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.

Assorted male condoms

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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.
  • Use lots of lubricant: Using lube with a condom (even if it is pre-lubricated) can reduce friction and pain, and you generally can't use too much. Just be sure to avoid oil-based versions when using a latex condom, as they can degrade the material.
  • Switch to non-spermicidal lubricated latex condoms. Make sure the one you choose doesn't have N-9. If you can't find one, use unlubricated latex condoms and plenty of water- or silicone-based lubricant.
  • 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.
  • 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 should not have to be 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you have safe sex without condoms?

    Technically, safe sex (or more appropriately, "safer sex") involves barrier protection and a reduction in the number of sex partners. In the end, condoms can greatly reduce—but not eliminate—the risk of STDs from oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Mutual masturbation and (unshared) toys can be considered safer sex since the risk of infection is low.

  • How safe is sex with condoms?

    The effectiveness of condoms varies by the STD type as well as the consistency of condom use. Studies suggest that the efficacy of condoms is as follows:

  • Why do women avoid condoms?

    According to a 2017 study from Columbia University, women avoid condoms more out of a concern about how their partners might react than issues of discomfort or forgetfulness. Among the cited concerns:

    • Condoms suggest that you don't trust your partner.
    • Condoms suggest that you're being unfaithful.
    • Condoms might "turn your partner off" or end the relationship.
  • Can you avoid getting HIV without condoms?

    If you are HIV-negative and take once-daily pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), you can reduce your risk of getting HIV by up to 99% with perfect use. This doesn't mean you should abandon condoms, as PrEP does not prevent other STDs. Inconsistent dosing can also reduce the effectiveness of PrEP.

  • Can you avoid passing HIV without condoms?

    If you have HIV and have an undetectable viral load while on antiretroviral therapy, your risk of passing the virus to others is zero. Even so, this doesn't mean that condoms are no longer needed as you can still get other STDs, especially if you have multiple partners.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  10. Campbell ANC, Brooks AJ, Pavlicova M, et al. Barriers to condom use: results of men and women enrolled in HIV risk reduction trials in outpatient drug treatment. J HIV AIDS Soc Serv. 2016;15(2):130-46. doi:10.1080/15381501.2016.1166090

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How effective is PrEP? Updated November 3, 2020.

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