How to talk about condoms and STIs

You may be ready to have sex, but are you ready to talk to your partner about condoms and contraception? And how do you ask about STIs without scaring them off?

girl and boy sat on a bench in the countryside

Nice bench, nice view, awkward topic of conversation.

How do you insist on condoms on a one-night stand?

You’ve pulled and you’re ripping each other’s clothes off so damn fast that all you can think about is SEX. Stop. Hang on a minute. Don’t mean to put out the fire, but did anyone mention condoms? Because if you’re about to have sex with someone you don’t know they should DEFINITELY be part of the deal.

“Using condoms doesn’t have to ruin your fun, it’s 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 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 he refuses, don’t do it at all. After all, it’s about protecting both of you.”

I lose my erection with condoms, how do I tell them?

OK, so it’s not the sauciest thing you can whisper into someone’s ear. But before you insist on riding bare back because your penis and rubber just don’t get on it’s worth looking into why this is happening. “Don’t let a bad experience put you off. This is very common, but it’s often a question of mind over matter,” says Lynn. “It’s about confidence, finding a brand that suits you and getting used to the sensation of wearing one.”

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, it’s like having a bath with your socks on etc – but don’t buy them. Even if he rivals a prize-winning marrow there’ll be a condom to fit. And there are alternatives for those allergic to Latex too.

The only reason to not use one is if you’ve both got yourself checked out at the clinic and are using other contraception. Preachy of us, sorry, but it’s true.

How do I ask a girl if she’s on the pill? Or willing to go on the pill?

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

If you’ve reached a point where you’ve talked openly about each other’s past 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 should always use condoms until you’ve both been tested.

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 isn’t easy.

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

“If someone has a sexual past the best way to ask about STIs is by talking about their history,” says Lynn. This doesn’t have to become a game of count (or discount) the exes, just 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, but there’s only one way to find out if they have a spotless bill of sexual health and that’s to take a test.

“You could put it in a way that’s not pointing the finger and say something like, ‘We’ve both been in a relationship before, so we should both get tested,‘” says Lynn.

Oops, I slipped up and didn’t take any precautions.

Firstly, stop beating yourself up. We all get carried away. Secondly, as long as you haven’t taken the ‘it only happened once, so I’ll be OK’ approach you can do something about it. “Safe sex is something we’re all aware of, but putting it into action isn’t always easy. As long as you know where to go for emergency contraception and advice it’s not the end of the world,” says Lynn.

Next Steps


condoms| STIs


Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of couple on a bench by volunteer photographer Laura.