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What if my partner doesn’t want to use condoms?

Many people use the motto: “Safer sex or no sex!” While this is not a bad way to look at using condoms, not everyone welcomes the use of condoms.

In a perfect world, it would be easy to have an honest conversation about safer sex with your partner before you include sexual behaviors in your relationship. Talking about protection before sexual behavior becomes part of your relationship can give you an opportunity to get closer to your partner emotionally and can help the two of you decide whether you’re on the same page when it comes to expectations about sex and protection. Unfortunately, many people find themselves trying to convince a partner to use a condom at the moment when they are feeling turned on, emotionally or physically vulnerable or even drunk.

If you take the time beforehand to have this important conversation, then you can anticipate any potential problems and take steps to avoid situations where it will be hard to get what you need. For example, if you let your partner know that you want to use a condom, and he or she feels defensive about it, then you can take time to let him or her know that you want to use a condom because you care about him or her, your sex life together and the future of your relationship.

What is abuse? What does it mean to be “abusive”?

Abuse is when one person hurts another person, either physically or emotionally. Abuse happens over time, usually in a cycle. It often continues until the person who is being abused gets help. Sometimes, someone else—a friend, family member—recognizes the abuse and jumps in to help.

Many times, abuse can be hard to recognize and understand. One of the reasons is that an abusive person may not always seem abusive. An abusive person might seem like a nice person a lot of the time, and they might say that they care or are in love. Abuse rarely stops all by itself, but there are ways to get help if you think you are being abused.

Different Types of Abuse

Physical abuse is when someone physically hurts another person. Hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, burning, hair-pulling, choking and cutting are some examples of physical abuse. Physical abuse can leave bruises, burns and other physical marks. A lot of times, someone who is being physically abused will hide their wounds with clothes, sunglasses, make up or in other ways.

Emotional abuse is when someone uses insults, criticisms and other hurtful words that make a person feel bad. People who are being emotionally abused might hear that they’re fat, ugly, stupid or worthless or will never amount to anything. Emotional abuse can be done in private, but it can also be done in front of other people.

Psychological abuse is the use of threats or other behaviors to scare someone and reduce their support system—the people and resources someone relies on for help and support. People who psychologically abuse others do so in an attempt to make a person lose touch with reality so the person becomes dependent on the abuser. The abuser might threaten to punish or harm the person, someone they care about or themselves in order to get them to do what they want. Other examples of psychological abuse are stalking or preventing a person from sleeping.

Sexual abuse is forcing someone to do something sexual against their will. Sexual abuse includes a lot of sexual behaviors—everything from fondling a person’s genitals and having sexual intercourse to forcing someone to watch porn or perform sex acts for money. Rape and incest are forms of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse can happen to both guys and girls.

Financial abuse is when someone uses money to control another person. If one person has more money than the other person in a relationship, he or she may withhold money or control what that money can buy in order to control their partner. For teens, it might be that one of the partners has a job and because they always pay for everything, the partner with money uses that power to pressure the other person into things like sex.

In the cycle of abuse, there can be a build-up of tension or stress before some kind of abusive incident happens. After the build-up, usually the abusive person does something abusive, whether it’s physical, emotional, sexual or another type of abuse. Then it gets a little more confusing because there’s usually a period of calm after the abuse. The abuser might apologize, swear it will never happen again or say that he or she will change. The abuser might bring the person who is being abused presents or be really nice to make up for the abuse. But usually the cycle just starts over again, and there will be more tension and more abuse.

Exposure to any kind of abuse for a long time can damage a person’s physical and emotional health. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the majority of people who have experienced abuse from a partner are females, most frequently with males doing the abusing. But abuse can happen to people of all sexes. Abuse also happens in all types of relationships—between partners of all sexes as well as between spouses, parent(s) and child(ren), and friends. Abuse can happen to people with little money and to people with lots of money. Abusive people can have college degrees or very little education. The same goes for people who are abused. Abuse can happen to people of all races, sexes, ethnicities, religions, socio-economic classes, abilities and sexual orientations.

It doesn’t really matter who the abuser or the abused is. Abuse is always wrong.

Is it OK to have sex with a friend?

Some teens might experiment sexually with friends to practice and learn about sex or to have sex outside of the context of a romantic relationship. Friends sometimes have sex because they feel more comfortable and already have a level of emotional closeness with each other.

Sometimes problems occur when two friends have different expectations of the relationship after they have sex. One person might think having sex moves the relationship into the “love” category while the other one wants to keep things just as they were. If that happens, someone is sure to get hurt.

As with any sexual decision, it’s important to talk about having sex before you do it. Make sure you both want the same things and are ready to handle the outcomes and responsibilities that come with having sex. This includes protecting yourselves from an unplanned pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and discussing how you’ll feel if sex brings about feelings that you didn’t expect.

What is date rape? What is acquaintance rape?

Sometimes people use the terms date rape and acquaintance rape interchangeably. Both mean that a person is raped by someone they know.

Date rape is when someone you’re dating, hooking up with or trying to get to know in a romantic way forces you to have sex without your consent. If you tell someone that you don’t want to have sex or do not give consent and they force you, it’s rape. It’s rape even if you’ve had sex with that person before or started to have sex but then changed your mind.

Acquaintance rape is when someone you are familiar with (a friend or coworker, for example) forces you to have sex against your will.

Date and acquaintance rape can happen to males as well as females. The overwhelming majority of people who are raped— 82 percent according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics—know the person who raped them. Both date and acquaintance rape take advantage of the trust that someone places in another person because they are familiar with them.

Can guys be raped, too?

Yes. Often, people hear the words “rape” or “sexual assault” and automatically figure the victim is female. This isn’t always true. Males can be raped. Also, females can rape people. Regardless of how rape is defined legally, being forced to do something sexually that you did not agree to is always wrong and can have lasting effects, regardless of your sex or the sex of the person who raped you.

A guy can be penetrated by a penis or object, anally, for example. And despite what some people think, a guy can also be forced to have vaginal intercourse. Just because a guy has an erection doesn’t necessarily mean that he wants sex. An erection is simply a response to stimulation—a normal, involuntary reaction that the body has—and it sometimes can happen out of fear, shock or for no clear reason at all.

It’s hard for anyone to report rape or sexual assault. A guy might feel like he’s not a “real man” if he was raped, or he may feel like no one would believe him because he’s been taught that guys should always want and have sex if the situation arises. If the person who rapes him was a male, he might worry the rape “made him gay.” Or he may worry that others will think he’s gay. If a gay or bisexual guy is raped by another guy, people sometimes think that he was “asking for it” or that he’s making it up. These are all examples of myths that are out there that can make it even more difficult for guys who have been raped to get help. Just like anyone who has experienced rape, guys have nothing to feel guilty about or ashamed of if they are raped. It’s not their fault.

Someone guilty of rape—whether they are male or female—has hurt another person physically and psychologically and broken a law. Someone who has been raped has the right to heal physically and emotionally.