Question: Every so often I meet a guy who tells me he just won’t use a condom because (take your pick): (1) He can’t stay hard; (2) He’s too big; (3) He’s allergic to latex; (4) He’s HIV-negative; or (5) It’s a mood killer. How do you suggest I handle these situations — especially when I’m really turned on? Answer: Let me start today by noting that it’s World AIDS Day, which is observed December 1 each year and — as the official site in the U.K. proclaims — “is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.” That being said, there’s no better way to observe this day than to pledge to protect yourself and your prospective partners from HIV. And if there’s any tool we have to prevent the continued spread of the virus, it’s the much-maligned, low-tech (but lifesaving) condom. I know you’ve heard this before (I certainly hope that you have) but latex and plastic rubbers, when used properly (and yes, that’s key) with a water-based lubricant, provide a high degree of protection to each partner. But sometimes information alone doesn’t do the trick. If only. Instead of going to the experts (as Mr. Manners often does) I decided to ask a friend of mine who recently became infected why his knowledge of safer sex didn’t safeguard him: “You can be armed with all of the information in the world, but it's much harder to put it into practice when you combine casual sex, alcohol, and drugs — and put places like Fire Island into the mix,” he told me. “My suspicion is that somewhere along the line I wasn't sober enough to do what I needed to do to protect myself, and there were enough of those nights that the statistical odds became stacked against me.” So, how do I suggest you respond to these periodic ploys (and that’s what they are) to have unprotected sex? It would be facile for me to suggest that you just say no. Still, you can’t make sound judgments if you’re stoned, high, drunk, tweaked, or toasted — and there’s no question that drug and alcohol use are closely linked with new HIV infections. For now, though, let’s take each of the objections to using a condom and do a little role-playing: He says:“I can’t stay hard.” The truth: It’s true that in a fair number of instances guys may lose their erections after suiting up. But there are a number of things you can do, like try different brands of rubbers — especially those that might not be as tight or as thick. More often than not, though, what you’re hearing (and seeing) is a self-fulfilling prophecy based on a psychological response (“I don't like to wear a condom”). To counter that, try making the unveiling and capture playfully sexy and fun. If your buddy loses his erection as soon as the glove goes on, go back to first or second base for a while to help him get (re)stimulated. He says:“I’m too big.” The truth: Condoms come in all sizes, my friend. Unless your partner is superhuman, there’s a condom for him. He doesn’t go shoeless because he’s a big guy, does he? He shouldn’t go without a glove either. Among the jumbo-size options are Trojan Magnum XL Lubricated, Durex XXL, and Kimono MAXX. Keep shopping for options until you find one that satisfies. He says:“I’m allergic to latex.” The truth: Indeed, some men are, but there are condoms made out of plastic (polyurethane) that provide protection against HIV and other STDs. Be sure to use a water-based lubricant with either latex or plastic. And remember: Don’t use lambskin condoms since they don’t protect against HIV and other STDs.
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