Condoms. Hmm. When I reflect over my own sexual past, I'd have to say that, in spite of knowing that rubbers are the only form of birth control that can prevent pregnancies and STDs, I still probably only used them maybe 40-45 percent of the time. It wasn't because I was on any other form of protection either. Basically, as irresponsible as I know that it sounds, I just didn't like them (yes fellas, if you're peeping in on this, we can tell the difference between raw sex and sex with a condom too).
First, I'm pretty sensitive down there, so although I'm not exactly allergic to latex (around 4.3 percent of the world's population is, by the way), sometimes I'd still feel a slight bit of itchiness and irritation after intercourse. Not like my body was rejecting the condom per se; more like it was annoyed by it. Then, there's something that a wife told me while I was interviewing her husband for this piece (more on what he had to say in a bit)—"It's kind of hard to explain. I think what I like most about not using condoms is it encourages your body to respond differently. You feel closer to your partner and that turns you on more. Then there's the fact that condoms cut into spontaneity. It's a lot harder to watch television on the couch and, in the middle of a commercial be like, 'Hey, let's have sex real quick.'" Agreed.
Still, that doesn't change the fact that, reportedly, condoms are 98 percent effective (when they're used properly; when they're not, they've got a 13 percent failure rate). And, with gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis (syphilis?!) currently being at an all-time high, unless you are in a long-term committed relationship and you don't mind getting pregnant right now, condoms are a necessary "evil".
Men know this. Women know this. We all know this. So, why am I reading more and more articles about how men—single men, mind you—are using the pulling out method, perhaps more than they ever have? Just so we're all on the same page, this means that they are going in raw and pulling out at the point of ejaculation with no condom in sight. Also, just for the record, the research is not talking about the jerks who stealth their partners (stealthing is about guys who agree to wear a condom and then take it off during the act). This is referring to guys who are consciously going without wearing a rubber and partners who seem to be OK with that. These guys are pulling out more than ever.
How much pulling out are we talking about exactly?
How Many Single Guys Are Using the Withdrawal Method When It Comes to Intercourse?
So, when they say that pulling out is hugely popular right now, what does that mean? According to an article that was published in 2017 on Live Science's site, although nearly 60 percent of men between the ages of 15-44 claimed to have used some form of birth control within the past three months (which was up from 52 percent back in 2002), 45 percent admitted to using condoms and one percent admitted to having a vasectomy. Here's the real clincher, though—"But rates of the withdrawal method nearly doubled, going from 10 percent of unmarried men in 2002 to 19 percent of these men in 2011 to 2015." (While we're on this topic, it should also go on record that the article also said that, "Nearly 95 percent of unmarried men between ages 15 and 19 said they used contraception, compared with 72 percent of unmarried men between ages 35 and 44" and of those between 15-19 years of age, 26 percent of them said that pulling out was what they did the most). When it comes to men having sex without a condom, something else that's worth checking out is "Pretty Risky: Men Would Skip Condoms with Attractive Women". Yep. You read that right. If a man thinks you're pretty, there's a greater chance that he'll go without using a condom as well. SMDH.
Have mercy, y'all. Personally, I found all of this info to be important and relevant enough to ask some of the men who I know why they think that so many single guys appear to be almost protesting the use of prophylactics. I must admit that some of what I heard caused me to realize that men actually hate using condoms a whole lot more than I ever thought that they did.
How Men Compare Sex with a Condom vs No Condom
If you've read any of the interview pieces that I've done on here (like "10 Married Couples Share The Keys To Their Totally Off-The-Chain Sex Life" and "What 5 Men Had To Say About Married Sex"), you know that I tend to change the names of my "subjects" a lot. I honestly doubt that I'd get the real and raw from people any other way. So, when it comes to the two married men and the one single guy who I talked to about condom vs. condom-less sex, let's call them Mark, Randall and Jerry. I will tell their actual ages, though—42, 49 and 36.
"Fellas, strictly from a pleasure perspective, what's the difference between sex with a condom and sex without a condom?"
*Mark. Married and 42. "Man, let me think. It's kind of like the difference between someone rubbing on your bare hand or someone touching you with a surgical glove. No matter what the marketing of condoms might say, when you have sex with one, it definitely cuts down the sensation by 40-50 percent. Even the so-called 'high-tech' ones [he's referring to thin ones, ones that have lube or ones that warm up on contact] will improve that ratio by only 20 percent or so. Even though condoms might help you to last longer, the other side of that is, since you don't feel as stimulated, it can actually make it harder to maintain an erection. Honestly, condoms are necessary in order to prevent pregnancy and potentially save your life, but on the pleasure scale, there is nothing truly redeemable or appealing about them. I am thrilled about never having to use one again."
