The issue of condom use can be controversial and difficult to discuss. Condoms are often wrongly associated only with promiscuity or sex work, so using condoms carries stigma. Christians should value life and reflect God’s love and care for all people. Sharing information about appropriate condom use can help save lives. Condom use is recommended to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, if either partner may be at risk.
Women may have no choice in marriage and little control over sexual decisions. But men do not own women’s bodies. A woman should have the right to choose when, how and with whom she has sex, and to protect herself from harm. At present, many new HIV infections are amongst faithful, married women. Many men do not like to wear condoms, but it is important for both men and women to take responsibility for sexual health. Here are some suggestions for negotiating condom use.
Practise the conversation beforehand
If you think your partner may not be supportive, you could practise talking with a friend first. They can pretend to be your partner and you can practise answering questions they might have.
Choose a good time to talk – such as when you are feeling good about each other and when you are not likely to be interrupted. Do not wait until you are about to have sex.
Be informed Learn as much as you can about STIs and about safer sex methods. That way you can help your partner to understand the real risks of unsafe sex.
Pray together for wisdom in protecting each other’s health. Study biblical teaching on relationships (1 Corinthians 7).
Focus on safety Your partner may say you do not trust them. Tell them the issue is safety, not trust. A person may have an STI without knowing, or may contract HIV not through sex but through blood transfusions or unsafe needles. So it is difficult to be sure that he or she is not infected.
Use other people as examples Sometimes learning that others are practising safer sex can help influence your partner to do so too.
Compiled by Maggie Sandilands, with information from Where women have no doctor by A August Burns, Ronnie Lovich, Jane Maxwell and Katharine Shapiro (Hesperian Foundation).
If your partner says… It will not feel as good.
Try saying... It may feel different but it will still feel good.
If your partner says… I do not have any diseases.
Try saying... Often there are no symptoms – so one of us could have an infection without knowing it.
If your partner says… Just this once without a condom.
Try saying... It only takes one time without protection to get an STI or HIV. And I am not ready to be pregnant.
If your partner says… You are already using family planning.
Try saying... One of us could still have an infection.
If your partner says… Condoms are for sex workers, why do you want to use one?
Try saying... Condoms are for everyone who wants to protect themselves and their partner. Many people use condoms now.
Many Christians find it hard to learn about condoms because of stigma. Here are some helpful facts.
A condom is a thin sheath made of latex or other materials, that a man wears on his penis during sex. There are also female condoms, but these are not widely available. Latex condoms are a good way to protect against STIs, including HIV, and can also be used for family spacing.
Condoms must be used correctly to ensure they are effective:
- Carefully open the package so the condom does not tear. Do not unroll the condom before putting it on.
- Place the unrolled condom on the tip of the penis. Leave about 1.5cm of empty space at the tip, but hold the tip of the condom when putting it on so that it does not fill with air and burst. Roll the condom all the way to the base of the penis.
- After sex, hold on to the condom at the base of the penis when withdrawing from the vagina, taking care not to spill semen.
- Dispose of the used condom, making sure it won’t be found by children.
- Do not reuse condoms.
- Do not use a condom if the packet is torn or dried out or past its expiry date, as the condom will not work.
- Do not use grease, cooking oils, baby oils, skin lotions, petroleum jelly (vaseline) or butter to make the condom slippery. These substances can make the condom break. Use saliva or cream that does not have oil in it.
- Store condoms in a cool, dry place.
- If possible, only use condoms made of latex. Other materials will not protect against HIV.