(via Why Do We Romanticize Bareback Sex?)
After considering some criticisms of Schwyzer’s article above, I decided to rewrite it without any references or reputable sources:
Condom use, i.e. the use of male condoms, largely focuses around three major concerns: the financial cost and responsibility of maintaining the regular presence of condoms; the cost of bodily infection (including STIs as well as infection with any embryonic activity); and the cost of reduced pleasure. One of these costs — the cost of bodily infection with either STIs or embryos — is an intimidating cost that often causes many people anxiety and apprehensions, even fear.
STIs will negatively affect the life of any human afflicted with them. Pregnancy or conception will affect one kind of human, the kinds with wombs susceptible to pregnancy, more thoroughly and severely than other kinds of humans whose bodies can not incur pregnancy. If your body is of the latter variety, you will probably not bare the same stress, anxiety or apprehension that is presented by the threat of conception of embryos.
The burden of financial costs and responsibilities of regular condom use is one that can fairly easily be equally divided between individuals sharing sexual experiences together. The burden of reduced pleasure is more complicated. The burden of an STI or of conception/pregnancy can not be so equally shared because, similar to the burden of reduced physical pleasure, each individual will have different, highly personal experiences of their own. (The idea being that two people can not experience the exact same thing.)
Most of the prominent complaints and concerns with reduced pleasure have come from cisgendered men — that physical pleasure is severely reduced by condom use. Seldom has the emotional or mental impact of birth control and/or STI prevention methods for the woman appeared to be a prominent aspect in the equation. Perhaps the physical pleasure of sex is generally and approximately equally reduced for individuals of this demographic, or for individuals of all identities. Sadly, there has been virtually no accessible media to either prove or disprove this idea. Perhaps a lack of condom use results in a reduction of non-physical pleasure for any human body who does bare the stress, anxiety or apprehension of the threat of conception of embryos, or the threat of infection. Again, this concept is not one that has become a prominent factor in the greater discussion. Certainly when I have felt anxious or guilty, I have not experienced as much pleasure during sex as I have experienced during sex when my mind is at ease.
It is important to know that the male condom is also the only accessible form of STI prevention, with the exception of abstinence.
For most people the world over — when it is considered that over half of the world population is composed of people who are not cisgendered men, and when it is considered that sex entails a range of different meanings and uses especially in countries whose people do not experience as many privileges as we do in North America — sex is not solely (or even typically) an act of physical pleasure, or any other kind of pleasure. On the contrary, as a matter of fact, sex is more often than not an act of discomfort and even violation for many people, even within North America. Sometimes sex is a neutral act in which someone is consensually offering it as a service for the pleasure of others (some cases in which, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn, sex is mutually pleasurable). With these facts in mind, the prominent issue of the cisgendered man’s physical pleasure concerns loses a lot of its weight.
Many alternatives (to male condom use as a form of birth control) come with costs that have similar if not equal affects on the lives of their users. With the exception of vasectomies, all other available forms of birth control affect the bodies of the woman. When human bodies are affected, it can be assumed that their emotions and experiences of pleasure are also affected, indirectly, by these measures (e.g. a side effect of some birth control pills is depression, bodily changes, and decreased sex drive). Because all current methods of preventative birth control affect the human body, as well as the human mind and soul/heart/emotions, etc., and because many experiences of sex involve all of these things, preventative measures will also have indirect affects on sex.
Retroactive forms of birth control, if they involve termination of the growing cells or of the pregnancy, will not affect the cisgendered male body. This form of birth control will not only negatively affect women’s bodies (e.g. pain, hormonal disturbances, etc.), but will also have other negative effects mentally and emotionally (e.g. stigmatisations, hormonal disturbances, etc.). It can be assumed that options of retroactive birth control that do not terminate before birth (e.g. adoption) will affect several humans in many different ways. This is another method of birth control that, for various reasons, gets little coverage or credit.
Male condom use is the only current and widely-accessible method of STI and pregnancy prevention that can be used fairly reliably “in the moment”. Male condoms present no long term negative affects (except for humans with latex allergies). Male condoms do present one short term negative affect on the enjoyment aspect of sex, particularly the physical pleasure aspect, namely largely for cisgendered men.
Compared to the long list of complexities and multitude of risks and negative effects associated with all other forms of birth control, all of which would be incurred by women (again, except for vasectomy), male condom use is the most accessible and most reliable method for of preventing pregnancy, avoiding STIs, avoiding long-term negative side effects, and, if used well, sharing pleasurable sex.
Perhaps this one variable of reduced physical pleasure while using condoms could be experimented with in ways that might eventually bring the pleasure threshold around to where it is when no condom is used during sex. One suggestion is to experiment with the size of the condom.
Another suggestion is for us to all to stop being closed minded and self-centered about it. To honour all of the other countless negative experiences of birth control (and STI prevention) is apparently to negate or minimise the experience of pleasure of cisgendered men. However, by putting the physical sexual pleasure of male-condom wearers (e.g. cisgendered men) above both the pleasure and the pain of everyone else, we limit ourselves to a view that honours one kind of minority bodily experience while negating the rest. Those of us with the privilege to debate such topics are generally within the demographic of humans who have the means to act on our complaints and frustrations. Perhaps a good first step is to try all variations of male-condom use before ruling the option out entirely. I personally doubt that the next-most accessible option, abstinence, will be considered seriously.