How To Have The Condom Conversation

Consider these statistics:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, persons aged 50 years and older accounted for 19 percent of all AIDS diagnoses and 29 percent of persons living with AIDS in 2005.

  • Between 2005 to 2009, reported cases of syphilis and chlamydia among people age 55 and older increased 43 percent, according to an Orlando Sentinel analysis of data provided by the CDC and Prevention, as reported by AARP.
  • Only one in five sexually active single adults over 45 uses condoms regularly, according to "Sex, Romance, and Relationships: AARP Survey of Midlife and Older Adults," a 2009 study of 1,670 adults 45 and older. Of those who are single, dating and having sex, 50 percent of males and 29 percent of females reported rarely or never using condoms.
  • We need to change that!

    We are the ones responsible for our own health. If you're single and sexually active, or in a non-exclusive relationship, please insist on your partner using condoms. Sure, it's hard to have the "condom conversation." But if you can't talk about safer sex with someone, do you really want to invite that person inside your body?

    Don't wait until the heat of passion to bring up the subject. Instead, when the sparks and kisses signal that sex is likely in your future, have the discussion. Agree to be prepared when you're ready for the next stage, whether that means next weekend, weeks from now, or in an hour.

    Try one of these approaches:
    • "I always use condoms with a new partner to protect us both."
    • "I'll buy the condoms -- do you prefer a special kind?"
    • "Do you have condoms, or should we make a run to the store?"
    • "Your condoms or mine?"
    • "How many of these do you think we'll need tonight?" (Thanks, with fond memories, to the man who uttered this to me, pointing out his stash of several dozen condoms.)

    If your date refuses, saying something like, "Sex with condoms just isn't enjoyable," your reply might be, "Is no sex more enjoyable?" (And according to new research from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, sex with a condom is just as enjoyable as sex without a condom -- so why not be safe?)

    If a partner is offended that you won't have unprotected sex, please get your clothes back on. Being willing to go to bed with you without protection indicates that he/she did that with other partners, and they did it with their other partners, and so on. Do you really want to sleep with all the people this person has slept with, and all of those people's casual partners?

    "Getting tested" is not your solution. If you and your partner are not sexually exclusive, test results from last month or even this morning won't provide much helpful information.

    Yes, many men of our age have enough difficulty getting and maintaining erections without having to put another barrier -- literally -- between an unreliable penis and a welcoming partner. Frankly, even young men frequently lose erections when they stop to put on a condom. The solution isn't to toss the condoms in the trash, but to find ways to eroticize condom use.

    Make sure all the discussions about safer sex have already taken place, so it's understood that one of you will reach for the condom when the time comes. If he enjoys it, use a vibrator to give his penis a boost before or after dressing him with a condom. Keep the foreplay going -- keep kissing and stroking while the condom is going on and afterward.

    Female condoms are an excellent solution for unreliable erections. The woman inserts it on her own, so it doesn't affect or require the man's erection. Men have said that the sensation is better than with a male condom. More spontaneity is possible because it can be inserted in advance and it doesn't have to be removed immediately after ejaculation. Read more about them here.


    Ageless sexuality advocate Joan Price is the author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty. Naked at Our Age won Outstanding Self-Help Book 2012 from the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Best Book 2012 from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Visit her zesty, award-winning blog about sex and aging at, where Joan continues to talk out loud about Boomer/ senior sex, partnered or solo.

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