My boyfriend and I have been talking about having sex. He said he’s always found condoms uncomfortable and doesn’t want to use them. I feel like we should. How do I convince him to use one?

It’s great that you’re planning ahead for safer sex! You should be proud of yourself for taking control of your sexual health and communicating with your partner about sex. We know that can be really hard!

Why are condoms important?

You’re right that you and your boyfriend should use condoms. Condoms are the ONLY birth control method that also helps prevent getting or passing on sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If left untreated, some STIs can do major damage to your health.

For a lot of people, using condoms also makes sex more enjoyable! After all, it’s hard to relax and be in the moment when you’re worried about your health.

If you haven’t already, talk to your boyfriend about why using condoms is important to you.

Once he understands, he may be more likely to agree to use them. Hopefully, he also wants you to enjoy sex! As we mentioned above, that can be hard when you’re worried about STIs and/or pregnancy. Sex should always be about what both partners want, not just one person’s desires or pleasure.

Ask your boyfriend why he finds condoms uncomfortable. Do they have a tendency to slip off? Are they too tight? Do they make sex feel less pleasurable? Condoms come in all sorts of sizes, textures and thicknesses, so he can definitely find one that works with his body! There are ultra-thin condoms, condoms made to help with heat transfer, and more. Suggest experimenting with some. If condoms are actually uncomfortable for him—and he’s not just using that as an excuse—he should be open to some solutions.

In addition, here are some excuses we’ve heard before about not using condoms and how you can respond.

Ultimately, however, your boyfriend needs to respect your decision.

It sounds like you’ve made it clear that using condoms is really important to you, and your boyfriend has been ignoring that. That’s not ok. Healthy relationships are built on trust and respect. If your boyfriend pressures you to have sex without a condom, makes you feel bad about your decision or puts you down for it, think hard about your relationship. These are unhealthy relationship behaviors. Pressuring you to have sex the way you want also shows that he doesn’t fully understand or respect consent or boundaries. Do you really want to have sex with someone who doesn’t respect you and make you feel safe? Keep in mind that when these behaviors are used to maintain power and control in a relationship, it’s considered abuse—even if there’s no physical violence.

Consider using an internal (or “female”) condom.

Internal condoms (sometimes called “female” condoms) work a lot like external (or “male”) condoms (what people usually just call “condoms”), except they go inside the vagina or anus instead of over the penis or sex toy. Internal condoms are great because they give you more control over your sexual health. You can get them online, at most drug stores, and for free at some family planning clinics—however, they can be a bit trickier to find than external condoms. Unlike external condoms, you can insert internal condoms before getting physical—so you don’t have to stop the action to put it in.

Other stuff

Some STIs, like herpes and HPV, can be passed on even if you’re using condoms. Some can be passed on from oral or anal sex, too. For this reason, it’s important for both you and your boyfriend to get tested for STIs (not just HIV!) before you have sex.

In addition, if you have a vagina, consider using an additional method of birth control (like the pill, intrauterine device, or implant) as a back-up. Condoms are effective at preventing pregnancy if they’re used correctly every single time you have sex, but it only takes one accident for you to become pregnant.

Remember that sexual health is about more than just physical health (even though that’s really important!). Make sure you both understand enthusiastic consent. Ask yourself these 5 questions to check in with yourself beforehand. Consider using lube.

If you’re 10-22 years old and live in NYC, make a free appointment at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for comprehensive, confidential health care. This includes free birth control and STI testing and treatment, as well as answers to any other questions you have about sex or healthy relationships.