The Sexist

Are Condoms As Important to Straights as They are to Gays?

Zack Rosen over at The New Gay wrote an excellent column the other day about the importance of condom use within the gay community. The post covers a lot of ground—personal responsibility, modes of transmission, casual anal bleeding:

A couple years ago when one of the cutest boys I’d ever seen begged me to fuck him without a condom. Actually, beg is the wrong word. He pleaded. He whined. He implored me not to use one as if it was simply some seasoning our our sexual entree that he found disagreeable.

Condoms, however, are not cilantro and I refused to eat without one. And the next morning I found his blood on my sheets, meaning that if he had listened to me, and I was HIV+, he would’ve been too. What a dumbass.

Zack answers a lot of questions about cultural attitudes toward condoms in same-sex relationships, but he also posed a question for me: Do straight people feel the same urgency to use protection?

I am but one woman, and I do not speak for The Straights. But D.C.'s newest AIDS numbers included two statistics that may have something do do with each other: The leading mode of transmission for new HIV cases is heterosexual sex, and 7 out of 10 D.C. citizens reported to not use condoms.

One reason I think condom concern may be lower among heterosexuals is that the HIV threat hasn't been pounded into our brains for decades, like it has in the gay community. Also, "protection" means something different than STD prevention for us—it also means preventing babies. In a lot of heterosexual relationships, sex partners are often so worried about pregnancy that the fear of conception overshadows concern over STDs.

I have to think that the real question, in the straight world, must be this: Are condoms as important to men as they are to women? In both cases—pregnancy and STD prevention—the responsibility to use protection often falls on her. She has to go to the doctor regularly and get her birth control prescription and make sure she takes it correctly every day. Often, she also has to make sure the man is wearing a condom. If she doesn't, she's more at risk than he is: In a female-to-male HIV contact scenario, women are more likely to contract the virus than men are, because of the way our bodies are made. This is true all the time—it doesn't depend on whether or not anybody is bleeding or whether the sex is anal.

So, that leads me to my question for Zack: Are condoms as important to guys on top as they are to guys on bottom?

Photo by victoriapeckham.

  • TNG Zack

    Good question, Amanda. Condoms at least SHOULD be more important to the bottom than the top, as the bottom is much more vulnerable to infeciton than the top. Sadly, this just leads people to further villify bottoms and/or femininity and put more shame on playing the bottom, which I think in its own way can lead people to the kind of self-disrespect or denial that prevents condom use in the first place. Oh, what a tangled web...

  • Amanda Hess

    I think you could probably say the same thing about women. Once women need to demand a condom in order to protect themselves, men can (a) see having sex without a condom as a special "goal," and (b) stigmatize condom use as a surrender to femininity.

    On the flip side, I've heard a lot of stories about women demanding that men NOT use condoms.

  • Camile

    New reader here.

    A lot of my hetero friends do follow the trend of going off condoms once they get on birth control. I don't particularly like that idea because there's always that small chance of pregnancy. Still, there are moments where I'm so caught up in hormones that I start off bareback and have to interrupt my partner to get a condom.

  • Mike Riggs

    Omg, please introduce me to the guy(s) who "stigmatize[s] condom use as a surrender to femininity." (I always thought guys preferred raw-dogging because it feels better.)

    Way to imagine hook-up culture as more complicated than it is. If these men--the ones with or spreading the HIV and the HPV and the Herp--thought that deeply about rubbers, I'm sure they could think their way past the morning after and into their next doctor's appointment, which they'll schedule out of fear that their dicks are going to fall off.

    Three cheers for clean dicks!

  • Mike Riggs

    @Camile: Caught up in the hormones? So we have our animal instincts to blame for a global epidemic?

    That actually sounds kind of plausible.

  • Amanda Hess

    At first, I read "caught up in the hormones" as being so messed up by the birth control pills that you couldn't think to wear a condom.

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