When a Woman Doesn't Want to Use a Condom

Condoms are often the best way to make a sexual encounter safer. Unfortunately, not everyone likes to use condoms. Many people think that, in a heterosexual couple, it's always the male partner who is reluctant to use a condom. However, that isn't actually the case. Often it's a woman saying that she doesn't like sex with condoms or doesn't want to use them.

Reasons for Not Using Condoms

As with anything else this personal, the reasons why some women don't opt to use condoms can vary. The following are some common responses, but if you're unsure of your partner's reasons, the best way to find out is to ask.

  • They think they are unnecessary: Some women underestimate their risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Because of this, they may prefer other birth control options to condoms.
  • Comfort: Some women don't like condoms because they make sex uncomfortable or even painful. In these cases, alternative condom types may be a good option.
  • They feel judged: Some women may worry that a partner asking to use a condom means they are judging them for previous sexual behavior. In these cases, it's important to have realistic conversations about risks and concerns. For example, a man may suggest using a condom because he is concerned about pregnancy and failure of oral contraceptives.
  • Beliefs/social influences: Some women may think of using condoms as something that is for other people. Surveys show that condom usage can vary based on age, race, relationship status, and other factors. People may stigmatize condom use or have beliefs about their role in a healthy sexual encounter.

Both partners should agree on acceptable risks during sex. When this can't be achieved, a polite refusal may be needed. You should never feel uneasy about how well you are protecting your health, and disagreement about this can make the encounter less enjoyable for you both.

When Condoms Hurt

Three common reasons why women have bad experiences with condom sex are latex allergies, problems with nonoxynol-9 (N-9), and partners who don't use enough lubricant. The irritation from any one of these problems can leave a woman feeling very uncomfortable.

Worse, that irritation can also leave her vulnerable to urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis. Fortunately, if she does get one of these infections, they are pretty easy to treat in most cases.

If your partner tells you that condoms make sex hurt, listen. Then let her know there are some ways to make it more comfortable to practice safer sex:

  • Try a couple of different condom brands. Different latex condoms may contain different types of plant proteins. Interestingly, it's generally those proteins that individuals allergic to latex are actually sensitive to. However, if your reaction is moderate or severe, avoid all latex condoms.
  • Switch to non-spermicidal lubricated latex condoms. With them, use an additional water-based or silicone-based lubricant (making sure that it doesn't have N-9). If you can't find lubricated condoms without N-9, use unlubricated latex condoms and add plenty of the water-based on silicone-based lubricants. Lube is an easy way to make sex better because it reduces friction and pain, and it can make penetration more fun for everyone.
  • Switch to polyurethane condoms. These condoms are latex-free and protective against STDs (which natural skin condoms are not). Even better, oil-based lubricants are safe to use with them. They are, however, somewhat more expensive than latex condoms and may break more frequently. Many female condoms are made out of polyurethane. They can be an enjoyable alternative for some couples. 
  • Switch to polyisoprene condoms. These condoms are made with a synthetic latex that doesn't include the proteins that cause allergic reactions. They may be preferable to polyurethane condoms for some individuals. The sensation from them is also more like a traditional, latex condom. 

A Word From Verywell

Enjoyable sex doesn't have to mean unsafe sex. Sometimes sharing information and concerns with your partner is all it takes to open up a productive, respectful discussion and get on the same page about ways you can both feel comfortable and understood.

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Article Sources
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  2. Cleveland Clinic. Have a latex allergy? Here are 4 safe non-latex condom options. Updated October 15, 2020.

  3. The Well Project. Talking with your partner about condoms. Updated January 6, 2020.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Condom use during sexual intercourse among women and men aged 15-44 in the United States: 2011-2015 national survey of family growth. August 10, 2017.

  5. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Vaginitis. Updated March 2020.

  6. Wu M, McIntosh J, Liu J. Current prevalence rate of latex allergy: Why it remains a problemJrnl of Occup Health. 2016;58(2):138-144. doi:10.1539/joh.15-0275-RA

  7. World Health Organization. Use and procurement of additional lubricants for male and female condoms: WHO/UNFPA/FHI360 advisory note. Updated 2012.

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