARTNER study is an international collaboration taking place in several European countries and is funded by the National Institute for Health Research in England and coordinated by Copenhagen HIV Programme (CHIP), in collaboration with University College London (the sponsor) and The Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, London.

“When asked what the study tells us about the chance of someone with an undetectable viral load transmitting HIV, presenter Alison Rodger said: “Our best estimate is it’s zero” (In Cairns 2014).

Seeing all of this evidence presented, along with knowing about my HIV negative child, makes me anxious as we wait for the time when we can stop using condoms. I trust you and I know you trust me but your refusal to accept new scientific evidence resulting from research studies, information that is not really new, as I was told years ago that under certain conditions I am not infectious, is making me question many things about this relationship. Mark S. King raises the question of whether people living with HIV will ever be considered safe sex partners. He refers in his writing to the ways in which people living with HIV are viewed as “suicide bombers” (2014). While reading his articles, I realized just how much work is ahead for the HIV community. But does there need to be such effort with us as I wonder if we are continuing to make informed decisions?

Who would have thought a condom could create so much stress in our relationship. Stress I was not prepared for and did not see coming as I believed you would eventually accept the evidence presented and change practices accordingly. After all, we are not in a one-night-stand as random strangers not knowing each other’s sexual history, where a condom would be used without question. We have evolved in our relationship. Or so I thought. But the continued use of condoms makes me question whether or not you can finally rid yourself of the fear of HIV transmission.

On a global scale, Bob Leahy (2014), who initially was not sold on the idea of treatment as prevention (TasP), now supports it completely, but he does remind the HIV community of “the huge amount of work that needs to be done, with advocacy at all levels being a sizeable component”, to convince institutions of the need for supporting and implementing TasP. As individuals, you and me are part of the TasP model.

Sex is not as spontaneous as it could be because we always have to ensure beforehand that condoms are nearby. The act of getting the condom ready and reaching for it is a constant, nagging reminder that screams out – “Watch out for HIV the big boogy man waiting in the corner reminding us to constantly be on guard”. I fantasize about the day when we can simply wake up in the morning and have sex without any reminders, with complete intimacy and trust without anxiety and fear.

What would I do if I were in your position?

I cannot say with certainty that I would embrace the idea and abandon the condoms without any lingering fear and doubt. I just do not know. I would like to think I would understand the science of HIV and realize that there is no real risk; that I would abandon my trepidation and in turn abandon condoms eventually. Maybe I would, and maybe I would not, preferring to hang on to the comfort and security of the condom.

Condoms are for one night stands, random sex, having sex with partners whose status is unknown, for avoiding all other sexually transmitted infections. We have none of those concerns. I have to be honest as I share my thoughts. I have thought on a couple of occasions of pursing sex with someone else who wants to have condomless sex. I need to feel the intimacy and deep connection to a man as we have sex that is uninterrupted with reminders, good old fashioned spontaneous sex. I never thought a small piece of latex could cause so much stress and doubt in a relationship. I want to maintain the status quo but on the other hand I want to have sex without condoms.

The last thing I want to do is transmit this virus to you. But as Marc-André LeBlanc (2014) so eloquently explained it, you are in fact safer with an HIV positive partner than with one whose status is unknown. I am beginning to give up hope as I try to explain that in fact, you -my partner- are safer with me as an HIV positive woman with stable, well controlled health status. I am getting impatient. There is growing tension in the relationship. If you cannot trust me and scientific evidence then I am going to begin to wonder if you have really addressed your fears, in depth, about HIV.

The province of British Columbia as an international leader in developing a model of the Test and Treat strategy, recently collaborated with China in offering services for them to implement to reduce HIV transmission through TasP, (Povidence Health Care: 2014), providing further evidence for the need to recognize how treatment does prevent transmission of HIV. I am on and adhere to treatment and am well controlled.

I understand completely and if the shoe were on the other foot. It may take some convincing on my part to trust and believe what is being presented. I am no different from anyone else and my personal perceptions and ideology take time to adjust to scientific evidence which is presented. My education about HIV came from the old fear based strategically targeted place. It is not easy to let go of those fears. They are embedded in our institutions and in our individual psyche, very deeply, I am finding out.

Len Tooley who does HIV testing, explains how “sexual health is often framed in the idea of risk instead of rewards. He goes on to explain how “this may present HIV and those living with it as the worst possible outcome imaginable, which is not only stigmatizing but often irrational and false since many people with HIV are, in fact, just fine” (In Straube: 2014).

