Get Real! Why Can’t She Understand That I’m Not Ready?

Heather Corinna

Just like for women, plenty of men have concerns about unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, physical or emotional safety, or mucking a relationship up with sex that happens too soon or before it really feels right.

Chad asks:

My girlfriend
doesn’t understand why we can’t have sex because I’m not ready. I keep
asking her to wait a little longer, but then she gets confused and she
thinks I’m not interested. I just don’t want to mess up or get an STD.
I don’t know what to do.

Heather replies:

Unfortunately,
some women don’t know or understand when they’re carrying around
double-standards when it comes to being ready for sex. You’re not the
first guy to ask this question or be in this situation.

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Just like it is for women, guys are not somehow automatically ready
for sex any time their partner is or when sex is made available. Just
like for women, plenty of men have concerns about unwanted or unplanned
pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, physical or emotional
safety, or just mucking a relationship up with sex that happens too
soon or before it really feels like the right thing. Just like with
women, men will take a pass on sex for more reasons than just because
they don’t feel attracted to someone or aren’t in the mood for sex:
sometimes men, like women, will want to hold off on sex even when they
are very much in the mood and are very much attracted to a partner who
wants to have sex with them.

Just as it isn’t okay for men to pressure or push a partner for sex, it’s not okay for women to do, either.

A lot of people are raised with, or exposed to, some pretty
inaccurate, and even creepy, ideas about sex and gender that they take
at face value or enable pretty thoughtlessly, even when presented with
realities that make clear how wrongheaded those ideas are. Lots of
folks think that guys are ALWAYS ready, no matter what (and should be,
or aren’t "real men" if they’re not up for sex any time it’s made
available), and that girls either never are, only are in certain
situations, or that it matters a lot for girls to have sex only when
they feel ready, but not for guys. Some people think it doesn’t make a
difference if no one is ready, that it’s no big whoop to have sex even
when it’s not wanted or doesn’t feel right. And none of those things
are universally true, or even true for most people.

It matters just as much for sex to only happen for men when they
feel ready as it does for women, and having sex when you don’t want to
is going to be no less damaging and lousy for you than it would be were
the shoe on the other foot. For sex to be healthy and positive for you
— as is the case for her or for anyone at all — it’s got to happen
when it’s something you strongly want, something that feels right, and
something you feel ready for at the time. It also has to be freely
chosen, not something you do because you cave into what someone else
needs or wants. Partnered sex is supposed to be about something
pleasurable and meaningful — even though what kind of meaning that is
can vary a lot — that is shared, not about something one person just
gives over to make the other quit freaking bugging them already.

I can’t find anything even remotely sexy or healthy about having sex
in order to be left the heck alone by a nagging partner, or to feed
their ego. Bleck.

It’s so important that none of us make our sex lives with our
partners about having a partner need to, or feel they need to, have sex
with us to prove something, be it love, commitment or attraction. By
all means, one of the positive things any of us can experience during
any kind of sex with someone else is a bump of validation in any of
those departments, but it’s not sound to make sex about that
validation, nor to make that little side-benefit the whole of what’s
going on. We can demonstrate those things in a whole lot of ways: sex
is only one of them, and even when it is wanted by both of you, sex
alone is not going to be able to express those things all by itself.

I think you first need to make clear to your girlfriend that you not
being ready yet is not about a lack of interest in her, and that if she
keeps insisting it is, it’s past time for her to stop doing that. You
are telling her it is not, and if she cares for you, she needs to hear
and respect what you are actually saying, not what she is choosing to
hear.

Talk with her about what your real concerns are, and about what you
need — if you do feel like she’s someone you want to have sex with in
time — to address them. For instance, with your concerns about
sexually transmitted infections, you may need to be sure you’re both on
the same page about safer sex practices, and that you both have a
recent STI screening first: you could even go do that together as a
couple. Talk about what you’re worried you’ll mess up, or what you’re
worried could get messed up in your relationship. Make clear you need
some real time spent — probably not just one discussion — where the
two of you really work through your worries, and some more time with
other kinds of physical affection or more gradual entry into a sex life
together to feel more comfortable moving forward. You might want to
print out our Readiness Checklist,
look through it, and identify some of the areas where you’re not
feeling ready to help you cement your own thoughts and best have this
kind of conversation.

As well, ask her about how she’s feeling in terms of why sex is
feeling so urgent for her, or why it’s so important to her that you
fill that need right now. Since it sounds like part of why she’s been
pushing is about a need to feel you have a sexual interest in her, you
can ask about ways you might support her needs, and better demonstrate
that you are interested if she’s not feeling that as much as she’d like
to. Is she feeling pressure from friends? Is she worried about the
status of your relationship and feeling like sex needs to happen to
cement it? Is she just feeling insecure of late, perhaps due to other
situations in her life besides your relationship? Is she feeling
sexually frustrated and unable to take care of her desires with her own
two hands, thinking her sexuality can only start with a partner? Is she
just really crazy into you, feeling her desire big-time, and operating
under some of the double-standards I brought up and feeling upset
because of those assumptions? Finding out more about why she’s feeling
the way she is and where it’s all coming from might help you both to
better understand the other.

