Sex is a very sensitive topic for many people in Nigeria. Even when you are in love, or have been with a partner for a long time, there are certain things you find difficult to say. One of such awkward topics is the issue of having ‘safe’ sex.
It is rather difficult to look a lover in the eye and demand a test result or ask them for their STIs history before doing anything physical with them. Aside from the fact that you may offend them in doing so, there is the fact that it may kill the mood and suck out all the fun.
While sex (oral, vaginal, and anal) can be a fun and connecting experience for partners, however, it does come with certain risks: contracting possible STIs or unwanted pregnancy. Discussing preventive measures with partners, prior to engaging in sexual activity is a good start to lowering these risks. While the discussion may come with stigma or awkwardness, most partners find that they have similar worries and are relieved that the subject was brought up – before getting intimate.
Women tend to have the most difficulty when it comes to negotiating safer sex. A lot of them, due to society’s social and gender norms lack the power to refuse the sexual advances of “un-condomed partners” or are too subdued to challenge the man. They face such unique challenges like the partner threatening to leave them if they insist on certain safety measures, arguing that sex would not be pleasurable otherwise, blackmailing them with the “If you love me, you will” line, e.t.c.
The sad part is that the aftermath of having unprotected or unsafe sex is usually much more detrimental to the woman. For instance, STIs are more easily passed from man to woman than from woman to man. Also, women are twice as likely as men to contract HIV, hepatitis B, and gonorrhoea. And even worse, because STIs are less likely to produce symptoms in women than in men, they are harder to diagnose until serious problems develop.
Luckily a number of women have had success negotiating safer sex with their partners and have tips on how to women can actually negotiate safer sex with their partners. 7 of these women shared their experience and opinions with us and we were able to come up with a few tips based on their experiences:
Always negotiate safer sex at the right time and with your clothes on
“Guys are funny. They can be emotional about this safe sex thing. Especially if they think you are a good girl and there is no risk of them catching anything. The best thing is to start chipping it in when you guys are still talking, so that they will know that you are not about that sex-without-condom life. You cannot trust anybody. Tell them when they are still toasting you and the love is still shacking, so that when it is time for business later, they already know hour standards. – Ogechi
“ …I noticed that the times I have had unsafe sex with people were the times I brought up the topics while we had already started smooching and doing stuff. Because we are in the heat of the moment, it is hard for me to even say “babe, wear condom oh”. In fact, I am not even thinking straight, so I just eventually go with the flow and regret later. Now I make sure we discuss it properly when I have my clothes on. Life is too short to be taking such risks over what might turn out to even be the worst 2 minutes of your life.” – Ladun
Clearly communicate your message to make sure there are no misunderstandings and stick to your resolve
“ I use flattery. It works all the time. When we are making out and I know we are going to be doing it, I touch him and say something like “Wow, We are going to need an extra-large condom”, You know…something that gets his heads swelling, puts him in the mood but also lets him know we are going to be protected. As for oral sex, I don’t do it. When I get married, I will be proud to do because by God’s grace we will be exclusive. I mean it doesn’t make sense to do it with him wearing a condom so, I will pass. You don’t know where the D has been…you cant just risk getting gonorrhoea of the mouth or oral herpes”. -Tolu
“As we are talking and giving each other the gist that will eventually take us to the bedroom, I make sure I show him a meme or video clip about maybe a girl getting pregnant because condom burst or something that points to safe sex. It’s a good way to let him know without being too obvious. He will laugh at it but it will register in his mind. And he will now even believe it is his own idea. There was this one time, The guy was proving difficult, so I just told him I haven’t checked myself in a while and he should better use condom. It scared him straight into using protection sharply. There is always a way around it.” -Patricia
“The thing with guys is, if you allow them, they will force you to do things you never even imagined you could do. You will tell them what you want, but they will assume you are not being serious. You have to send them a clear message. Call a spade a spade and let them know what your rules are. And once you have decided “No condom, No sex”, you must stick to it despite of your own sexual feelings or pressure from your partner. If I’m really into the guy and I feel too shy to say it, or it’s a one-night stand and there is not time, I just place a condom on the mattress or the pillow where he cannot miss it. I don’t even care how he is looking at me or judging me for having a condom. He has to use it or no show” -Orode
If your partner resists or pressurizes you, repeat the message and use more “I” statements
A number of times, the guy will not want to take ‘No’ for an answer. Just recently, I guy I met on Tinder, we agreed to meet up somewhere close to his house. It was basically a meet-and-fuck thing and we knew it. We got to his house and he started to pressure me. Dude said he likes skin and he is clean, I only need to take a pill after. Each time he came up with a different reason to convince me, I said to him clearly “I want to have sex with you, but I won’t unless we use protection.” I think he got bored of it ‘cos he now was like “You are selfish, count the number of ‘I’s in you sentences. You are thinking about yourself only.” By that time, the mood was gone already. I left. But the next time we met up, he had enough packs of condom to last him a year” -Itohan
Put yourself in the equation, get tested too
“Before my boyfriend and I became intimate, I went with him to get tested. I have a latex allergy and so I knew condoms will not be an option. And although I would be on the pill, the pill will not protect me from possibly STIs. It was a way for us to even bond and build trust. I remember the day, we were heading back from a wedding party and I suggested to him that we stop at a small diagnostic center near my house so we can both get tested. He didn’t argue because he could see that I was involved. It was the two of us together. It made everything easier. – Jenny
Discussing and negotiating safer sex is crucial to protecting yourself from the risks that may result from having unsafe sex. And while sometimes, negotiating safer sex may be more difficult due to gender inequality, imbalance of power related to age, financial situation, the threat of violence, etc, It is important that women, to take charge and overcome those obstacles. Communicate your thoughts about safe sex and reach a clear agreement with your partner(s) about which safe sex practices you will use, no matter what. And if your partner remains unwilling to practice safer sex, ask yourself if he truly is the type of person you want to have sex with, because If he does not want to use protection with you, he probably did not use protection with previous partners. Are you willing to take the risk?