How to talk about condoms and STIs

Having sex is one thing. And being able to talk to your partner about sexual health is another. Thing is, you shouldn’t really do one without the other. Read on to learn about the best way to have sex whilst protecting you and your partner’s health.

A young woman is sitting at a desk. She is thinking about safe sex.

One night stand condom use is essential

You’ve managed to score and now you’re ripping each other’s clothes off so damn fast. All you can think about is SEX. We’re gonna need you to stop. Don’t mean to put out the fire, but have you thought about condoms? Because if you’re having a one night stand, a condom is part of the package deal. Non-negotiable.

Condoms are the best way to have sex safely. You see, they create a barrier to protect against both unwanted pregnancy and STI transmission. “Using condoms totally doesn’t have to ruin your fun. It’s just about respecting yours and your partner’s health,” says Lynn Hearton at FPA. “Try saying something like, ‘I’m not doing this without a condom,’” says Lynn, “or, if you wanna be a bit more subtle, simply ask, ‘Have you got a condom?’

And if your partner point blank refuses to wear one… “It shouldn’t be something you have to negotiate,” says Lynn. “If they refuse, they’re not getting any. Plain and simple. No matter what sexual activity – be it sex positions and/or sex toys – they think are safe to use. After all, it’s about protecting both of you.”

If you lose your erection with condoms

OK, so it’s not the sauciest thing you can whisper into someone’s ear when you’re doing the deed. You might even think its irreversibly harming your sex life. But before you insist on unprotected sex because your penis and rubber just don’t get on, take a minute. It’s worth looking into why this is happening. Maybe even try consulting some sex therapists.

“Don’t let a bad experience put you off. This is actually very common. And it’s often a question of mind over matter,” says Lynn. “Spend some time finding a brand that suits you and getting used to the sensation of wearing one. I promise, there’s something out there for you.” Learn more about how to maintain an erection whilst using condoms here.

Are there any other reasons for not using a condom?

Nope. You may hear a whole load of excuses for not using one – they’re too tight, they smell weird, they decrease sexual pleasure etc. – but don’t let them fool you. No matter what size their penis is, there’ll definitely be a condom to fit. Plus, there are alternatives for those allergic to Latex too. So there’s no risk of painful sex. We can’t stress this enough – condoms really are the best way to have sex safely.

The only reason to not use one is if you’ve both got yourself checked out at the clinic and are using other methods of birth control. We know it might sound like a hassle but you’ll be thanking us in the long run.

How do I ask my partner if they are on the pill? Or willing to go on the pill?

How you ask depends on the nature of your relationship. If you’ve just met then you should use condoms, regardless of whether they’re on the pill.

If you’ve reached a point where you’ve talked openly about your past and are comfortable with each other, it becomes a little easier. “You could say something like, ‘Have you used the pill before?‘ followed by ‘Are you still on the pill’?” says Lynn.

But remember, while it might protect you against pregnancy it doesn’t protect against STIs. So you better be ready to rubber up or get tested – your choice.

How do I ask my partner if they’ve had an STI?

Whether you subtly slip it into a conversation over drinks or spontaneously blurt it out, asking someone if they’ve had/have an STI is never an easy topic to tackle.

Awkward as this may be, is it really worth playing Russian roulette with your sexual health – especially when certain sexually transmitted infections (Chlamydia, HIV and HPV) are symptomless?

“If someone has a sexual past the best way to ask about STIs is just by talking about their history,” says Lynn. Mind you, this doesn’t have to become a game of count (or discount) the exes. All you have to do is have an open and honest chat.

How do I ask them to go for an STI test?

You’ve done the hard bit by raising the topic in the first place. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to find out if you’re practicing safe sex. And that’s to take a test.

Try not to put them on the spot and/or single them out. Say something like, ‘We’ve both been in a relationship before, so we should both get tested,‘” says Lynn. 

What to do if you didn’t use a condom

Firstly, stop beating yourself up. We all get carried away. It happens. Secondly, as long as you don’t have the ‘it only happened once, so I’ll be OK’ mindset, you can do something about it. “Safe sex is something we’re all aware of. Problem is, putting it into action isn’t always easy. Luckily, as long as you know where to go for emergency contraception, like the morning after pill, and advice, nothing is the end of the world,” says Lynn.

If you’re worried, there’s never a bad time to get tested. So take the time to search for a sexual health clinic near you. You can also check out the rest of our safe sex resources here to learn more about sexual health.

Next Steps


condoms| STIs

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 02-Jul-2022