28 Aug 2018

Safer sex can lead to better sex

"I rarely encounter relationships in which a woman uses contraception without the approval of her partner" -- an interview with a sexologist reveals the challenges of making an informed and equal decision when it comes to contraception.

Wysokie Obcasy
Krystyna Romanowska Wysokie Obcasy, Global
Safer sex can lead to better sex - NewsMavens
Pencil erasers, PixaBay

The following fragments are from Krystyna Romanowska’s interview with the psychologist and sexologist Andrzej Gryżewski, which appeared in “Wysokie Obcasy” in September 2017.

Krystyna Romanowska: Do men have more of an influence on women's contraception than women would like?

Andrzej Gryżewski: Women want to decide this issue for themselves and I fully support them in this. But I rarely see relationships in which a woman will use a form of contraception which has not been approved by her partner.

In one case a woman had a tubal ligation because the partner demanded sex with penetration and ejaculation all the time. She hid the proceedure for a year or two before she told him. He then increased the frequency of intercourse, because he wanted to prove to her that he could get her pregnant anyway.

Maybe this will shock your readers, but unfortunately there are unpleasant aspects of many relationships that do not go beyond the four walls of a house or the sexologist's office.

KR: What do men know about women's physiology?

They know that women get pregnant. That’s often about it. Woman’s physiology petrifies many men. Every day in my practice I hear men demand that their partners not conceive.

I get annoyed when I hear them ask their spouses: “Can you have sex tonight?”. As if each woman had a remote control to manage her own fertility.

Usually, it goes like this:

She says: “I can’t tonight. I’m ovulating.”

Man: “Why are you ovulating? I want to have sex.”

Woman: “We can use a condom.”

He moans: “I don’t want to wear a condom.”

She: “Then, I’ll probably get pregnant.”

He: “Just try not to.”

KR: What’s your reaction after hearing that?

I ask whether he’s in charge of his sperm cells’ fertility. He replies: “They are warriors -- always ready willing and able to fertilize.”

Yet at the same time, many men are convinced that a woman gets pregnant only when she chooses to. And if she does get pregnant, it’s her own responsibility, even though they have both engaged in intercourse, and it’s the man who fertilizes the woman.

Did you know that there are men out there thinking that if a raped woman doesn’t want to get pregnant, then she won’t?

KR: You can’t be serious!

I am! And this lack of knowledge is embarrassing. I also know what causes it -- many men learn about sex from porn, conversations with their friends and the poor sexual education courses offered at school.

KR: Why do some men avoid condoms?

Many men choose the contraceptive options which they find the most convenient for themselves. That’s why many prefer the risky pull-out method rather than a condom.

KR: I’ve heard that the pull-out method is neither sex nor contraception.

It’s true. A man has to make sure that he’s excited enough to stay erect but not to finish. Meanwhile the woman is unable to relax and enjoy it because she’s constantly worried whether he’ll pull out in time. I’d also like to stress that coitus interruptus is not and will never be a “true” contraception method.

This type of interrupted intercourse can cause a loss of libido among women which stems from a fear of potential pregnancy. Constantly worrying “will he pull out before it’s too late” is not a particularly arousing thought.

KR: If these men don’t like using condoms, how about hormonal contraception methods?

Many men are reluctant and afraid of it because they think that “it could reduce a woman’s sex drive and make her irritable, fat and unattractive” or “she might start to smell differently.”  They are also afraid that the pill will affect the woman’s sex drive somehow. Some men even wonder “what will my parents think?”!

KR: Truly?

Yes, unfortunately I hear these things in my office quite often. And as for other methods, such as the intrauterine contraceptive (IUD), also known as the “coil”, many men are even more fearful of it, and afraid that their penis might touch it ...and become trapped?

I know! (laughs) Or that fertilization might occur and the fetus gets caught up in it.

KR: Are contraceptive patches acceptable [to these men]?

No, because they [worry that they] might fall off. Or, what’s more [according to some], “a woman wearing a patch is promiscuous”. Apparently some fear that other males might see the patch as an invitation to free, no-strings-attached sex with their partner.

KR: Does this lack of communication about contraception reveal inequalities in the relationship?

Surely. Especially if a man considers himself the “head” of a family. I have several female patients who are declared feminists  and participate in marches and strikes. But when put in an erotic situation, they still find it difficult to say: “No. Get a condom”.

Too many men are primarily concerned about birth control side-effects or their own predjudices and they barely notice the advantages of contraception and the great pleasure they [and their partner] could be experiencing from safe sex.

KR: So how can couples make a decision about contraception?

Couples should discuss contraception together, but the woman should have the deciding vote when choosing.

It’s  also important for women to talk about contraception with professional gynecologists.

KR: Have you treated couples who have successfully agreed on a contraception method together?

I have seen positive examples of couples who learn to cooperate. They came to me with erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, lack of orgasm or pain during intercourse. But often it turns out that the primary difficulty was psychological in nature -- primarily a fear of pregnancy. [And after they learned to communicate about contraception] their sex life looked completely different: full of freedom, freedom, understanding, without stress and fear. This lack of worry can be an aphrodisiac.


Andrzej Gryzewski -- psychologist, sexologist and cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist,  specialising in sex addiction treatment.  Co-author of "Jak facet z facetem. Rozmowy o seksualności" [“Man to Man - Conversations about Sexuality”].

--Translated from Polish by Martyna Kardach


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