So, will you let me know when the condom can come off?

Sincerely,

Your partner and lover.

Monologues are independent stories and the opinions shared are the author’s own.

References
Cairns,Gus. 2014. No One With An Undetectable Viral Load Gay Or Heterosexual Transmits HIV in First Two Years of PARTNER Study. March 4

Leahy, Bob. 2014. The TasP Train Has Left The Station. April 10

Leblanc, Marc- André. 2014. FUCK POZ GUYS! February 10

King, Mark. S. 2014. When People with HIV Became Suicide Bombers  April 2

King, Mark.S. 2014. Will HIV Ever Be Safe Enough For You? March 11

Providence Health Care. 2014. China joins forces british columbia conquer hiv/aids. November 27

Straube, Trenton. 2014. Against All Odds. POZ April/May

What a Good Guy Barometer Looks Like

You can measure the quality of a guy by the proximity of which he brings up condoms. It’s a direct relationship: the sooner he mentions them, the better he is!

At the bottom of the barometer scale is this guy:

You’re both naked. You’ve been rolling around, kissing, whatever. It’s hot. You’re at that point where you’re getting worried about proximity of genitals on genitals, so you roll it out. “Hey, are we ready for a condom? Should I grab one for us from my trusty bedside stash?” (You’re always stocked, of course, because you enjoy some healthy slutting. It keeps things fun!)

This one’s a bad egg, though, and he’s going down the Wonka trash shoot: “I’m too big for a condom,” he says. Or, maybe: “I can’t feel anything with those things on.”

He’s a dick, so you don’t want his dick.Hot-Peni-small

 

The middling man goes here:

You’re edging toward naked, or maybe you’re fully naked. You’re rolling around, rubbing closer. It’s getting hot in here. That moment comes again. Looks like there’s going to be some hetero-normative penetration in not too long, if you’re reading the signs right. You sort of pause, maybe, or slow down, and he notices your slight deceleration before you get the words out. “Should we get a condom?” he asks.

Winner! Super hot when the guy takes some responsibly and asks first!Hot-Peni-medium

 

And the stellar, gold-star, barometer busting man?

You’ve been talking all night. It’s total heart-to-heart. Heart-to-heart moves on to mouth-to-mouth and you decide to move things from the couch to the bedroom. You sit down on his bed, and the music goes on, the lights go off. He says, holding your hand, ready to start kissing you again, “Just so you know, I have condoms if we need them. No pressure though.” Swoon!

This guy’s a winner.Hot-Peni-large

What do you think? What makes your barometer burst?

Monologues are independent stories. Opinions shared are the author’s own,

Why I Always Make Him Wear a Condom

Sure, there are the obvious reasons why I would want him to wear a condom (“him” referring to, of course, the anonymous him that comes and goes. Not a long-term boyfriend kind of him, but the one night stand kind of him; a friends-with-benefits-kind-of-him; a “we just started dating” kind of him).

Being prepared and willing to use a condom is as common a courtesy as a hand shake.

Being prepared and willing to use a condom is as common a courtesy as a hand shake.

Those reasons being assigned to the usual “I don’t want a baby or an STD right now” category. But this isn’t another typical “Hey, wear a condom so you don’t get herpes” mini-rant. Nope, instead, I’m talking about the psychological reasons why I make him wear a condom. I’m talking about the emotional implications of raw dogging it, and that slightly shuddering sensation of the lack of respect that goes into a guy refusing to put a condom on after I’ve expressly requested it. I’m talking about these reasons because there are only so many times you can tell a girl that she should make him wear a condom; because STDs suck before you realize that there has to be another reason why you should expect all your female friends to abide by this standard of sexual courtesy.

If you’re the type of person who might in any way be inclined to have casual sex with a variety of partners (or maybe even one), having condoms regularly stocked in your bedroom is an obvious five minute, five dollar solution to the “if I don’t have a condom, we might not bang” problem. It’s certainly less emotionally trying that the inevitable, “Holy shit, what if I have an STD” paranoid mind rant that can last for up to a month after an unprotected sexual interlude. It’s a common courtesy, really, a social necessity. It’s polite, much in the same way that shaking someone’s hand when you first meet them is polite. So why do anything other than err on the side of caution?

