Dear Em & Lo: Oops! I Forgot to Use Condoms

photo by trec_lit

Dear Em & Lo,

I’ve been sleeping with this guy for about three weeks, and our semi-non-relationship began the night after he broke up with his girlfriend of 8 months. We used a condom the first couple times, but then we stopped. I’m on the Pill and while I’m not worried about getting pregnant, I do have some other concerns…like is he going to pass off possible STDs from his ex-girlfriend to me at this point? And how do I go about asking him/making sure that he’s not? Help!

–Confused in College

Dear CiC,

First, we just want to thank you for writing to us with your concerns. We’re sure you’re worried, and we appreciate you trusting us enough with this very sensitive issue.

Next: WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING NOT USING CONDOMS?!?!?!? We can’t tell you how wrong this is on so many levels. Actually, yes we can!…

The fact that you refer to this as a semi-non-relationship should be your first sign to use condoms. If it has not been established beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a committed, monogamous relationship, then you must assume that he is having semi-non-relationships with other people. And if he’s not using condoms with you, chances are he’s not using condoms with them either. Red flag!!!

Even if this were a committed, monogamous relationship, simply deciding to be in a committed, monogamous relationship doesn’t suddenly make him STD-free. Nor does it mean he’s the kind of person who wouldn’t have any STDs to begin with. His previous girlfriend could have been his one and only sexual partner before you, and she could have only ever slept with one other guy before him, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have passed on HPV (or almost any other STD for that matter) to you “at this point.”

Speaking of your choice of phrasing there, time doesn’t heal all STDs. Some have long incubation periods and many never show symptoms (especially in guys). Never mind his last girlfriend, he could be carrying some sort of infection from his partner before that, or the partner before that. You just never know. And he may not even know.

Which is why YOU SHOULD ALWAYS — USE CONDOMS. Especially in college, where STDs get spread faster than a common cold at a nursery school. So you say to him, “You know, I’m not comfortable forgoing the condoms anymore. I think that was a mistake and I’d like to be as safe as possible from now on, so let’s go condom shopping online together, shall we?” If he says you shan’t, then good riddance.

You should also say to him, “So, what’s your sexual health history like? How many partners have you had, how many do you have? You or any past girlfriends ever have any STDs? Ever been tested for STDs?” Just come right out and say it. Don’t make a big deal about it. If you’re comfortable enough to have him stick his dick in you, you should be comfortable enough to have this straightforward conversation. It’s your health too now, you have a right to know!

But even if he says “I’m fine” or “I’m clean” (ugh), we still think it’s an excellent idea to go to the health clinic together and get yourselves tested for STDs, including HIV — because like we said before, he may not know for sure. (You have to ask for ALL the exams they can possibly do, because often times they won’t or can’t cover them all — some tests are too expensive, and some tests don’t even exist, like a test for HPV in guys.) You say to him, “Since we did forgo the condoms, I think it’d be really great for both of us to go get tested together. I’m sure we’re both fine, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Whaddaya say?” If he says “I say no,” then good riddance and get yourself to the clinic anyway. The results may not be exhaustive, but at least they’ll give you (and hopefully him) a lot more helpful information to work with than you’ve got right now. And no, negative results are not a free pass to continue having sex without condoms, it’s just a way to keep yourselves informed of your at-the-moment sexual health. And if either of you continues to have new future partners, getting tested REGULARLY is a good idea.

Also, just because you’ve already done the deed bareback does not mean you shouldn’t use condoms with him from here on out. And just because condoms can’t protect you from 100 percent of STDs 100 percent of the time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use condoms with him ever. It’s all about REDUCING YOUR RISK. That’s what condoms do, and they do it well (if you use them well, i.e. correctly). It’s never too late to start. So start RIGHT NOW.

Did we mention you should be USING A CONDOM CORRECTLY EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU HAVE SEX? Just making sure.

Safety first!
Em & Lo


  1. Translation:

    “Do as I say, not as I do/did.”

    I suppose I’m just disappointed. Part of why I became a fan of you two was because of the honesty and empathy inherent in your work, both of which are sorely lacking from this article.

    One can emphasize the importance of protecting your health without turning into tut-tuting schoolmarms. In fact, I remember when you two were a pair of sex educators who would go out of your way to do just that. Now? Not so much.

  2. I don’t think it’s so much a ‘high horse’ as a tough love reprimand. The person who wrote in clearly needs a wake-up call in the most serious way, not a bunch of ‘Aw, poor baby’ platitudes and suggestions. I reckon Em and/or Lo’s capitalisations and slightly-more-indignant-than-usual style are just a case of conveying how important this whole thing is.

  3. I know you’re saying the right thing here, you’re saying what you have to say …

    … but call me crazy, don’t I remember one of you, back in the Nerve.com days, posting an article about how you knew you were supposed to use condoms and yet somehow often didn’t?

    So maybe you ought to write articles like this with a little more sympathy and a little less all caps and “HOW THE HELL” judgement?

    Hypocrisy is ugly. Sure, yeah, you were young and stupid then, and now you’re old and wise. Or maybe you’re just in a committed relationship so you can scold people who are exactly where you were a decade ago. But get off the high horse, just a little.

  4. You go girls!

    “If you’re comfortable enough to have him stick his dick in you, you should be comfortable enough to have this straightforward conversation.”

    Hope you get through to her.

  5. How many partners have you had? Really? I never disclose this, and I don’t ask. How many people I have slept with in my life is no one’s business. I will, however, freely discuss my sexual health, testing history, and whether or not I have recently had sex with anyone else, or am currently having sex with any other partners. That’s all definitely need to know. My number? Not so much.

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