Committed couples refusing to use a condom every time

Committed couples refusing to use a condom every time


Monday, December 09, 2019

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DECEMBER 1 was observed as World Aids Day, and the 36-year-old “use a condom every time” rhetoric was dusted off once more and proclaimed, reminding us that the male condom is still the only method available that can prevent the transmission of HIV between sexual partners.

While the reality that we put ourselves at risk for infection each time we have unprotected sex might cause a few people to think twice about doing so when there is increased talk around the disease, the urgency of condom use will probably wane long before the Christmas season gets truly festive, especially for those in committed relationships.

But even while the ominous threat of infection lingers, how likely is it that we will use condoms, especially with our long-term partners and spouses?

It was confirmed in a vox pop conducted in the Corporate Area last week that many Jamaicans will not use a condom with their bona fide partners, because the use of condoms symbolises a lack of trust in the relationship.

These people have been in relationships for a while, and they told All Woman that:

Tina, in a relationship for three years:

We don't use condoms. We did at first, but we got tested after a while and we were both negative. I'm now on the pill, so we don't really use condoms anymore.

Sandy, married for two years:

We used it sometimes, but sometimes in the heat of the moment we didn't, so after a while it felt kind of pointless to bother at all.

Dean, married for four years:

No. Why would I marry someone I don't trust? If we have to use condoms in a marriage then we have a bigger problem.

Shanika, in a relationship for six years:

We probably used condoms the first three times we had sex, and that was it. I never really thought anything of it because I never found any evidence to think he was having sex with anyone else. After five years when I started getting a bit suspicious I mentioned to him that I wanted to use boots again, and his reaction was, 'Yuh find man?'

Michael, in a relationship for two years:

Sometimes we did, just to prevent pregnancy, but we weren't consistent and she got pregnant anyway. So from she got tested for everything in the pregnancy we just don't bother with that anymore.

The respondents suggest that condoms are only to be used in casual situations or in the early stages of dating where partners do not yet feel as if they can trust each other. But when exactly do couples cross that threshold from casual to exclusive sex? Psychologist and clinical sexologist Dr Karen Carpenter says a lack of communication where this is concerned is the first mistake that couples make.

“Usually nobody says 'I'm not going to have sex with anyone else, and you're not going to have sex with anyone else', so that's the first problem we have,” Dr Carpenter pointed out.

“People don't discuss condom use at all, and there has to be an understanding that two people will only engage in bareback sex with each other. There is the assumption that if you are married to somebody or in a committed relationship it automatically gives you the right to bareback sex, and that's the first thing we have to change in our culture. We don't do things by consent, we do things by assent. We assume what is happening.”

From her experience in doing condom use research, Dr Carpenter has found that couples who use condoms in their first sexual encounter are more likely to continue with condom use, but even those couples oftentimes 'dash weh di boots' after a few sessions.

“Usually when a couple gets settled in, in three to six months, the condoms have disappeared and nobody has gotten tested,” she lamented. “There's a relationship between condom use and assumed trust. But trust does not mean acting foolishly or recklessly, or that you don't love yourself.”

The sex therapist stressed that before couples can arrive at the decision to go bareback, they must have gone through a stage in the relationship where trust was built, and it must be explicitly stated that they are exclusively having sex with each other.

“What about the stage in-between casual and committed where we're getting tested and we're building that trust?” the counsellor asked. “People who are serious about their sexual pleasure will want to ensure that they can have sex pleasurably for longer.”

She posits that many people are less concerned about sexual pleasure, and more so about sexual conquest.

“We are more interested in conquering the person and making them go bareback as some kind of tacit proof that we are the only one and they love us, when the truth is that this means they will go bareback with anybody,” she said frankly. “The couples who really are serious about having sex that's enjoyable and worry-free will be more likely to use condoms.”

She continued: “We have not learnt that sex is about us, we have learnt that sex is about the other person — and that's not true. We're not having sex as a favour to the other person; we are having sex because we find the person pleasurable. Maybe if we stop pretending like we're doing them a favour then we would be more consistent in condom use.”

She recommends that in addition to open communication, couples should get tested routinely.

“I'm going to suggest that when you are considering bareback sex with a long-term partner, you also couple that with long-term testing with this long-term partner,” she advised. “Make testing a regular part of your routine, because no amount of questioning that partner can tell you if they are having unprotected sex with someone else, or if they have contracted HIV, or any other STI.”

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