Condom stigma: The 'difficult conversation' you need to have before sex

Condoms are the most commonly used contraceptive among Australian women aged between 18 to 45 years of age. They remain a popular choice for many as the one form of contraception that can prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

However, despite their popularity, new research has found that stigma around their use is very much alive and is actually on the rise.

condom use
Research finds nearly a third of Aussie women have experienced fear or received judgement for providing a condom. Photo: Getty

Nearly a third of Aussie women experienced condom stigma

According to research by YouGov (commissioned by Moments Condoms), 29 percent of Australian women experienced fear or received judgement for providing a condom over the past 12 months.

This was an increase from only 23 percent reporting an experience of condom stigma in 2017.


Why is condom stigma an issue?

More than half of those who had experienced condom stigma said that the stigma had affected their attitude towards buying condoms, and for some it even affected their decision to practice safe sex.

Managing director at Moments Condoms, Nikhil Daftary, says it is concerning to see how much stigma is attached to condom usage and safe sex.

“The research sadly suggests that for many women, the fear or judgement associated with the condom is greater than their ability to advocate for safe sex," Nikhil says.

"Three quarters (72 percent) of women who have admitted to fearing or receiving judgement for providing a condom have later admitted to having sex without a contraceptive.

"This statistic is simply too high, especially when you consider the risks of engaging in unprotected sex such as unwanted pregnancies and STIs.”

moment condoms in pocket
New research finds condom stigma is affecting women's attitude towards buying condoms, and the decision to practice safe sex. Photo: Supplied/Moments Condoms

How to deal with condom stigma

Conversations about sex can be uncomfortable, and it’s clear that many people are feeling this discomfort when it comes to talking about condom use.

So Yahoo Lifestyle asked Couples Therapist and Sexologist, Isiah McKimmie, to share simple ways to start a conversation about condom use.

Isiah suggests the following tips as great ways to start a healthy conversation about condom use.

1. Be confident

"It’s hard when we face stigma or judgment, but carrying and using condoms is the smart thing to do. Be confident knowing you’re doing the right thing for yourself," Isiah tells us.

"It’s 2021. Women have sex. Women enjoy sex. It’s definitely okay for us to be prepared for having sex.”

Couples Therapist, Sexologist and Coach, Isiah McKimmie
Couples Therapist, Sexologist and Coach, Isiah McKimmie suggests simple ways to start a conversation about condom use. Photo: Supplied

2. Name your discomfort

Isiah explains that whilst this can seem counterintuitive, “when we’re uncomfortable or nervous about something, being upfront and sharing that can actually help us feel calmer and break the tension of the situation."

She also suggests that naming your discomfort helps you to appear more confident, for example:

"This is totally awkward to talk about, but…"

"I’m worried about being judged for this but…”

3. Share your why

"Sharing your intention behind something is a powerful way to start a difficult conversation."

Some lines that you could use as you bring this up are:

"I believe in protecting myself and you."

"I want us both to have fun. I have to feel safe to do that.”

Women carry condoms, concept of sex education.
Make it clear you need him to wear a condom. Photo: Getty

4. Be clear about your needs

“Be absolutely clear on what you want, so the other person isn’t second guessing."

For example:

"I need you to wear a condom.”

5. Be prepared to stand your ground

"Unfortunately there are still people who will try to push your boundaries and ask you not to wear a condom," Isiah says. "Be prepared to stand your ground and have some responses to their objections prepared."

Responses to use if someone refuses to use a condom:

  • "It’s not a matter of trust. It’s a matter of respect and safety."

  • "It’s not you giving me something that I’m worried about."

  • "A condom can hold 4L of water—your penis can fit."

  • "You’re worried you’ll go soft? Practice makes perfect. You‘ll get used to it."

  • "I don’t have sex with men who don’t wear condoms."

  • "I’m clean too, I showered this morning. But anyone can have an STI without knowing. Here - use this."

  • "I only share my body with people who respect me. A condom is a matter of respect."

  • "That’s fine. I’ll see you later."

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