Alice,

I just met this great guy over the summer. He goes to Brown, and we plan on visiting each other on the weekends during the semester. We have fooled around, but haven't had sex yet. We are both virgins. (I know, it's hard to believe...). Alice, I think this is it — I'm ready. Do we really have to use condoms? I want it to be perfect!

Signed,
Ready and Willing

Dear Ready and Willing,

Sounds like you’ve had an exciting summer! Kudos to you for thinking ahead about how to practice safer sex. Condoms, when used correctly, are an effective method for protecting against sexually transmitted infections (STI) and pregnancy, which is why they’re highly recommended. There’s often pressure to make your first time memorable, and it may feel like using condoms takes away from that. Instead, you may focus on enjoying your partner and the connection you’ve built while still protecting yourself and your partner against STIs and pregnancy.

Using safer sex methods, such as condoms or dental dams, are useful since people define virginity in different ways. It's possible that either one of you could have engaged in other sexual activities (e.g., oral, anal, vaginal) with someone infected with an STI, even if you consider yourself a virgin. There’s a (very remote) possibility that either of you may have received an STI congenitally. Something you may consider is using condoms until both of you have been tested for HIV and other STIs to ensure you aren’t unintentionally transmitting an infection.

Condoms are also used to prevent unintended pregnancy; if that’s a concern, it’s wise to think about using another form birth control, alone or in addition to condoms. If both partners reach a point where they don't feel it necessary to use condoms, it’s best to talk with a health care provider or gynecologist about an appropriate form of protection.

Ready and Willing, it sounds like you think condoms may interfere with your ability to make your first time perfect. It may be helpful to keep in mind that an experience is only perfect with all its imperfections. In fact, they’re rarely perfect, but they can still be memorable. It may take some time to figure out each other’s needs and wants, so keeping the pressure low and focusing on your partner’s and your body may be the key to an enjoyable experience. If you’re worried about how using a condom might affect the mood, you may incorporate it into your foreplay. You may also experiment with different materials, textures, shapes, and styles. To learn more, read Time to go condom shopping! Brands, sizes, textures — What to buy? 

In short, you don't have to use condoms, but they may give you the protection (and peace of mind) that will help to make your first time as wonderful as you hope it will be. Best of luck!

Alice!

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