QI have a very good relationship with my granddaughter who is 20-yearsold, and she and her friends are mostly sexually active. She told me that it is common for girls in her circle to insist on condom use, only to discover that their male partners have removed the condom at the last minute before sex, without telling them. She said it's a thing that women her age have to worry about now. Have you heard of this? How are women supposed to keep themselves from getting pregnant if this is happening?
A I was told about this very thing last week by a concerned mother of a young woman of similar age. I've heard of this happening, but I can't tell you how common it is.
It's a very worrying issue on every level. From the female perspective, it is her right to have intercourse without the fear of pregnancy or disease. It's her right to have her wishes respected and to feel secure in her decision to use condoms and be safe.
It's great that young women are taking responsibility for their safety and to think that their male counterparts are actively destroying any chance of safety is terribly disturbing.
I wonder how some men come to the conclusion that it's okay to disrespect anyone like that - including themselves?
STIs are a serious problem, as are unwanted pregnancies. As our law stands, however, it may seem easy for men to walk away from a pregnancy they caused, while leaving the young woman to cope with (under current law) carrying, giving birth to and raising a baby she didn't want, with a man who she probably would never want to see again.
It's astounding to me that the young men who do this are so short-sighted and entitled, that they think only of their own pleasure and power, and nothing of the health, respect or boundaries of the person they're having sex with. This to me, is a pure example of rape culture, where women are reduced to objects. It dishonours men, especially the majority who wouldn't dream of behaving in this way, and it damages women.
From a practical perspective, we know that even when there was no contraception, young people had sex. We need to be realistic and work towards educating our young people to value each other and themselves, to empathise and to feel pride in being decent and kind.
It is pointless to imagine that somehow we can turn back the clocks to a (make-believe) time when nobody had sex out of wedlock. Instead, we need to help our young people to be the best they can be while being sexual.
Sex does not have to be a threat, or a burden or a sin. But until we start educating in a way that removes the negativity from sex, some people are going to continue to behave really badly, because they have nothing else modelled for them.
As for the young women, I'm so sorry they have to go through all the fear and worry that goes with the possibility of having contracted an STI or having become pregnant. It's soul-destroying to hear of such things.
Q I am in a relationship with a man who has a strong Catholic faith. We both go to mass and I like his values around sex, marriage and in general. He lives a good life, helps people and respects people. I think I am very similar. Except I'm pro-choice and he's anti-abortion. He's voting 'no' and I'm voting 'yes' and while we've tried to discuss it, we can't agree. He's okay with that, but I'm finding it really hard to remain close to him because I feel he's disrespecting women (me) and not trusting them (me). His vote will impact me and maybe our daughters if we ever get that far. I think he's a great person but this is really affecting me. How can I get past it?
A While I can't discuss the referendum, or tell people how to vote, I think the issue you raise is a useful one to explore.
Sometimes it happens that a couple will hit a difference in values or opinions and it can be incredibly challenging to find a way past it. I do think it's important to acknowledge that for many women, hearing their loved one is voting differently to them can feel personal, in this case as the referendum is ostensibly speaking about women.
I think that for some women, it won't be possible to make peace with a partner's opposing views, and possibly some men will feel that way too. Not everything can be fixed.
We're brought up to believe that a good relationship equals people agreeing and sharing everything. But that's a myth. The truth is, that if people want to stay together, they'll need to learn how to love and dislike at the same time.
The trick is to weigh up what's important to you, and then figure out if your person ticks enough boxes overall to make it worth while putting up with what you don't like. Political or social values are important, but so is kindness and respect.
While this is a very important issue, and it hits many of us in a very real and personal way, it will pass for better or for worse. Will you both be kind and loving to the other when the votes are in? Will you allow space and time for the other to recover and come to terms with the vote?
The reality is that we're contradictory animals and we have many dualities playing out all the time. So it's not unusual to be in love with someone we disagree with on certain issues.
It's also possible that if you stay together, over time, opinions may change. The more open and curious your discussions, the more room there is for movement. People tend not to change their views when they feel defensive.
It's also okay to step back from discussing an issue you don't agree on, and to refocus on the bits you love about each other. It's also okay to slow things down until you feel more able to be close with him. This is a big deal and it's not a good idea to force yourself to be intimate if you're not feeling it.
Finally, it's also not a failure of any kind to end a relationship due to a disagreement like this. So give yourself permission to leave, so that if you stay, you're doing it because you know you really want to. That's a much more powerful place to work from than one of obligation or fear. I hope you find your way through.