A lot of people who own a penis or have sex with penis-owners find it difficult to request condom use (when safer-sex is relevant). And I’ve written about some of the reasons why here.
Alternatively, they might find it hard to follow through on their preference for condom use in the face of resistance from a play-mate, or in the face of lust (ie. sexual disinhibition once aroused).
And this was the topic of a discussion between myself & Victoria Cullen recently. I’ve written about Victoria before here – she is a Sex Educator and Researcher, and has a great sexuality blog called The Lubrarian.
One of the workshops Victoria has been running is for women-who-have-sex-with-men in order to help them be more confident and assertive with condom use. This is of course relevant to anybody wanting to engage in safer sex, not just cis straight women. And while there are many ways to request condom use as the moment of need arises, Victoria and I also chatted about the idea of “Condom Priming” a lover.
Priming, in psychological terms, is an “implicit memory effect” where a person strategically exposes someone to an idea with the intention of impacting their future reactions. If anyone has ever watched a Derren Brown show then you’ll have some idea of priming.
And we actually use this skill all the time in day-to-day life without necessarily realising it.
For example, starting a difficult conversation with “Now honey, I love you very much, but…” in the hope that the mention of loving feelings will prime a smoother reaction to “…I really don’t like it when you wear the same underpants two days in a row.”
In the case of condom use, Condom Priming means strategically exposing a date/lover/partner to your condom use preferences before you are naked or holding eachother’s genitals. This is with the intention of influencing how things go down (pun intended) when the moment of condom need arises.
Here are a few examples of Condom Priming in action:
- You meet a sexy person online and arrange a meetup – it’s fairly obvious from the chats that sex is on the menu. Before the meet-up you write a casual message – “Hey, just so we can get this out of the way, I only have safe sex. This isn’t going to be a problem is it?”
- Two people are on their 2nd date and it’s going really well. Eventually one of them invites the other home. As they smooch their way out of the restaurant, one says to the other “So, do you have any condoms at home or should we stop on the way there?”
- Two people meet at a bar & they hit it off. There is lots of lovely sexual tension. As the conversations gets more personal in nature, one says to the other “You know what really annoys me at these places? When people just assume you’ll have sex without protection. I find that really unattractive. Does that happen to you?”
Now these are all just examples & anecdotes that I have gathered – and they may seem a bit more direct than some people could cope with. But, if the general idea of condom priming appeals to you, you may find different wording that suits your personal style. If these examples seem overly assertive for you, you may want to think of more subtle ways to communicate your preferences.
Or, you could just give the direct approach a go – at the end of the day, talking about condom use just is awkward for a lot of people, and it might be helpful to get this out of the way earlier & perhaps avoid greater discomfort navigating safer sex communication later on.
And lastly, this priming technique may also be helpful for people who have good intentions about condom use, but get carried away in the moment. A bit of self-priming just might help in the face of sexual disinhibition once aroused.
Dr. Alice Hucker