all things condoms

“Think, communicate, use protection, go slow, and use lube”

Posted by Condomologist on February 27, 2009

This advice from the sexual health counselors at Swarthmore College (in my neck of the woods) to a young woman who writes in asking for counsel regarding her first foray into vaginal intercourse. I find it fascinating to read college newspaper sexual health advice columns, especially because so much wonderful dialogue takes place at universities, where there’s a general recognition at most schools that college kids are doing it. I think this column is generally very good, but I’m gonna keep fighting to make the educators of the world more sex-positive. This woman’s question seems to be about the fear of sex hurting the first time, and so the above advice is generally excellent — think, communicate, go slow, use lube — but the protection part assumes that she hasn’t thought about that; they’d be better off saying “If you decide to use a condom, there are many brands, sizes, materials, etc. and you can put lube on the inside and outside to make it feel better.” Instead, they feel it their duty to strike fear in her and throughout the piece, remind her of the things that could go wrong.


Why the need to start off advising the young woman to think about “boundaries” and what to do “if [her] partner crosses [them]?” Why can’t we promote communication between two partners without immediately putting into question whether it will be successful? Why the assumption that she needs to protect against STDs, especially when her boyfriend is a fellow virgin? Yes, it’s very possible that she’s at risk — of herpes, HPV, or even a fluid-based infection he has from sex he hasn’t told her about — but it’s also quite possible he has no STDs and a couples date to the student health center to get tested might alleviate the stress of this possibility. And worst of all, how depressing to be told “your first time probably won’t be magical, phenomenal, or particularly memorable (except for the anxious build-up)?” All of this was true for me — other than the memorable part; who forgets their first time? — but at least I went in thinking it would be magical and phenomenal. Hell, a lot of sex isn’t magical, phenomenal or memorable — even the thousandth time. Anyway, like I said, it’s generally good advice, especially the lube part, since I’m the world’s biggest fan of lube.


Lastly, just to keep the people honest, I’ll point folks back to the double-bagging (two condoms at once) myth that continues to be perpetuated by public health experts everywhere. There’s no sound evidence for not using two condoms, so while Swarthmore’s sexual health experts and 99% of their peers will tell you not to do it, I’m keeping the question alive: Why exactly not?


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