I’d suggest sharing what I have said about double-standards with
your girlfriend: you might even just want to print it out for her so
she can see it coming from someone else’s mouth. Now, your words should
absolutely be enough, but sometimes a little backup helps.

Lastly, let her know that you are clear that she feels ready for sex, and knowing that, if and when you also feel ready, you will let her know.
In other words, she tossed the ball, it’s in your court now, and what
she needs to do is just wait and see if you throw it back or not.

She needs to stop reminding you or bringing it up: you know she’s
interested and waiting on you, and her pushing for it not only isn’t
okay, it’s not going to make you be ready any sooner. In fact, being
pushed to have sex when it’s not where we’re at yet, and when we’ve
made that clear, is more likely to turn us off of sex than to turn us
on to it. I’d mention that she probably doesn’t want to have sex with
someone who only chose to do that because of pressure from her: both
you and she deserve a sexual partner who comes to sex because it’s what
they want, and because they are choosing it freely, without pressure.
If she’s looking to find validation by pushing someone into sex, she’s
likely to discover not only that isn’t healthy for both of you, but
that she might even feel more insecure afterwards than she does right
now.

If after talking about this some more, she still tries to make your
not feeling ready yet about her appeal, just won’t hear you, or keeps
pushing something you’ve made clear you don’t feel ready for yet on
you, then I’d suggest you reconsider being involved with her. Truth is,
when a person can’t respect another person’s limits and boundaries,
it’s actually a clear sign that they aren’t ready for sex,
because being able to do that is central to healthy sexual
relationships. Another part of being ready is having the maturity to
recognize when our sexual wants and needs just aren’t aligned with
someone else’s. Neither she nor you are obligated to be a couple. If
she feels like sex absolutely has to be part of any relationship she is
in right now and she cannot wait for it, but knows she is currently
seeing someone who isn’t ready, it’s up to her to take responsibility
for the things she wants and seek them out with someone else who shares
them. The person putting the brakes on is the person we always need to
defer to, but not everyone has the care and the maturity to recognize
that.

Hopefully, this talk with her will go well, and she’ll be able to
really hear you and respect where you’re coming from. Ideally, if you
two care about each other, and can get to that point rather than
talking past each other, that in and of itself should bring you closer
and demonstrate to her that you have an investment in the relationship
and strong interest in her. After all, we don’t invest energy and time
into working a conflict out when we don’t give a hoot. However, if
already you are just feeling like she’s not going to get this, or like
you’ve been pushed too much already, you certainly do not have to talk
with her about this any more: it’s valid to nip a relationship in the
bud when we just don’t feel understood or respected in it, or like
we’re doing more than our share of the work on it.

No matter what, I want you to know, for yourself, that one place we do
find maturity is in someone knowing what is and isn’t right for them at
a given time, and sticking to what they know is best for them, even if
making a different choice might in some ways be easier or less of a
headache.

In the work I do, I hear from guys of all ages often who don’t feel
ready for sex at any given time: you’re not alone in this. And if you
find yourself in a situation where you have to really fight for your
right to be in exactly the place you’re at in your life or a
relationship when it comes to sex, know that it’s not because there is
something wrong with you, but because someone else is viewing sex or
you in a way that is skewed and unhealthy. The bonus when that happens
is that if they don’t realize pretty quickly that they’re being
disrespectful or selfish, and don’t change their behavior pronto, you
get to say buh-bye and dodge a bullet. Sex with someone who can’t deal
with where you’re at and what’s best for both people involved isn’t
likely to be fun, pleasurable or positive for anyone.

Here are a few extra links for you:

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Sexually Transmitted Infections Edition

Martha Kempner

A new Zika case suggests the virus can be transmitted from an infected woman to a male partner. And, in other news, HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and an experimental chlamydia vaccine shows signs of promise.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zika May Have Been Sexually Transmitted From a Woman to Her Male Partner

A new case suggests that males may be infected with the Zika virus through unprotected sex with female partners. Researchers have known for a while that men can infect their partners through penetrative sexual intercourse, but this is the first suspected case of sexual transmission from a woman.

The case involves a New York City woman who is in her early 20s and traveled to a country with high rates of the mosquito-borne virus (her name and the specific country where she traveled have not been released). The woman, who experienced stomach cramps and a headache while waiting for her flight back to New York, reported one act of sexual intercourse without a condom the day she returned from her trip. The following day, her symptoms became worse and included fever, fatigue, a rash, and tingling in her hands and feet. Two days later, she visited her primary-care provider and tests confirmed she had the Zika virus.

