When you ask a lot of young girls about their contraception (as I often do, as the mum of the group), they talk to you about trust. I imagine this is largely the same with boys, who have sex with girls whom they trust to be on something. Equally, where pregnancy is not an issue – with men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women – people continually harp on about trust. I trust that I am their only sexual partner. I trust that they’d tell me if they had something I could catch.
But when it comes to your body, I personally don’t think you should blindly trust anyone. I’m not talking about long-term relationships here, I’m talking about casual, ‘seeing each other’ sexual relations. And it isn’t always about pregnancy.
What it all boils down to is power; power and fear. Power to say yes or no, power to ignore the no, power to enable or disable pregnancy, power to lie. Fear that the no will be ignored, fear that they won’t fancy you anymore if you demand protection, fear that the lack of trust will be blown out of proportion, fear of being embarrassed by your needto use protection, for whatever reason.
This makes me wonder why there are such huge levels of discomfort, among younger people, about the use of condoms. It’s become a kind of uncool to admit to using them (with doubled chlamydia rates, and condom usage at its lowest, according to The Economist), as though condoms aren’t an incredibly valid method of contraception. They are particularly useful if you don’t like the pill, or have multiple sexual partners, or don’t want a baby and can’t afford to 100% rely on someone else remembering to take their pill.
I also think that condoms can add a layer of consent. In this way, the conscious act of stopping to use a condom helps to add that extra second to confirm that this is wanted by both people involved. However, frequently people consent willingly to sex with a condom, but it is then taken off without their knowledge. This is assault. Removing the protection that was essential in that other person’s consent is an abuse of power, and a demonstration of complete disrespect. Perhaps it was uncomfortable, the wrong size, not on properly? Perhaps he didn’t mean to? No. The second you start making excuses for someone taking sexual actions that you did not consent to, you are perpetuating their behaviour.
Safe sex is about so much more than trust, and love, and all the rest of it. It’s about ensuring intimacy is beneficial to you, and pans out the way you want it to. If he says you’re his only sexual partner but you aren’t sure, even though you may want to believe him, why risk it? If she says she’s on the pill but you know 100% that you don’t want a pregnancy, why risk it? The responsibility is as much yours as it is theirs. If someone is upset with you for ‘not trusting’ them, then maybe they aren’t as invested in your complete comfort in the sexual situation, as they should be. It takes two seconds to put on a condom; even a lifetime can’t rid you of the possible consequences of blind trust.