I guess that’s why any time a guy tries to not wear a condom, I immediately question whether or not this guy has any social grace whatsoever.

Sure, I guess you can’t buy a book at Walgreen’s that extols the virtues of abiding by hook up etiquette in a step by step how-to guide. But any guy that thinks he’s going to get away with disrespecting my body, putting me at risk for a whole host of unwanted consequences for the sake of a minimal increase in his sexual pleasure has another thing coming. Not wearing a condom makes it obvious that my concerns about my sexual health are irrelevant to this guy, and if my concerns aren’t respected in this situation, then what else about me does he not respect? Everything, probably, which is quite an unsexy, unthrilling realization. I’d rather run from the room screaming than sheepishly allow myself to be conned into unprotected sex.

Maybe the usual, “Got a condom question?” isn’t so much a question of whether or not he has enough foresight to buy condoms from the store, but more a litmus test of whether or not he’s mastered the basic sexual skill of respecting the other person’s boundaries and precautionary desire to avoid STDs and pregnancy. Because heaven knows, if you’re not using a condom with me, you probably didn’t use a condom with the last girl

or the girl before that, or the girl before that,

which means the mathematical probability of contracting an STD has increased tenfold. And I’m sure you know by now that I’m not willing to subject myself to playing Russian roulette with a gun full of STD bullets.

So, in lieu of that, please go to the corner store and buy some condoms. You’ll automatically earn an extra ten points in my book.

Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own.

 

Why We Should Stop Using Fruits & Veg in SexEd

The banana (or cucumber) penis prop in sex education has got to go. I think it’s an outdated euphemism that helps adults (not young people) feel more comfortable talking about sexuality. Shyfully skirting topics only reinforces the mechanisms of shame around sex. It creates an environment in which certain question can’t be addressed. Hence ignorance perpetuates. At it’s core, the banana is a symbol of non-pragmatic, fear-based sex education.

Character 'Jonah Takalua' from Summer Heights High getting schooled in sex "practicalities".

Character ‘Jonah Takalua’ from Summer Heights High getting schooled in sex “practicalities”.

Like so many Americans, my sex education in high school was minimal. It was covered only once in the entire four years during a single, out-of-the-blue gym class. Topics were rushed and general. Looking back, I realize how heterocentric and cis-genedered sex ed was simply by the way information was presented and what was intentionally absent. How to use a condom, however, is the most vivid lesson I remember.

Us 14 – 15 year old boys and girls were instructed to sit on the basketball court floor and watch our gym teacher (a bleach-blond nutritionist who always wore L.L. Bean fleeces) pull out a single condom and banana from her canvas sports bag. “Now, who will volunteer to help me put this on?” She cheerfully asked us.

Of course, no one raised their hand so she picked the student who was talking under his breath to another student. “Brad, come on up and show the class how to use a condom.”

This was discipline.

Brad stood in front of the class with a grin and demonstrated how to open the condom wrapper. He handed the wrapper to the teacher in exchange for the banana. Then holding fruit in one hand and latex in the other, he placed the condom over the top and vigorously struggled to pull it down the, um, shaft.

“No no no!” blurted the gym teacher. “You’re skipping a very important step. You must make sure not to trap air in the top hat.”

Top hat?

Brad struggled trying to simultaneously pitch the tip and roll the condom down one-handedly. “Here, let me help you.” The teacher reached for the banana’s shaft and said, “You hold the hat while I roll,” and started to inch down the condom.

The awkwardness and humor of it all distracted me from actually understanding how to put on a condom. If anything, it seemed far more complicated because it required more than two hands.

How about suggesting to practice by one’s self? To masturbate with a condom? Or discuss ways partners can put condoms on together? Or ways to negotiate condom use? Or the variety of condom options that are out there?

Practical, matter of fact approaches are much more effective at equipping young people to make informed choices.

I think a penis or dildo model should be used instead of these foody phallics. Moreover, a dildo is great for including information about queer safer sex and toy sharing. Condom use does not only apply to penis!

The plastic penis prop by Justin Hancock of Bish Training is a stellar example of condom instructions for the real world.

Penis models are so less awkward.

Penis models are so less awkward.

Watch Bish Training’s condom use here.

How were you taught condom usage? What props were featured in your sex education (if any!)?