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A few days after that (seven days after intercourse), her male partner, also in his 20s, began feeling similar symptoms. He had a rash, a fever, and also conjunctivitis (pink eye). He, too, was diagnosed with Zika. After meeting with him, public health officials in the New York City confirmed that he had not traveled out of the country nor had he been recently bit by a mosquito. This leaves sexual transmission from his partner as the most likely cause of his infection, though further tests are being done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations for preventing Zika have been based on the assumption that virus was spread from a male to a receptive partner. Therefore the recommendations had been that pregnant women whose male partners had traveled or lived in a place where Zika virus is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex during the pregnancy. For those couples for whom pregnancy is not an issue, the CDC recommended that men who had traveled to countries with Zika outbreaks and had symptoms of the virus, use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after their trip. It also suggested that men who traveled but don’t have symptoms use condoms for at least eight weeks.

Based on this case—the first to suggest female-to-male transmission—the CDC may extend these recommendations to couples in which a female traveled to a country with an outbreak.

More Signs of Gonorrhea’s Growing Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, the CDC released new data on gonorrhea and warned once again that the bacteria that causes this common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.

There are about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported each year, but it is estimated that 800,000 cases really occur with many going undiagnosed and untreated. Once easily treatable with antibiotics, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae has steadily gained resistance to whole classes of antibiotics over the decades. By the 1980s, penicillin no longer worked to treat it, and in 2007 the CDC stopped recommending the use of fluoroquinolones. Now, cephalosporins are the only class of drugs that work. The recommended treatment involves a combination of ceftriaxone (an injectable cephalosporin) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic).

Unfortunately, the data released last week—which comes from analysis of more than 5,000 samples of gonorrhea (called isolates) collected from STI clinics across the country—shows that the bacteria is developing resistance to these drugs as well. In fact, the percentage of gonorrhea isolates with decreased susceptibility to azithromycin increased more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2014 (from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent).

Though no cases of treatment failure has been reported in the United States, this is a troubling sign of what may be coming. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release: “It is unclear how long the combination therapy of azithromycin and ceftriaxone will be effective if the increases in resistance persists. We need to push forward on multiple fronts to ensure we can continue offering successful treatment to those who need it.”

HPV-Related Cancers Up Despite Vaccine 

The CDC also released new data this month showing an increase in HPV-associated cancers between 2008 and 2012 compared with the previous five-year period. HPV or human papillomavirus is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC believes most sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. Many cases of HPV clear spontaneously with no medical intervention, but certain types of the virus cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and neck.

The CDC’s new data suggests that an average of 38,793 HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed each year between 2008 and 2012. This is a 17 percent increase from about 33,000 each year between 2004 and 2008. This is a particularly unfortunate trend given that the newest available vaccine—Gardasil 9—can prevent the types of HPV most often linked to cancer. In fact, researchers estimated that the majority of cancers found in the recent data (about 28,000 each year) were caused by types of the virus that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Unfortunately, as Rewire has reported, the vaccine is often mired in controversy and far fewer young people have received it than get most other recommended vaccines. In 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. In comparison, nearly 80 percent of young people in this age group had received the vaccine that protects against meningitis.

In response to the newest data, Dr. Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HealthDay:

In order to increase HPV vaccination rates, we must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer. Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent them from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them? The answer would be a resounding yes—and we would have a dramatic decrease in HPV-related cancers across the globe.

Making Inroads Toward a Chlamydia Vaccine

An article published in the journal Vaccine shows that researchers have made progress with a new vaccine to prevent chlamydia. According to lead researcher David Bulir of the M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at Canada’s McMaster University, efforts to create a vaccine have been underway for decades, but this is the first formulation to show success.

In 2014, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia in the United States. While this bacterial infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, it often goes undiagnosed because many people show no symptoms. Untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus and ultimately result in infertility.

The experimental vaccine was created by Canadian researchers who used pieces of the bacteria that causes chlamydia to form an antigen they called BD584. The hope was that the antigen could prompt the body’s immune system to fight the chlamydia bacteria if exposed to it.

Researchers gave BD584 to mice using a nasal spray, and then exposed them to chlamydia. The results were very promising. The mice who received the spray cleared the infection faster than the mice who did not. Moreover, the mice given the nasal spray were less likely to show symptoms of infection, such as bacterial shedding from the vagina or fluid blockages of the fallopian tubes.

There are many steps to go before this vaccine could become available. The researchers need to test it on other strains of the bacteria and in other animals before testing it in humans. And, of course, experience with the HPV vaccine shows that there’s work to be done to make sure people get vaccines that prevent STIs even after they’re invented. Nonetheless, a vaccine to prevent chlamydia would be a great victory in our ongoing fight against STIs and their health consequences, and we here at This Week in Sex are happy to end on a bit of a positive note.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?