Sunday, February 15, 2009

6wS: Only works if he wears it.

I was actually having this conversation with a fellow teacher the other day. It annoyed me.

One of her students was pregnant, possibly for the second time (I can't remember the details). I pointed out that if we taught these girls about birth control and made it affordable for them, then we could much more easily avoid these problems. She dismissed my comments.

Argument #1: "Condoms aren't expensive"

No, they're not (they're not as cheap as they used to be, but they're not that expensive. I'll concede on this point). However, condoms suffer from one major design flaw: the guy has to wear it.

I don't know how many men this teacher dated before she married her polite, considerate, respectful husband. She obviously didn't date some of the guys I've come across.

I know you've heard them too: "I don't like the way it feels." "It gets in the way." "But I want to feel you, baby." "You want me to stop now, just to put that on?"

You know what? I even had a guy take it off halfway through. I didn't notice until after he was done. (Yeah, that one was class personified, let me tell ya.)

Sure, condoms are cheaper than other forms of birth control, and you don't have to wait a month before they start working. But the problem with condoms is that he has to wear it -- and he oftentimes doesn't like to do that. The girl can be as prepared as she wants to be and have every size, texture, and flavor available*; unfortunately, in the end it is not up to her. Even though she is the one who has the most at stake.

A note on female condoms: These, actually, are pretty good. First of all, she wears it. The female condom also has the advantage that you can put it on before the party gets started, so you don't have to stop once everyone's all hot and bothered (and not wanting to stop). Also, it provides a little more protection against herpes and warts because it covers more of the vaginal area. (I don't know how great they are about staying in place if you get too rough; the one or two times I used one I had the feeling it didn't always stay where it was supposed to stay.)

However... when was the last time you saw a female condom in the "feminine needs" aisle of your local Target? I don't know if stores like Condom Sense carry them (I would certainly hope they do); I had to get mine at Planned Parenthood, which is a Monday-Friday 8-5 and every other Saturday 8-12 place. Could we please put some of these in grocery stores? Oh, and, like, tell people about them?

Argument #2: "Well, she should just learn to keep her legs together, then!"

Ah, I love this one.

First of all, because she needs to learn to keep her legs together. Yes, because it's all her. She's the one going out and having sex with herself and getting herself pregnant.

Did we forget "It takes two to tango" (as my Momma always says)? And, just like in the tango, the one leading (and pleading) is generally not she.

Seriously, people. Why do we never hear "He should just learn to keep his pants zipped"? Or "He should just learn to take a cold shower"? Or "He should just learn to do as the physician says and 'Heal thyself'"?

Why is it always solely her fault? (Oh, that's right. I remember now.)

Second of all, because, again, people who make this argument have not met the guys I've been unfortunate enough to date.

May I point out that, as a general rule, guys are stronger than girls? Maybe it's because I grew up with an older brother who liked to "play" fight a lot (there weren't any other boys his age on our street, so he was stuck playing with me. I wanted to play Barbies, he wanted to play G.I. Joes; somehow, Barbie's Dreamhouse was always under attack from C.O.B.R.A. If I got him to agree to play "house," he always ended up being a secret double-agent with the government, who had to kill me because I knew too much). I have always known that I am weaker than guys. I know what it's like to want to get away and not be able to. I also know what it's like to get hit, hard. These are not fun feelings.

Guys can be very charming with their words. They can charm the pants off of us. And if words don't work, they can use other means. Or they can just threaten to use other means; oftentimes that's enough. Because some of us know what the alternative is, and we'd rather not reach that point.

So, when he says he doesn't want to use the condom? We're usually at a point where he doesn't just want to let it go. And we're not in a position to say "no," because we know what happens if we dare stop him.

The threat doesn't always have to be physical. Remember those charmers? The abuse can be emotional. We know he's going to pout until he gets his way. And it's going to be our fault. And he's going to remind us of it. Constantly.

If you haven't been there, I don't really know how to explain it to you. And, please remember, being a victim of abuse means that your rational and logical neurons refuse to synapse in these situations. That's why women stay in those relationships. (Also, the whole "subconsciously raised to be subservient" thing really does not help.)

No, not all guys are like this. But enough of them are, especially when they have not quite entered mature adulthood yet.

Condoms might be easily accessible, but they are probably the least effective form of birth control (with real-world use, not Utopian "perfect" use). They are not going to solve the problem.

Abstinence is awesome, but I think we have seen that it is not working. Guys want to have sex, which requires a partner. They will find a way to get girls to do it (those who prefer girls for that sort of thing), either the nice way or the not-so-nice way.

Please, let's give those girls a way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, if nothing else? Yes, it would be nice if we could fix all the other problems too, but sadly I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon. This, on the other hand, is such an easy solution, and it's available right now. Can we address the problem we can actually solve? The other stuff, that's going to take a lot more than a pill, patch, ring, or shot to fix.

*Also of note: buying condoms makes a girl a whore. Because she's admitting she's planning on having sex. And only whores do that, remember? Incidentally, it was the same guy who took it off who made fun of me for having condoms in the first place. Made some crude remark about me "being busy" when I told him to grab a condom from my bathroom drawer. I had bought those because I knew he was coming over that night.

(And just because I thought you might want to know: that was my first year teaching high school. In conservative, Baptist Katy, TX. It was also the first time I had ever bought condoms. And one of my students saw me in the grocery store, and waved at me. Either he didn't see what I had in my hand, or he was nice enough to never tell.)

6 word Sunday challenge


  1. Seriously, people. Why do we never hear "He should just learn to keep his pants zipped"? Or "He should just learn to take a cold shower"? Or "He should just learn to do as the physician says and 'Heal thyself'"?


  2. You pointed out SUCH an important part of all of this - unfortunately, women (and girls, obviously) are occasionally in situations where they have no control over whether or not a condom is going to be used. Whether this is because of coercion, rape, improper use, or the situation you mentioned in which a guy removes a condom, condoms CANNOT be the only method on which women rely. Honestly, in my opinion condoms should only be used as a backup or second method - women should always either be on the pill, or using a patch, Nuvaring, Depo Provera, or an IUD. That way, if the unthinkable happens, there are still no "accidents." Condoms are awesome at preventing STDs, as well, which the other methods of BC don't do, but using ONLY condoms for BC leaves open a world of negative possibilities. SO many people forget about this aspect of birth control.

  3. @marcy I hear that all the time. Usually right before the cuffs come out.