What if your partner is putting you at risk of pregnancy or STIs. Here’s some advice for you but also advice for them. Note the content warning below.
Note: this article has references to abusive non-consensual behaviour.
I get two kinds of ‘I am pregnant’ questions. One type is from anxious couples who are worried that a bit of pre-cum may have travelled through two layers of underwear to deep inside the vagina. To them I say ‘nope you can’t get pregnant from this and stop worrying’.
The other kind are young women telling me that their boyfriend ejaculated inside them a few times this month and they are worried they are pregnant. To them I say ‘ummmm you might be, but also can you please consider dumping your boyfriend.’
Read about trust in relationships
I understand that many people have unprotected sex even if they don’t want to get pregnant or are ‘meh’ about pregnancy. Sometimes shit happens: people run out of pills, or they couldn’t wait to put the condom on. Perhaps some people can’t access pills, condoms, or any other kind of contraception. In the UK we have free access to contraception, but at the moment getting supplies from a clinic is tricky because of coronavirus (read more about sexual health services). However in many parts of the world people don’t have free access to a full range of contraceptive methods or to free, and legal, abortion.
How to talk about safer sex
If it’s hard to get hold of contraceptive methods then sometimes people might try the pull out or withdrawal method. As I’ve written about here that’s not a great method of contraception but it is better than nothing. It’s not great because the person with the penis (usually a man) needs to pull out before ejaculation. Often people don’t realise when they are ejaculating, or they do and they don’t care about the consequences. That’s what I want to talk about here.
So from here I’m going to divide my advice in two parts: the person that this is being done to, and the person who is doing this. From what my readers are telling me, and from the research into it, this is something which men do to women. However I’m sure that this (like all abusive and violent behaviour) is something which happens with other genders too. This is not just something which applies to pregnancy either, it can also apply to STI transmission.
If this has happened to you
If your sex partner has ejaculated inside your vagina knowing that you don’t want to get pregnant, or knowing that you can’t get hold of contraception, it’s wrong. It’s also wrong if your sex partner has ejaculated inside you and has put you at risk of getting an STI. These things are also potentially criminal offences, like rape. I would also say that they are immoral, unethical, bad, and probably sinful (I’ll leave that up to someone else).
This might be quite hard for you to hear and might make you want to shut this tab down. I (random sex and relationships educator) don’t want to be another person telling you what to do, so I won’t. Instead here’s some advice about what you might want to do next.
For something to be consensual you need to be free to choose to agree to it. This is true for any part of sex and also any part of life. You may have agreed to have penis in vagina (or penis in anus or mouth) sex, but that doesn’t mean you agreed to ejaculation inside you. People should not assume that agreeing to entry sex also means ejaculation internally. Just because you might not have said ‘no’ does not mean that you were agreeing to it.
So, if you feel safe enough, you could talk about this in more detail with your partner. What are the risks from sex you are most worried about and what do you want to do to reduce those risks. If it’s unplanned pregnancy there are many options, including not having penis in vagina sex at all (which for many people is more fun anyway). Depressingly, what a lot of women around the world do is to use a method of contraception that their partner doesn’t know about. Which brings me to the ‘do you feel safe enough’ bit.
This might be a good time for you to think about the rest of the relationship. Consider what else you might be free to choose to do. Is it okay for you to have your own friends? Can you wear what you like? Do you get very much choice in what you do together? Is it okay for you to chat to people you don’t know? Are you able to keep things private? Do they have your phone password? Are they checking up on you? Consent is a very very important part of any relationship and, again, it’s not just about sex.
I’ve written a lot about relationships here so I would encourage you to have a read about what a consensual and good relationship looks like. Try my guide to relationships for starters, and then give your relationship a check up with the relationships graph. You might also want to check out my article about spotting the signs of an abusive relationship. If this is part of a pattern of abuse you could talk to a friend or someone you trust about the relationship and perhaps make a plan to get out of it.
Have you done this to someone else?
If you are putting someone at risk of pregnancy (and/or STIs) you are doing something to someone else without giving them a choice. It’s non-consensual, it’s abusive, and it could be a criminal offence like rape. If you did it deliberately it’s wrong. It’s also wrong if you didn’t really care about the risk and your partner did.
Consent is the most important part of a relationship and that means freedom to choose. Your choice to do something is not more important than your partner’s choice not to do something. This means that if they don’t want you to ejaculate inside them then you should not ejaculate inside them.
Please don’t just wait for someone to tell you not to do something, you should be taking responsibility for this. In fact, if you are a man and your partner is a woman, you should be the one bringing up the conversations about sex and consent. It’s on you to be saying ‘how are we going to make this safer’ because men don’t get the kind of stigma that women get for talking about sex.
It can be a difficult thing to do because men do get very conflicting messages about how they are supposed to behave sexually. Men are taught to ‘take the lead’ and be active but they are also taught not to be soft, caring, and sharing. In fact men get told that they really shouldn’t be talking about their feelings at all (and that it’s dangerous to do this). If being a man is about taking the lead (which I wish it wasn’t but still) it should also be about taking care of your partner. Being dependable, reliable, solid, grown up, responsible.
It’s also difficult for men who might get status (clout) for being a man but stigma (unclout) for other things: like if you are a man of colour, disabled, gay or bi, working class etc. Also you might have had people treat you non-consensually in the past too. That’s not an excuse, but you need to accept what it is that makes this hard before you can make it easier.
So I get it, but honestly it’s still on you. It might mean that you have to talk about things you aren’t used to talking about. Perhaps it might make you feel scared or vulnerable to talk about, but it’s on you to do it.
What you should do
What you should do is, before you have any sex with your partner again, take the lead and start a conversation about sexual health risks. Be honest about what kind of sex you want and think of different ways that you and your partner can make this safer. You might not be able to agree how to make sex safer in one conversation, but no more sex until you have both been able to have your say. Your partner should feel free to choose what it is they need you to do and you should be able to hear them and talk honestly about what you can do.
If you can’t find a way to make a particular kind of sex safer then you should just not do it and think of other things to do instead. For example, if you have a really hard time using condoms, and your partner can’t get hold of contraception, emergency contraception, or drugs that prevent HIV transmission (PrEP), then you should not f**k. Dry humping, masturbating, rolling around are safer – try those.
Here’s some more advice for you (there’s loads of advice on here about this so click around)
It’s on you to do better and you can. I’ve worked with loads and loads of people who maybe didn’t treat their partners very well once, but they worked on it and got better. Often this was with the help and support of their friends, so perhaps you could chat about this with your people too.
Comment below if you like (I moderate all comments before they go live, so no being cheeky!)
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© Justin Hancock, 2023
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health.