Our Hippie Secret Teasure

The first time I saw a condom I was nine years old and slightly too old to be playing pretend. This sounds wrong, but let me explain:

I was sitting in my friend’s parents’ 1992 Subaru station wagon and we were playing a game called “Hippie Road Trip” where we were two hippies driving across America. I’m not sure what this game entailed besides my friend sitting in the driver’s seat of the parked car and turning the wheel every so often to not crash into imaginary pedestrians and animals. While looking through the glove box for a map (we had gotten lost) I came across a box of condoms.

TreasureBox-CM

“There was something so thrilling about finding evidence of the adult world.”

I had heard about the legendary pieces of latex in class from the school nurse. She was a portly woman with red hair who had clearly been uncomfortable explaining “the birds and the bees” to a class of fourth graders. Her perspiration and rushed tone, however, had made the topic more exciting, more mysterious. And so it was no wonder then that finding a box of condoms to us was like discovering buried treasure.

“They’re my parents’,” explained my friend, who had christened herself ‘Sparkle’ whilst playing pretend. I too had taken a new name for my character, the most beautiful name I could think of, which at the time happened to be ‘Crystal’. Her parents were in fact real hippies and as a result Sparkle was somewhat of an expert on the subject of sex.

“Here– let me see those,” she said, extending her hand. She opened the box and grabbed a small, plastic square before tearing it open. It was long and cylindrical with a strange almost soft texture.

“Can I have one?” I asked excitedly.

It was not so often that I had such easy access to illicit objects. There was something so thrilling about finding evidence of the adult world. She handed me a small plastic square of my own. Pretty soon the entire box had been completely emptied and every one of the six condoms was unwrapped. It turned out that condoms could fit over your hands, your feet and even the stick shift of a 1992 Subaru station wagon.

Finally, tired of playing with them, we folded and stuffed all of the unwrapped condoms back into their box and into the glove compartment.

Sparkle readjusted her seat and went back to concentrating on driving. I stared out the window of the un-moving car, satisfied with our new found hippie secret treasure.

Monologues are independent stories. Opinions shared are the author’s own. Also, you should know that glove compartments are a terrible and risky place to store condoms. The heat from the car can breakdown the latex and render condoms useless. Do you remember your first encounter with condoms or dams?

Lessons from Watching Lesbian Porn in Class

LesSexMonoThe first time I had sex with another woman I had no idea what I was doing. As I started to take off her panties, she said down to me, “Gloves?”

I remember thinking: “What gloves? What for?”

The practice seemed so esoteric to me. From then forth my whole orientation with safer sex altered. As a teen, I had not fully realized my sexuality and only had sex with (cis) guys. I was surrounded by sexual health messages that greatly encourage safety:

Understand birth control options, communicate with partners, get tested, use condoms.

But there was no enthusiasm for queer sexual safety. Saying, “Use gloves” or “Use a sex dam” is very different from “Use a condom”. None of my education went beyond the scope of heterosexual sex; specifically, penis-vagina penetration.

Clearly, this education ill-equipped me for the “real world”. But it also served a deeper function. Excluding information about safer lesbian sex, or more inclusively, sex between people with vulvas, maintained and reinforced the attitude that it’s not “real sex”, and that women-who-have-sex-with-women don’t really need to practice safety.

As a bisexual (cis) woman who has had penis-vaginal sex before, where did I fit into risks? Do people really use dental dams? Are gloves always necessary for manual sex?  If so, why aren’t gloves promoted more among heterosexually-based safety messages? What sexual acts are less risky than others? I soon realized that I was not alone in the confusing and silent knowledge gap. The most powerful moment of this realization happened during a university course lecture in which we watched lesbian porn.

The class was titled, “The Sociology of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic”. That day we were covering the 1988 ACT UP protest of Cosmopolitan Magazine for publishing an article which (very erroneously) claimed that women were unlikely to contract and transmit HIV. The professor then dimmed the lights and switched on a porno short. Current Flow by Jean Carlomusto stars Annie Sprinkle and Joy Brown getting it on with an array of safer sex props ranging from condom covered vibrators to eating pussy with sex dams. The women fuck on the couch while a broadcast of the ACT UP protest faintly play on the television in the background. This video was specifically made to counteract Cosmopolitan. It was one of the first lesbian porn made by and for women that explicitly shows how to have safer sex.