*Jerry. Married and 49. "Condoms suck. I hate those damn things. Where do I start? Condoms don't fit like a glove. Lambskin feels more like real skin, but we all know they aren't as safe. Plus, they're super ass expensive. The best way to compare is, sometimes I go to a salon instead of a barbershop to get my hair cut. When the stylist offers to massage my head while she's washing it with her bare hands, it feels great. But when she has those perm gloves on, I prefer to pass. It feels awkward more than anything. In a nutshell, that's a condom. And don't even get me started on a woman going down on me when I have one on. Most of the time, I was just like, 'That's alright. Let's just do something else.' Nothing can replace that natural feeling—the warmth, the wetness, the closeness—of having sex without one."
Side note: When I asked Jerry if that's why a lot of men can engage in casual hook-ups, his response was, "Oh, definitely. Since you don't really 'feel' your partner, it doesn't seem like the two of you are as connected as the people you don't use a condom with." Isn't that some food for thought?
*Jerry. Single and 36. "I dunno. It's kind of like when HIV and AIDS first hit the scene, everyone was terrified and so we were like, 'Quick! Someone get me a garbage bag!' But even then, no one liked condoms. They're like trying to feel someone through a Band-Aid or giving someone a handshake when you've got a baseball glove on. I've tried that warm-up shit too. C'mon, man. It's like wearing a condom that's made out of Bengay. Then, there's all of these brothas who are out here putting on Magnums when they know that doesn't fit them. I'm a regular and I know it. But when there's been nothing else that's available and I've had sex with one, it's more of a struggle than anything. You're done and you're like, 'Glad we made it through that.' But more than anything, I think that condoms are like having sex with another person in a room. The women I've had sex with where sometimes I had on a condom and sometimes I didn't, it felt like it was actually 'with her' without one."
Goodness. Let me just say that by no means am I sharing these perspectives as a PSA to not use condoms. Not. At. All. I'm simply the type of person who likes to get to the root of matters and so, since so many single men are ditching condom use, I wanted to see why. Plus, I don't know about you, but I don't recall hearing how men actually feel about having sex with a rubber. Now I know.
How to Handle Condom Use While So Many Men Are Pulling Out
Now that we're aware of the fact that pulling out among single men is up 20 percent over the past 10 years or so, and we've got at least a little insight into why, as single women, what should we do about it? That's its own article, but as I get ready to close out of topic, I did want to offer up a few suggestions.
- Do some semi-extensive condom research. Something that all three of the fellas that I interviewed agreed with is condoms have improved, even if it's just a little bit. That's why it's a good idea to not just run up to your local drugstore and pick out the first ones that you see on sale. When it comes to research, the internet is your friend. Spend some time looking into which ones are specifically designed to make sex more pleasurable for you as well as your partner. If you need a little help, some informative reads include "The 10 Best Feeling Condoms for Pleasure", "The Best Condoms for Every Shape, Size, and Proclivity" and "The Best Condom For Her Pleasure - We Review the Top 6".
- Discuss condoms beforehand. This means before sexual activity takes place. Remember how I said that I was, by no means, the poster child for safe sex? A lot of the times, the sex wasn't planned, so being responsible wasn't even considered or discussed. If there was a condom, cool. If there wasn't, I was still gonna get me some. And yes, I do recall quite a few guys feeling like it was all good so long as they pulled out (two of them, I eventually got pregnant by, by the way. Just sayin'). Some people think it's crazy to even consider sex without a condom, but when that man is kissin', touchin' and/or lickin' you right, you'd be amazed how much birth control isn't on your mind. That said, a part of what comes with being ready for sex is being mature enough to prepare for it. So yes, talk about what your method of birth control should be before getting it on—and in. Make sure you're both on the same page. Oh, and if he happens to renege and ends up stealthing you, that's considered, by many, to be sexual assault. I'll leave that right there.
- If you're down with the withdrawal method, know what you're getting yourself into. If you and your partner do decide that sans a condom is what you want to do—1) make sure you both get tested regularly for STDs and 2) if you don't want to conceive a child, get on some other form of birth control, stat. If for some reason you do decide to go without a condom or any other form of birth control, please keep in mind that pulling out is roughly 78 percent effective. This means that for every 100 women who use this form of birth control, 22 of them get pregnant in the process (chile).
This is one of those topics where, while I understand why men hate condoms, that doesn't automatically or necessarily mean they shouldn't use them. They might suck, but they are out here saving lives. Sometimes, we've got to decide which thing gets the upper hand. Ladies, choose life. Then better condoms. In that order, please.
Did you know that xoNecole has a new podcast? Join founder Necole Kane, and co-hosts Sheriden Chanel for conversations over cocktails each and every week by subscribing to xoNecole Happy Hour podcast on Itunes and Spotify.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
Feature image by JD Mason/ Unsplash