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The guy I’m sleeping with really wants to have PIV sex with me, but he won’t wear a condom because he’s Roman Catholic. Everything else we’ve done has been amazing and I really want to do it, but I’m terrified of getting pregnant and I’ve already had a scare that I haven’t told him about. I’m on the pill now, but I know that it isn’t 100% effective. Would it be really wrong to try and get him to change his mind about condoms? I’m religious too and I’d hate to make him do anything that would go against his faith, but the idea of getting pregnant scares me so much that I have nightmares about it, and since we’re not really together I don’t know what he’d do.
Heather Corinna replies:
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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You don’t want to engage in sex without those things.
So, your limit, a limit you need to make clear to him, is that you won’t engage in sex without the things that reduce the risks you aren’t comfortable with: that includes condoms.
You can say something like, “I respect your beliefs, wants, and limits here, but this is what I need in order to feel OK engaging in that kind of sex, just like you’re saying going without condoms is what you need. I know your limit, and now you know mine. Now let’s talk about where we both want to go from here.”
Then he gets to decide what he wants to do, and what is or isn’t in alignment with his own limits.
It may be that he feels it’s more important to him to have sex without condoms or other risk-reduction than it is to have sex with you—whether or not that’s based on his faith. I say that because Roman Catholicism doesn’t support sex (of any kind, not just intercourse) outside of marriage, sex for purposes besides procreation, or engaging in sex when someone is using the pill, so it’s hard for me to tell how much this all really is or isn’t about religious doctrine, since he’s being awfully inconsistent here.
Regardless, if he decides he’d rather hold his line about sex with no condoms than compromise with that so he can have sex with you, that’s OK (and it’s OK no matter what his desire to not use condoms is based in). He gets to feel that way, and he gets to decide to only have sex with people who don’t want to use condoms or other forms of contraception and risk reduction.
Or, it may be that he decides that his desire to have sex with you takes bigger precedence over his belief that it’s not within the bounds of his religion to engage in sex using condoms, and he may decide he’d rather use condoms than not have sex with you. He gets to do that too, if that’s how he feels and what he finds he feels best about.
(I’d also say that you should figure that someone who insists on not using condoms with a partner probably poses higher sexually transmitted infection (STI) risks. Because if they have had any other partners before, they probably did not use condoms with them. So, with someone like this, I’d say just from an STI-safety standpoint alone, going without condoms for any oral, vaginal, or anal sex is probably a bad idea. Personally, in a situation like this, I’d just be graciously saying it was time for me and someone like this not to continue to be sexual, since what I needed for emotional and physical safety obviously isn’t compatible with what they believe in and want to do. No harm, no foul, everyone is still awesome, but I’m going to just exempt myself from the whole situation and move along.)
No matter what he decides, you can both set your own lines and not make anyone do anything they’re not uncomfortable with when you’re just clear that, like they have given lines, so have you, and you want and intend to respect both of them. In other words, he’s set his, now you’re going to set yours. And so long as you both respect what the other decides, and neither of you attempts to change the other’s mind about each of your limits, it’s all good here.
So if you’re going to hold your limit with condoms, but you also understand and respect he may continue to hold his, what’s most likely is that you’ll be at an impasse. What that probably means is that sex between the two of you isn’t going to be something either one of you will choose to move forward with. Here, it sounds like what he wants and what you want just really aren’t a fit; it sounds like you two just aren’t a good choice for being partners together.
If that’s what winds up happening, that gets to be OK too. In fact, when any two (or more) people find that to engage in sex together, one of them would have to do something they really don’t want to do, or take risks they don’t want to take that scare the beejeezus out of them, and that don’t need to even be taken? Not having sex together is usually the best choice for everyone involved.
After all, it’s not like you’re the only two people in the world. He can find partners who also don’t want to use condoms, and you can find partners who also want to use them.
The world goes on when that happens. It truly keeps right on turning, even if we’re bummed out about not having a sexual relationship with someone we wanted to have one with.
Being disappointed like that sucks, but it passes, and it also usually feels a whole lot better than doing things with sex we don’t want to do and really aren’t OK with. You probably know this already just from being in the position where you don’t feel like you can tell him you had a pregnancy scare, and that’s something you had to go through alone. With a partner that was a better fit for you? You wouldn’t have had to do that—you could have been honest and gotten some emotional support you probably really wanted.
Not only does the world keep right on turning when we choose not to have sex with a partner who isn’t compatible for us in some ways, our sexual lives and the way we feel about them are usually far better for it when we are only choosing sexual partners who are truly a good fit for us. They’re usually much, much better when we don’t do sexual things, or do them in ways we really don’t want to, without the safeties we need to stay well and to feel safe and sound. When we only do them with partners where we’re both able to have sex involve the things we really want and need—where those wants and needs are at peace, not in combat.
I don’t think the fact that his belief around this is apparently religious really changes anything, nor makes this any different than if his desire not to use condoms had nothing to do with religion.
Again, it might not really have anything to do with religion, given how it sounds like he wants to do and does do things that are just as far outside that doctrine in terms of sex anyway. Even if it did, it’s not like because something is about religion, it gets to automatically trump or be held higher than someone’s boundaries or personal safety needs. Plus, I have to tell you, I’m not convinced this isn’t just someone trying to wheedle their way out of using condoms with you by using religion as an excuse, especially given the inconsistencies with his beliefs and behaviors. It’s not like he’d be the first person to do that.
But ultimately, he wants a thing that doesn’t work for you; you want a thing that sounds like it won’t work for him. So you both just put those things out there, as limits, hopefully each with care and respect for each other, and make your decisions about them accordingly, understanding that no one has to do anything they don’t want to do here, or aren’t comfortable with. And the simplest, and probably soundest, way to make sure that’s not what happens? It’s probably just to nix sex together altogether, and maybe even just both move away from this sexual relationship, so you both can seek out different partners who fit you both a whole lot better.
Here are a few links that I think will give you some extra help with some of this:
- Risky Business: Learning to Consider Risk and Make Sound Sexual Choices
- Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent
- Hello, Sailor! How to Build, Board and Navigate a Healthy Relationship
- Be a Blabbermouth! The Whats, Whys and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner
- Can I Get Pregnant, or Get or Pass On an STI From That?
- Safe, Sound & Sexy: A Safer Sex How-To
- What Safer Sex Isn’t