The professor then bluntly asked the class, “Who here actually knew how to use a dental dam or understood the function of latex gloves prior to this video?

Only a few raised their hands. Among a group of predominately queer, early twenty-somethings this felt horrifying and shocking.

That activist porno is just as relevant today as it was 24 years ago. Lesbians and women who have sex with women, including those who are FAAB (female-assigned at birth), continue to be overlooked in the HIV epidemic. According to a 2009 review by the GMHC, very little research has devoted to the study of lesbian sexual play yet we are still learning new degrees of STI risks associated with different acts such as manual sex, fisting, tribbing, sharing toys and oral sex.

I’m lucky that my first time having sex with another girl was one that encouraged safer practices. Safety wasn’t optional. It was ethical. And it was hot. It opened up my world and cemented my desire to learn more, inform my options, and talk about safety confidently with other partners. But I know not everyone (and lesbians in particular) experiences such enthusiasm- including a lack of concern from medical professionals who assume “queer* women*” experience almost zero risk of HIV and other serious sexually transmitted infections.

For me, safer sex has developed a whole new dimension of excitement because of the political protest attached to it. Feminist mantra: “The personal is political”. It’s partly an acknowledgement that the sex I have with another woman is very real despite hetero-sexist attitudes. It’s also an intimate act of caring for and protecting each other.

Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own. For more information on sexual safety for lesbians and women-who-have-sex-with-women, the National LGBT Health Education Center is a good place to start. Please do comment and share other recommended resources below.

Fire Crotch

The memory of this experience was triggered by a discussion I overheard about massage oils recently.FireCrotch

I went through a very brief phase in online hook-ups for sex. I wanted to experience it as I was a very late bloomer who hadn’t had much casual sex. I decided to read the profiles for a hot, young, firm, sexy guy for sex. Only sex. I was not concerned with anything else but his physical appearance as I searched for a casual hook up for the evening. Another reason I wanted a young man was for the almost guarantee that he would go the duration. I conducted a small interviewing process online and found one who appeared to meet my needs. We chatted, we talked on the telephone and we met at a café.

We hit it off and rushed back to his place. We got undressed and made out for a while. As he reached for the bottle of hot massage oil he asked if it would matter if he put some on his dick. I shrugged (not so sure what it would do) so we rubbed it on.

Later, while having what began as great sex, he jumped up screaming – “my dick is on fire!”- as he proceeded to rip the condom off and put his red hot dick under cold running water in the bathroom sink. Apparently all the friction with the condom and his skin heated up his dick until it felt like it was in flames.

It may have been an insightful idea to read the fine print on the hot oil massage bottle. Sex was otherwise getting heated without oil. What a waste of good sex and it looked like his recovery was going to take a while, so I moved on. The good condom news in this story is, had we not used one I would have experienced the same sort of fire crotch too!

Virgina

Always read the instructions and warning labels on oils, lubricants and condoms. Never use oil-based products with latex or polyisoprene condoms. It can break down the material. Polyurethane condoms are compatible with oils. So are “lambskins” (but these do not protect against STIs).

Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the authors own. What is your sexual safety story?

Condoms Are Consent

My story is about how, for me, safer sex is intrinsically tied to consent. I cannot give consent without feeling safe. One time during sex (however safe I felt) the guy took the condom off without telling me. He figured, once we got this hot and heated, there were no cues that I was saying “no”. I feel guilt sharing this because I know people will judge me for having sex with this guy even after his display of Jerk-Assness; even after he breached my consent. People will judge that I lack self-respect; that I gave mixed messages; that I’m a slut. Whatever. I’m telling this story because issues of consent are not easy to navigate flow-charts. I’m saying that lusty desire and consent can be full of emotional contradictions.ConSentConDom

It was New Year’s Eve. The cocktail of booze and dancing at a friend’s custom party led to flirtation and ultimate make out sessions between “Gladiator” and I (I was dressed as “Uhura” from Star Trek). We had not really talked before but tonight I was feeling that I could have some casual sex. At that point in my life, in the context of that party, and our swelling chemistry, tonight I knew and wanted casual, just-for-fun sex.

I slipped into the new year sloppily kissing. An hour or so after midnight, we said goodbye to friends and got in a taxi and went home. We were tipsy but I felt in control. I felt safe. We sloppily made out some more. It got to the point where he was looking for a condom which I insisted upon (I worked at Planned Parenthood. Condoms are like second nature to me so I had no problem standing my ground despite his subtle condom-disgruntle).

