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Safe sex means using a 'barrier method' of contraception when you have sex - a condom, or a dental dam. This protects you and your partner from sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies by preventing any transfer of bodily fluids.
Condoms are called by various slang names in Australia, including 'protection', rubbers, gloves and hats. They're available from supermarkets and pharmacies. Using a condom, or a dental dam for some forms of oral sex, is the only reliable way to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms also help to protect against unwanted pregnancies. To provide the best possible protection for both partners, a man should always put a condom on before his penis comes into contact with his partner's body.
Sometimes, men will make excuses for why they shouldn't have to use a condom during sex. These might include
- Don't you trust me?
- I don't enjoy sex as much with a condom.
- I don't have one with me.
- We'll be fine, do you know how slim the chances are of getting pregnant?
- We don't need one because you're on the pill.
- Come on, just this once.
None of these excuses are valid - and your health (and your partner's) is more important than their sexual satisfaction or hurt feelings. So while it's not always possible, you should try to talk to your partner before the two of you start having sex and agree that you'll always use a condom. Agreeing about this beforehand is much easier than trying to have the conversation in the heat of the moment with your clothes half off!
If your partner refuses to wear a condom even after you've discussed the possible negative outcomes with them, then you should think hard about what their true feelings for you might be, and why they might want to be with you. This website lists some responses to many of the common excuses for not wearing a condom, and practising these can help you to feel more confident about insisting that your partner wear one.
The only real exceptions to this rule are if you are in a long term monogamous relationship and/or you and your partner have both had a recent STI checkup, and are using some other form of contraception to avoid pregnancy - or if you're actively trying to get pregnant. Under these circumstances, it's okay not to use a condom.
Condoms are generally quite reliable, but they can break, and this means that there's a risk of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection. If this happens to you, you can follow the advice given in our Contraception FAQ to protect yourself and your partner.
Research suggests that condoms mostly split or break during sex because they've been put on wrongly or used incorrectly. Condoms may also break due to lack of lubrication. It's recommended that you use a water-based lubricant when using a condom, particularly for anal sex. Lubrication reduces friction, which reduces discomfort. All you need to do is apply a generous amount of lubricant over the condom once you or your partner is wearing it.