Who’s Responsible for Contraception – the Man or the Woman?

Having sex for the first time with a new partner is always an exercise in silent negotiation.

Issues such as who will take the dominant role or when the undressing will begin abound and are often worked out using body language, eye contact, and other non-verbal communication cues.

Although these stealthy tools are enough to successfully answer most of the questions that arise during those initial moments of sexual bliss, the issue of contraception is not and should not be one of them.

Don’t Rely on Your Partner to “Take Care Of” Contraception

Unfortunately many women still rely on the man to bring a condom, and many men still rely on the woman to be “on the pill.” Obviously this can lead to a very unfortunate situation in which he doesn’t have a condom and she in not taking an oral contraceptive, leaving them with the choice of either not having sex at all, or having unprotected sex.

Both of these options are bad, and more often than not couples will choose to have sex anyway. This decision not only increases their chances of an unwanted pregnancy, but also of acquiring an unwanted sexually transmitted infection such as HIV or herpes. (Remember condoms should not only be used to prevent pregnancy but to prevent the spread of STD’s as well!)

The easiest way to avoid having to make such a hormonally charged decision is for both partners to take equal responsibility for having a condom on their person – be it in a pocket, a purse, a sock, where ever. Even though it’s the man who wears it, the woman gets just as many benefits from its use, and she should feel comfortable taking the initiative to safeguard her own health and well being. In fact some condom companies are marketing male condoms directly to women by using sexy packaging and imagery in order to promote this healthy habit.

Oral contraceptives do not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections and should not be the only form of protection used between new lovers. It’s also important to remember that many women rightfully refuse to use oral contraceptives because of the negative side effects they experience while taking them or because of other health concerns. (For example women with a familial history of strokes are advised not to use oral contraceptives).

An even greater number of women discontinue using “the pill” during periods of prolonged abstinence – such as between relationships. So even if she has used oral contraceptives with her past lovers, there’s a good chance that she is not currently using them if this is your first time having sex with each other! Never assume a woman is using an oral contraceptive. If you are unsure, ask her. If you are both ready to have sex, then you should be able to have an honest conversation about contraception.

SHE Should Not Be the Only One Deciding IF Contraception Will Be Used

Another very common, and I think disturbing, trend is…

many men will leave it completely up to the woman to “stop” the progression of sexual activity in order to demand the use of a condom, instead of simply putting the condom on himself without needing to be told to do so by his partner. This behavior unfairly shifts the responsibility of condom use fully onto the woman, and implies that without her demand, he would happily have sex without using a condom at all.

Why are women stereotypically placed in the sexually “responsible“ role? Aren’t men just as concerned about their own health as women? Then shouldn’t men be equally as likely to “stop” the sexual activity in order to use protection?

The usual justification for this scenario is that men get “carried away” in the heat of the moment and “forget” about the consequences of their sexual behaviors, whereas women do not get swept away by their sexual passions and are therefore the ones who must be “responsible” for them both. This argument is based upon too many incorrect culturally-bound assumptions regarding female sexuality to explore in this article. Suffice to say that women are equally as “impassioned” as men, and should not be the only ones who decide whether or not contraception will be used. The “heat of the moment” is not an excuse for irresponsible sexual behavior for either women or men.

Do Have a Verbal and Explicit Conversation About Contraception

Having a conversation about contraception does not have to be as uncomfortable as most people believe. The key is to broach the subject during a non-sexual, calm moment together. One of the worst times to have this “talk” is right before sex because it will certainly kill the mood. It’ll be much better, and lead to a much smoother first time, if this issue is already taken care of and both partners are comfortable knowing that they’ve made a healthy, loving, and respectful decision together.


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