Our Guide to Safer, Sexier Sex
Does the recent arrival of spring have you feeling a little extra frisky? Warmer weather equals fewer clothes, and all that exposed skin is bound to turn our thoughts towards sex. It’s probably no coincidence that STD Awareness Month is in April — it’s a great time to check in about STD education and prevention. Never fear, we’re certainly not going to tell you that you shouldn’t try to take things up a notch with that hottie across the way. There are plenty of ways to satisfy your libido without putting your sexual health at risk. Let’s talk about (safer) sex, shall we?
Testing, Testing, 123
The first step to safer sex is knowing your own sexual health status. If it’s been a while since you’ve been tested, go ahead and get that on your calendar. Just because you’re not experiencing symptoms doesn’t mean you’re in the clear — many STIs are asymptomatic.
Understanding your own sexual health status is one of the most important steps to safer sex, but it’s subject to change every time you have sexual contact with a new partner. Plan to get tested every 6 months or so to keep your knowledge up-to-date.
You know where you stand, now how about your partner? If you’re just looking to take someone home for a one-time romp, you might not want to spend a lot of time on the getting-to-know-you chit chat. A frank sexual health discussion with someone you’ve known for under 24 hours can be awkward. And are you really going to change your mind about sexing someone if the answer to, “Have you been tested recently?” is a big fat no? If this sounds like you, I want you to read the section on barrier use and safer sex alternatives carefully. Commit those rules to memory and follow them like it is your job.
If being upfront is more your speed or if this relationship is heading towards something more long term, feel free to inquire about your partner’s sexual health and testing status. It’s usually best to offer up your info first, as casually as possible. “Hey, just so you know, my last STI test was three months ago, and I was negative at the time. You?”
Please note that if you have an STI, the only ethical thing to do is disclose that info to your partner prior to sexual contact. This is part of what consent means — giving your partner all the information and agency to say yes or no.
How to Have Safer Sex
If you’re going for it with someone whose status you’re unsure of, take the proper precautions. What does that mean?
- Use latex or polyurethane condoms for all vaginal or anal penetration (natural membranes don’t protect well enough against infections)
- Use dental dams for fellatio/cunnilingus/analingus (you can make these by cutting up a condom or a latex glove)
- No genital contact before the condom goes on
- Use lube to keep the condom from drying out and breaking (Water- or silicone-based lubes only. No oil-based lubes!)
- Use a new condom every time and for every new orifice
- Be sober enough to use barriers properly
Other ways to make sex safer? Do all the sexy things that don’t involve genital contact! Outercourse/dry humping, mutual masturbation, sex toy play, and manual stimulation/fingering feel amazing and are much lower risk than penetration or oral sex. Put these tools in your sexual arsenal and wield them as needed.
We’re all taking on a certain amount of risk every time we get naked with someone else. It’s a part of life, and most of us aren’t willing to give up the joys of sexual activity to avoid any chance of STIs. Follow the guidelines above so you can play it safe while still playing around as you please!
Charlotte Sometimes is a writer, teacher, performer, and prominent member of the local sex positive community. She has been a fierce advocate for accurate and comprehensive sex education since her Catholic high school days and is excited to share her research and experience with you. Her favorite things include straight whiskey, spin the bottle, good books, feminist porn, and snuggling. Charlotte lives in Austin, TX with her partner and her partner’s partner, which is way less scandalous than it sounds.