The dirty little secret about condoms

Everybody hates them and nobody uses them.

Published September 3, 1997 7:00PM (EDT)

a while
ago, I wrote about how angry I was that none of my friends, straight or gay, seemed to take condoms or HIV infection seriously. They would use condoms once or twice with a new partner, all the while talking the big talk about how "necessary" they were, how you never "knew" anyone's sexual past, how condom usage was yes, a drag, but it was "fine." And then, suddenly, after two or three times, they didn't use them.

Why the leap? Does it even bear speculating? Did they suddenly feel like they knew the person well enough. Did they feel it was worth the risk? Of course not. Condoms are anathema, pure and simple, and no amount of hectoring or preaching or even patient teaching is going to change that. It's like an expensive scratchy sweater -- you know it looks good on you, but somehow you're going to find every excuse not to wear it.

I wondered what bothered me about that column, and I realized that I had bought into the whole lecturing posture. If I said it strongly enough, maybe even I'd believe it.

Well, I admit it: I am a hypocrite. I hate condoms. I hate the way they smell, the way they feel inside me, the coitus interruptus. I hate the way the latex odor clings onto our hands afterwards, more potent than garlic. I hate the taste of them. I hate that I can't go down on him after he's put one on, and I hate that after he takes it off, I still can't go down on him unless I want my mouth to be filled with a chemical numbness rivaling any oral anesthesia known to man.

I was having sex with my boyfriend recently. It was our third time, still that awkward period, trying out new positions, talking about what we liked, wondering how much we could ask for. Did he like it doggie style, did I like to talk dirty, was I multi-orgasmic ... no, really, do you like that or are you just trying to please me? I came quite early on, and he did too. It was mid-morning, and the sun was streaming over the back of his thighs; I rolled him over and began to dutifully peel off the little nasty rubber, all gooey, that latex smell high in the air.

"Wait a minute," I said, looking down on him. I was on all fours, peering at his groin. "You did, um ... well, you did come, right?"

There was a pause. "It doesn't matter."

I sat back. "Are you kidding?"

"No," he said. "But don't worry about it. I don't come in condoms. Or rarely. But it's not a big deal."

"OK," I said, thinking this was an interesting, if slightly disturbing, turn of events. I could just hear all my gay male friends howling in derision, "Oh, of course he doesn't come in condoms! How convenient for him!" Well, there are plenty of times that women don't come, and nobody makes a federal case out of that. Maybe condoms could be the great equalizer.

But here was the hypocrite raising her ugly head again. This was just one more reason, another scratchy tag on the expensive sweater, not to use them. Oh, sure, we could do other things to make him come -- jack him off, go down on him, the usual. But it wasn't going to be the same. I already knew that the next time I'd be prepared: diaphragm inserted, HIV test results in hand, a request for the same. No, it wasn't wise and it wasn't prudent (forget about AIDS -- what about chlamydia, herpes, genital warts and the like?). It was foolhardy and stupid and our parents would be horrified. But I knew that somehow we'd make that leap of faith into a condomless world and never look back.

The heretical truth is that I simply don't believe I'll get AIDS. Why should I? I don't know any straight person who's been infected with HIV, either through needles or sex, and I don't know anyone who knows anyone who has. I suspect most straight people of my generation secretly feel the same way, whatever they may say. Unlike my 23-year-old sister's generation, mine doesn't believe the hype. We haven't had it drummed into our heads since we were 8 years old that having sex without condoms is like sleeping with Satan.

Admitting to hating condoms is a terribly unpopular position to take. But anyone who says otherwise is either over 50, under 30, celibate or lying.

By Courtney Weaver

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