Halfway through the act, he pulled out to switch positions. When we switched again, I reached down and felt his bare, condomless dick. “Where’s the condom!?”

“Oh, it was bunching up so I took it off.”

My heart dropped. WTF!

I yelled at him for his lack of respect for me and rolled over. I was beside myself. Angry. I did not consent to this! But despite feeling violated, I didn’t want to get up from the bed and walk 2 miles home alone in the early freezing morning. I was fine with just turning my back to him and falling into a boozy sleep.

The next morning I woke up next to him and he started to kiss me again. I liked his kisses. He made me feel hot.  I tried to forget about last night and just be “cool”. No fusing. This was just-for-fun, after all.

We got hotter. Sex was on the cards again.  Then he tried to have to sex with me without a condom again!star trek face palm

I gripped his naked dick before entering me and said to him with a heavy breath, “We are not having sex without protection.”

He swiftly located a new condom and I helped put it on.  The compromise, between my feelings of unease and our lust to have sex, was that we used a condom. I had sex with him again. He kept it on. Soon after, I trekked home in my New Year’s costume feeling like this is not the way the real “Gladiator” would have fucked “Uhura”.

Monologues are independent stories and the opinions shared are the author’s own.

Reacquainting With Condoms After 11 Years on The Pill

A dramatic contraceptive story that spans over a decade, told in 1000 words.

“Which ones should we get?” I asked my boyfriend. Well, he’s a man and he’s the one that has to wear them, so naturally I assumed he’d know best. “I dunno,” was the mumbled response. I’d not been “hat” shopping in over a decade. For nearly 11 years I was on the Pill and in three monogamous relationships, for the majority of that time, so ‘safe’ meant not getting pregnant.

Standing there, facing a wall of johnnies, there were three main changes I noticed: the packaging of condoms 11 years on was nicer, there were brands other than Durex available, and the price was higher. No wonder the supermarket kept them in security boxes. Ten quid ($16) for 10 condoms, so a pound a fuck essentially, and me and my boyfriend fuck a lot. Giving up the Pill was apparently going to cost me in more ways than I expected!

That said, coming off the pill four months ago was one of the best decisions I’ve made and I’d like to state that this was what was right for me, not what every woman should do, although I do think every woman should take the time to stop and re-evaluate their contraceptive method as their body changes.

The biggest question I’ve faced since is what contraception should my partner and I use instead?

Long term, that’s still a frustrating debate I’m having with myself, my partner and sexual health advisers. For now though, my chap and I are only using condoms and that is how I found myself: Standing in Tesco adding ‘condoms’ to our weekly, big shop shopping list.

Just call me Goldilocks

After much deliberation we went for the clichéd ribs and dots for her pleasure style. You have to start somewhere. They were good, but not quite right. If we’re being honest (and I think we can be here) too much dotting and ribbing can lead to chaffing.

Thankfully, there’s more to safe sex-life than that one style and so the hunt began online to try something new. Scouring the sites we found a ridiculous number of options. Without wanting to sound too Disney about it, there was a whole new world opening up before my eyes. Previously my experience of condoms had been whatever was free and easy to grab from the GP or sexual health clinic as they were only ever used briefly when there was a Pill glitch.FlyingCarpetCondomsAnim

Now though, scouring the various sex e-tailers, there was this whole exotic, rubbery, latex fantasticness that had the potential to be a lot of fun. Maybe shopping for condoms would be a great, new, sexy part to our foreplay?

We came across an American brand called One and they had an interesting pack called ‘Tantric’ with tattoo style patterns and extra lubrication. Oh, they sound fancy and you can never have too much lube, so we ordered some.

It wasn’t long before the boyfriend and I found ourselves back online, looking for something different the next time. We “um-ed” and “ah-ed” over the various boxes, brands, descriptions, shapes and textures for nearly as long as we’d spend trying to pick a nice bottle of wine to go with dinner.

Obviously, sex is a shared experience and if there is the opportunity to choose together, then you should. Like with any aspect of sex you should both get enjoyment out of what you’re using. There aren’t very many things that we put on our bodies that are as intimate as condoms. It’s going on his most sensitive area and in hers, so when it comes to condom shopping it’s important to find some rubbers that you’re both gonna’ love. Generally, that means experimenting.

