Savage Love

Savage Love: Omissions and Emissions

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I'm a 21-year-old woman, and I have an IUD. I've had sex with quite a few men, and one thing seems to be almost constant among them: trying to fuck without condoms. This has always angered me. They generally assume or make sure I'm on birth control, which they immediately take to mean condom-free sex is welcome. I don't want to have sex without condoms without being in a committed relationship. I know people cheat and monogamy doesn't mean STIs won't happen, but it's a risk I'm comfortable with. I'm so annoyed by how often men try to get out of using condoms that I want to start lying and say I'm not on birth control. Is it all right for me to lie and say I'm not on any birth control and explain why I lied later on if things get serious?

— I'm Understandably Distressed

Let's get this out of the way first: You're right, IUD, sexually transmitted infections (STI) do happen to people in monogamous relationships. People cheat, people lie, people contract, people transmit. A 2015 study found that people in consensually nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships were no more likely to contract an STI than people in monogamous relationships. The reason? If a person in a monogamous relationship screws around and doesn't use a condom, they can't ask their partner to start using condoms again without drawing attention to their infidelity.

Babies do seem to be the only STI many men are worried about. Australian researchers conducted a large study about stealthing — the deeply shitty, rape-adjacent practice of surreptitiously removing the condom during intercourse — and they were shocked to discover how common this deeply shitty practice seems to be.

"The researchers estimated in advance that approximately 2% of the sample would report having been stealthed," sex researcher Justin Lehmiller wrote in a blog post looking at the results of the study. "In fact, 32% of the women and 19% of the men surveyed reported having experienced stealthing ... A majority of both groups reported discussing the event with their partner afterward, and most also reported feeling emotionally stressed about it. A majority also considered stealthing to be a form of sexual assault. These results suggest that stealthing is not a rare occurrence."

The researchers didn't ask heterosexual men about being stealthed and, as Lehmiller points out, there are some scattered reports out there about women poking holes in condoms before sex or retrieving them after sex. We don't need a study to tease out the motives of these women — they want to have a child and don't care whether their partners do (and that is not okay) — but we could use a study that asked heterosexual men about their motives for stealthing. One question we should put to these assholes: Are they more likely to "go stealth," i.e., to sexually assault a woman, if they know her to be on some other form of birth control?

Moving on to your actual question ...

Can you lie? Of course you can. Should you lie? In the case of a casual sex partner who might not have your best interests at heart, i.e., some total rando you want to fuck but aren't sure you can trust, I think you can lie and should lie. This lie doesn't do him any harm; it's not like you're telling him you're on birth control when you're not. And if telling this lie inspires some rando to be more careful about keeping the condom on (sometimes condoms fall off by accident), then it's a lie that made the sex safer for you and for him.

And if you get serious about someone you initially lied to about having an IUD — if some dude makes the transition from hot rando to hot boyfriend — and he reacts badly when you tell him the truth, just say (or text) this to him: "I could have waited to fuck you until I was sure you were a good guy. But then you would have missed out on all the awesome sex we've had. Would that have been better? I think you're a good guy who I can trust. I know that now, but I didn't always know it because I'm not psychic. Now, do you want to raw-dog me or do you want to complain?"

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