How to Uphold Boundaries & Talk About Safe Sex with a Man

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It’s difficult for us sensitive, empathetic women to stand up to men sometimes and uphold our boundaries. Difficult, but absolutely critical, for a number of reasons.

Upholding your boundaries firmly, with no exceptions (and the more advanced technique of re-shoring up a boundary you’ve let slip in the past!) is essential for two reasons:

1.) It empowers you, gives you a sense of your own strength and will work wonders on yourself respect and self esteem when you can stand up for yourself in the presence of a man (or anyone else) in spite of your naturally feminine feelings of empathy, peacemaking, compassion and even, dare I say it, submissiveness.

2.) Almost as important, upholding your boundaries firmly also causes your man to respect you, honor you, treat you as an equal and give more thought to your needs and preferences when taking an action.

I shouldn’t have to explain why the first reason is critical, whether you are in a relationship or not. To live life fully, be happy and successful, you must have healthy self esteem and self respect, knowing that you can protect yourself and not allow your “lines” to be “crossed”, no matter what is going on or who you’re dealing with. But the second reason is really interesting, especially for those who are in the process of becoming Sirens…

It’s fascinating to me that in the process of upholding our boundaries firmly, and seeming somewhat “selfish”, (something most women would cringe at), that men will actually have far more respect for us, and give a higher status to a woman who is able to say “no” to them on something that is important to her, and not back down. They might not like it… but it turns them on, and keeps them more loyal and happy to be with that woman (presuming everything else in the relationship is working) then being with a woman who will simply cave in and roll over to any of their demands or preferences.

As women we tend to go through life always trying to please others and find some sort of ‘compromise’ or ‘mutual understanding’ in any situation, instead of just flat out saying “No, that doesn’t work for me. It’s not happening!” But that leads to anxiety, stress and eventually emotional blow-ups and hysteria, and/or a feeling of helplessness, depression, mood swings and no peace of mind. When you continually try to please others, you end up feeling on a deep level that the choices others make run your life, instead of your choices. No woman can be interesting, sexy, fun, strong, challenging and “a prize” when she’s allowed herself to become a neurotic mess/doormat for people by forgetting, or letting slip her own personal boundaries.

Which brings me to the topic of safe sex, a very important and difficult subject for many women who feel pressure from their male partner to have sex without a condom because it “feels better”, regardless of whether they have both been tested, whether they are in a serious committed relationship, how much trust and honesty there is between them, or what the real risks of “cheating” or sleeping with other people who’s status and safe sex practices cannot be controlled by the woman who is taking a big risk every time she lets a man talk her into sex without a condom (reasoning that because she’s already on birth control, it’s fine.)

One in six adults in the US has genital herpes – an incurable, lifelong disease. If you can’t be absolutely certain that your partner won’t have a one night stand or fling with someone else and not tell you about it because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, especially as you are just getting to know each other and casually dating, then having sex without a condom is playing Russian roulette with your body. Imagine what it would be like, especially as a young woman in her 20’s or 30’s, with so many years ahead of you, to never again be able to date someone without having to sit them down and tell them you have genital herpes. Or imagine what kind of people would still be willing to date you if you put that information up on your online dating profile right off the bat. Clearly having an incurable sexually transmitted disease can be a crippling consequence and great burden/shame to live with for the rest of your life. It’s a tragic diagnosis.

Now compare what you would have to suffer if you got genital herpes passed on to you, with the whining of a man who doesn’t want to use a condom because it’s “a hassle” or “doesn’t feel as good.” That man is either being stupid, or selfish, he doesn’t care about your body, he’s not realistic about the risks (especially if you are only just dating, and not in a committed relationship where you know what your partner is doing most of the time) and you should never allow this line to be crossed with your body. It may be an uncomfortable conversation to have to look someone you like in the eye and say “no, I’m not comfortable having sex without a condom” and if he keeps pestering you with questions trying to get you to justify your choice, or starts explaining how “picky” he is with the women he sleeps with, or tells you he’s been “tested” recently – remember, it doesn’t matter one bit, he could shag someone new tomorrow (who fell for his “I-really-like-sex-without-a-condom” line), pick up genital herpes from that woman who didn’t even know she had it because there is a lengthy dormant period, and pass it straight back to you the next time he sees you. No amount of recent testing, or supposed pickiness about partners reduces your actual risk if you are outside of a relationship where you know exactly what your partner is doing at all times, and who they are having sex with.

It’s difficult to have that conversation in the heat of passion, so it’s best to have it ahead of time. You don’t have to make a big deal of it, just express your boundary simply but firmly when things get hot between you. For example, you’re making out after your great first or second date, and he says how much he wants you, you reply – “Oh I want you too, you are delicious! I’m really looking forward to spending some private time together…. and just so you know I always practice safe sex. Would you like to get your own favorite brand of condoms, or should I bring the ones I have over?” That way everything is perfectly clear, and if he’s going to be a dick about it, you’ll find out now, ahead of time, and not when you’re already naked on his bed.

Secondly, the man is more likely to agree to your “condom rule” when it’s a prerequisite to getting in your pants, because let’s face it, he’s really going to want in your pants no matter what. It’s only in the heat of the moment when you are already almost having sex with him (so you’ve clearly agreed to sex, and are unlikely to get up and leave) or after he’s had unprotected sex with you before, that enforcing the “new” condom rule is difficult. But it can, and should be done. Just because you make a mistake or try to “please him” once, doesn’t mean you have to keep taking crazy risks for the rest of your relationship. In that case simply say, “I’ve given this some thought, and if you’d like to have sex with me again, we’ll need to use condoms from now on. I hope you understand, it helps me be comfortable and enjoy it so much more.” If it’s hard to say that looking him in the eye, or finding the “right time” in the middle of a light conversation, just send that as a text message to him the morning after. Then he can either agree or disagree, and you can keep your cool, think out your responses, and not get into some crazy emotional argument about it, or be suckered by those big blue eyes as you might in person.

Safe sex is one example of a personal boundary that must absolutely be upheld, with potential life and death consequences (HIV/AIDS) and other horrible risks, such as having your fertility permanently destroyed by a sneaky, symptom-free infection, ruining your social/dating/romantic future by genital herpes status, or unintended and unwanted pregnancy (since no hormonal method is 100% effective, using a condom barrier + hormonal birth control is the surest way to prevent pregnancy other than sterilization surgery.)

So uphold your boundaries with your body, be empowered, have great sex without worrying what he is or isn’t doing when you’re not around, and have the peace of mind and comfort of knowing neither disease nor pregnancy will ruin your life in the future because you let a guy whine and talk you into a bad idea. It’s a beautiful thing to be an empowered, free, sexually happy and healthy woman!

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