Content Warning for HOT SEX.
In my short, hedonistic life I’ve had sexual relations with a number of men. Not all men of course; but more than a score and less than a hundred. And none of my lovers have taken condom-wearing very seriously.
The most common excuse (or reasoning) I get is one of sensations. Wearing condoms doesn’t feel as good to them, although most men can orgasm while wearing condoms. Another excuse I have heard is “Don’t you trust me?” as if condom-wearing was some symbol of distrust, and not a safety device. (If you got in a friend’s car and put on your seat belt for the ride, would it be logical for him to take offense that you didn’t “trust” him to drive carefully?)
I’ve never known a man to actually carry condoms, for they expect me to have them. (And I often do.) If I’m on hormonal BC getting a man to wear a condom is harder than winning a presidential debate. It’s gotten to a point that I simply won’t use the pills unless I’m going steady with someone (and ready to expose myself to all their past sex partners.) I’ve even handed a condom to a man I was about to fuck and he coyly threw it away. (He didn’t get a call-back, then stalked me for months.)
I thought the problem was me, or my taste in lovers; but then I read this article in the Times, and this one by Jessica Valenti; and also this petition by Parsemus.org. Apparently fewer than 20% of men use condoms, and historical declines in condom use are correlated with increases in use of other (woman-controlled) methods like hormonal BC. So it isn’t just me; apparently nearly all women (<80%) have to fight with their boyfriends to make them put on a rubber.
This brings me to a device called the female condom; sometimes marketed under the brand “The Reality Condom.”
Male condoms sometimes have suggestive, sexy names; like Trojan, Kimono, Sir Richard’s, etc. Or they may have neutral names like Lifestyles, Crown, or Trustex. But we girls get the “Reality” condom; as if asking a man to be responsible for his own contraceptives is some kind of fantasy.
There’s another shitty reality to the Reality condom. They’re hard to find and expensive. Most drug stores only stock male condoms; even sex toy stores like Babeland don’t always keep them in stock (they sell out quickly, LOL.) On Amazon, you can buy 5 reality condoms for $18.95, or a whopping 3.79 per condom (excluding cost of shipping.)
By comparison you can get 48 Kimono condoms (my preferred brand) on Amazon for $19.68… a cost of 41 cents per condom (excl. shipping.) Female condoms cost nine times that of male ones. And according to one couple interviewed by the Times, the Reality condom has all the visual allure of a trash can liner.
Now, I’m not some condom fetishist. I don’t particularly like wearing bits of latex during sex; there’s issues of lubrication, chafing & etc. It can be difficult to stop yourself (or your partner) during foreplay to put a condom on; and it’s harder still if he starts whining about it like a schoolboy. But the vast majority of men seem to think condom-wearing is somehow optional but contraception is not, which is incredibly foolish.
Firstly, it’s foolish because the pill doesn’t protect against STIs. You can still give a woman HIV if she’s on the pill. Secondly, it’s foolish because men have to take the woman’s word for it that she’s on the pill and trust her (that “trust” again) to use them correctly. So by not wearing a condom, a man shunts the responsibility for contraception onto the woman he’s sleeping with.
And if the woman’s birth control fails, she must choose between two equally horrible options. If she elects to end the pregnancy, there’s a certain breed of woman-hater who thinks she has no right. And if she carries the pregnancy to term, there’s a certain breed of man who thinks she has no right to expect child support. If you read AVFM enough you will find men angrily writing both viewpoints: that women have no right to abort their children; nor have they the right to raise those children with their paycheck (i.e. demand child support.) Some woman-haters even think men should have a right to disown any children they don’t *want* to pay for, as a right commensurate to a woman’s right to termination.
Let me bring this back to the “Reality” condom. In my links above you might have noticed there’s been some developments in the whole male-birth-control front: both a “clean sheets” pill which stops ejaculation (though orgasm still happens) and a polymer called Vasalgel which works like a reversible vasectomy. (Neither of these things are currently available for consumer use in the US; but there is a pilot project in India.) But how many dudes are going to let a doctor inject their scrotum with a polymer if they can’t be bothered to roll a latex sheath over their penis? Why should I expect someone too selfish for condoms to take a pill every day to forestall ejaculation?
The reality of contraception for women today might be summed up as “Your body, your problem.” We’re ones who get pregnant and overwhelmingly it’s women who have to deal with the consequences. We’re at least 80% responsible for using contraception, not because there aren’t suitable male options (like condoms) but because it’s our bodies, ergo our problem. Engineering male contraceptives won’t do anything to dismantle the attitude that using contraception is women’s work.