There’s no one right way to have sex. Everyone has sex differently, and for different reasons. However, there is one thing everyone should be doing when it comes to sex: being safe.
In this blog series, we’re going to explore what safe sex means for everyone of different sexual orientations and gender identities. In order for everyone to understand how sex works and impacts your life, this series aims to help you be safe, educated, and empowered. But to start, here’s a general breakdown of what safe sex means, and the best way to practice safe sex.
What is safe sex?
Safe sex can mean a couple different things, and they all are important. Firstly, safe sex often means protecting you and your partners from sexually transmitted diseases. This means wearing/using protection, like a condom or dental dam during sexual activities (like oral, vaginal, and anal sex). This protects you and your partner(s) from sexually transmitted infections.
Safe sex can also refer to preventing conception (pregnancy). So for some people, like heterosexual women, taking birth control is a form of practicing safe sex. Please note, though, that birth control doesn't protect you from STDs. You can learn more about birth control options here.
Another important aspect of safe sex is consent. For any sexual activities between you and another person, consent must be present from all parties. Consent is verbal, clear, and affirmative. When consent isn’t considered or ignored, especially between someone who may not know very well, it can lead to concerns of sexual assault and rape.
How to do it right
Sometimes things are easier said than done. Safe sex sounds like an easy, no-brainer concept. But it’s not always that simple.
1. Use protection. Having a barrier between you and another person will protect both of you from STDs. This means condoms and dental dams during oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Condoms are also a form of contraception (birth control), and can be used to help prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancy.
2. Pick a birth control method. If it's possible for you to get pregnant (if you are a cisgender female or person with female genitalia), and you do not wish to become pregnant, make sure you are using some sort of birth control method. You can learn about birth control options here.
3. Get consent. Even though it may be obvious that you and the person you’re hooking up with wants to have sex, it’s still important to check in with them before starting anything. Again, consent is an affirmative verbal yes when discussing sexual activities.
4. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Even though a night cap often includes a glass of wine or two, being drunk can make it harder to have safe sex. If you or your partner is too drunk, getting consent may not be possible. If you’re too drunk or intoxicated, you could risk putting a condom on incorrectly. Or, you might forget to use protection all together. So even if you love your wine, know your limit and be mindful about your sobriety when you plan having sex.
5. Ask about STDs. Before you start having sex with someone, you both should discuss whether or not either of you have (or have had) any STDs. You should always use protection, but knowing your partner’s history is a component of practicing safe sex and being aware. You can learn about how to tell your partner you have an STD here.
6. Get tested. If you had unprotected sex, you should get tested immediately. Even if your partner said they do not have any STDs, it’s better to be safe than sorry. A lot of the time, people who have an STD don't have symptoms or know they're infected. If you are a male who has sex with other males, you should also get tested for HIV, and consider getting on PrEP/PEP.
Is that it?
There’s always more you can do to have safer sex. Whether it’s letting your friends know you’re going home with someone to remembering to take your PrEP the next day.
And as we mentioned, sex is different for everyone – so safer sex is a little different depending on who you are. If you're interested in birth control, PrEP, getting tested, or want to speak with a medical provider about safe sex, you can request an appointment below.