Getting comfy with condoms

Through shopping around, I’ve learnt more about condoms in the last four months than I ever learnt at school, or was bothered to listen to after that, because they just weren’t relevant to my life. It’s a bad attitude to have, I know. It’s shocking how the “fit and forget” or pill-popping culture we have today means it’s easy to overlook the humble condom. Especially when you’re in a relationship that uses one of the aforementioned methods.

It’s been a re-education: I’m aware now about the importance of fit and how that effects sensation and minimises the risk of breakage, the safest way to take them off to avoid any ‘accidents’ and I’ll admit that I’m still perfecting my roll on method (anything billed as ultra thin is definitely the trickiest).

The biggest adjustment (and I don’t reckon I’m the only woman who’s come off the Pill to feel this) is becoming confident with the idea that condoms can keep me safe. Not from STDs as that’s not an issue in my relationship, but of pregnancy. A lot of people my age and a bit older seem keen to use Fertility Awareness Methods and the pull-out method, but for many of them pregnancy wouldn’t be so much of a disaster. For me and my boyfriend, it certainly would be.

Making the move from the pill to condoms is scary. Anything you get fitted, implanted or swallow every morning has a success rate of approximately 99 percent. Sure, there are some side effects, but you’re willing to put up with them because it’s a shared ideology that now we have these methods, why bother with condoms that have a slightly lower success rate at all if your aim is to not get pregnant?

Living with that mentality for over a decade, then changing what you use and your body changes too, is a lot to get your head around, but it is doable. On the plus side, not only has it led me to take another look at the whole contraceptive menu – not just what the GP would prefer me to use – but it’s made me and my partner look again at correct condom use and I don’t think it’s a bad thing for any couple to do that no matter how long they’ve been together.

Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own.

Too Young For An IUD

I didn’t realize until that day sitting in the doctors office that systems of oppression, like patriarchy, mark the options I have for contraceptives.

At age nineteen, I was in a hot and heavy long-term relationship with an older man. I knew I loved him, and I knew he loved me but, at the rate we were going at it, we were destined to have our own clan of Duggers- our own clan of Hawkins to be exact. I was a busy student, worker, and volunteer, and oftentimes forgot to take my birth control pill, and my partner had recently graduated college and was unemployed. Despite our financial shortcomings, we could afford a few dates to local restaurants. But a child and all of their accessories was nowhere in our strained budgets.

I decided to take action and seek a more effective birth control method- a method that I would not have to worry about forgetting to take daily.

I conducted extensive research before I decided on an alternative form of birth control that was right for me– an IUD. I eagerly made my appointment for my yearly well-woman-exam and anxiously awaited the day where I was no longer a slave to the birth control pill.IUDImages-1

On the day of my appointment, I filled out the required paperwork, disrobed, and endured the forever-uncomfortable pap smear, breast examination, and pelvic examination. Upon completion of the procedures, my male OBGYN asked me which birth control method did I prefer?

“Well, I’ve conducted a lot of research and based on my lifestyle, I’ve decided to get the Mirena,” I stated proudly.

Oh no, you cannot get the Mirena”, my OBGYN replied nonchalantly.

My eager little heart sank- I became mortified.

“Why not?” I asked, shaking.

“Because you haven’t had children and it would be too difficult to place. Also, you are too young. You can either do the pill, the Nuva Ring, or the Patch, but the IUD isn’t an option.”

When I researched the Mirena, I discovered that age and never having children had little to no impact on the effectiveness of the method- So why is he telling me otherwise?IUDImages-2

I went back and forth with my OBGYN for five minutes. I realized that he would not budge on his stance, so I began to consider other options.

I was not comfortable with using the Nuva Ring, and the surplus of commercials discussing fatal side effects automatically took the Patch out of the running.

Flustered and confused, I reluctantly agreed to stay on the pill: Ortho Tri Cyclen Lo to be exact.

I left the physician’s office with a new perspective on life. Previously, I always felt empowered and in control of my life. This moment changed that- I realized that as a woman in a patriarchal society, I’m not in control. Not even when it pertains to my reproductive health.

Monologues are independent stories. The experiences and opinions shared are the author’s own. Do you relate this this experience? What comes into play when you navigate your personal choices and contraceptive options?

We recommend Bedsider and Scarleteen as smart resources to learn more about IUDs and other contraceptions.