Image source: HopelesslyFalling27
Coach Carr has it all wrong when it comes to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but he’s not the only one with misconceptions in that department. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a sexpert to have safer sex (although we highly encourage it!)—you just have to be proactive about prevention, testing, and (if needed) treatment.
If your desire for sexual activity is overriding your commitment to personal safety, you have to deal with that. From STIs to criminal activity, out-of-control sexual behavior can put you at risk for injury, illness, arrest, or harm.
STD Awareness Month is drawing to a close, but there’s still time to get aware, get safer, and get your test if you haven’t already!
There’s also time to read the awesome comprehensive safer sex series The STD Project wrote for our tumblr, watch Veralyn Williams’ video on 5 Facts About STDs That You Should Know (and Probably Don’t), and learn more about birth control methods that prevent STIs over on Bedsider.org.
Comprehensive Safer Sex 3: Take it to the next level
As part of STD Awareness Month, Jenelle Marie of The STD Project is contributing a three-part series to our tumblr (along with an article for Bedsider.org) sharing her experiences with STIs and her suggestions for how to have the safest sex possible. This is the final post of the series.
Always bring a raincoat even if you’re not expecting rain. Image source: George Eastman House
When thinking about a comprehensive safer-sex regimen, it helps to keep in mind things that are not considered part of safer-sex too, because it’s really easy to get overwhelmed or a bit confused when you’re trying to be as responsible with your sexual health as possible.
Although sex comes with some hefty implications for your health and emotional well-being, it doesn’t have to be all business and no play. In fact, adding humor to your safer-sex plan can make those steps seem less cumbersome. When you can laugh about the things that seem a bit awkward, you lighten the mood and open the opportunity to explore and learn together.
This shouldn’t be a deal breaker for a partner. In fact, it should be very sexy to them that you’re conscientious and careful. If it’s not, you should ask yourself if this is the right person for you. Someone who cares about their body and their health is also more apt to care about you, your body, and your health. Do you really want to get intimate with someone who doesn’t place safer sex on their list of priorities?
At the end of the day, you and your partner have to decide which risks you’re willing to accept, and how you’re most comfortable negotiating them together. Whether it’s for a long-term relationship or just for a night, it should be the responsibility of both partners to talk about safer sex and prepare to be sexually healthy in the bedroom.
If you’re already living with an STI…
We talk about STIs in depth on The STD Project and provide a lot of the basic information you can find on sexual health websites alongside the grey areas most people are afraid to talk about—how to live with and have healthy relationships with an STI, when to tell someone you have an STI, how to tell someone you have an STI, and more.
Whether you’re living with an STI or doing your best to educate yourself about how to avoid them, a comprehensive safer-sex approach is the sexiest and safest way to be sexually healthy.
Comprehensive Safer Sex 2: Reduce your risk!
As part of STD Awareness Month, Jenelle Marie of The STD Project is contributing a three-part series to our tumblr (along with an article for Bedsider.org) sharing her experiences with STIs and her suggestions for how to have the safest sex possible. This is the second post of the series.
Talk to your partner before getting down to your skivvies. Photo by The US National Archives.
While you can’t eliminate all risk when getting intimate with a partner, a comprehensive approach that includes prevention and communication can greatly reduce your likelihood of contracting an infection as I have. Taking these 4 comprehensive safer-sex steps not only reduces your risk but exudes responsibility, ownership, and empowerment.
1. Talk to your partner about safer sex before anything happens.These conversations should include questions like:
- Have either of us—or any of our partners—ever had an STI? When? Did we get treated? Did it come back and/or were we re-tested after treatment?
- Have we been tested—if so, when, for which STIs, and have we had partners since?
- How many sexual partners have we had in the last six months—what did we do to make sex safer? Have we been tested since?
- What do we usually do to make sex safer and what do we plan to do when we engage in sexual activities with one another?
2. Have full STI screenings and sexual health exams at least once a year and more often if you have new or multiple partners.
- Before engaging in sexual activities with someone new, get tested together. If either of you had other partners recently, get tested again in 3 months to eliminate false negatives and use barriers until testing is complete.
- Get tested before and after each new partner.
3. Use barriers consistently and correctly.
- When using a condom, place a drop or two of lube on the inside, and lots on the outside. LUBE is EVERYONE’s friend.
- Never use more than one condom at a time.
- When using a dam, place a drop or two of lube on the side facing the genitals.
- When switching entry points (anal to vaginal, vice-a-versa, etc.) use a new condom.
- Use condoms or barriers for oral sex as well as penetrative sex.
- Do not use flavored condoms for anal or vaginal sex.
- Only use water-based or silicon-based, sugar-free lube with condoms—no lotions, vaseline, oils, etc.
4. Consider making safer lifestyle choices to reduce risk.
- Reduce the number of multiple partners (one after another or more than one at a time).
- Limit/eliminate drugs and alcohol when engaging in sexual activities.
- Be mutually exclusive with your partner.
Check in on April 18th for the final post of this series, “Comprehensive Safer Sex 3: Take it to the next level.”
Jenelle Marie is the Founder & Executive Director of The STD Project—an award-winning independent website and progressive movement aimed at eradicating STD stigma by facilitating and encouraging awareness, education, and acceptance through story-telling and resource recommendations. You can also find The STD Project on Facebook and Twitter. Look for her E-Book, ‘The Relationship Survival Guide to Living with an STD’ available in 2013.
Do you know everything you need to know about STDs? …Are you sure?
The Fine Art of Condom Negotiation
Why the need for STD Awareness Month? Well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 20 million new sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) occur in the United States each year, and half of them happen among young people ages 15–24. It’s scary to think so many young people have not gotten the memo that safer sex is a must.
It should go without saying that a big part of practicing safer sex is using a condom—every time. And yes—in “the heat of the moment” negotiating condom use can be difficult. That’s why in a perfect world that conversation would always happen long before the foreplay starts. But of course we live in the REAL world, where things tend to move quickly. So how can we get our partner on board for using protection? I talked to 3 sexual health educators who offered the following pointers:
#1 take-away here: Make using a condom fun! And as I recently learned during a Harlem United Tea Party (the name of their safe sex presentations), one way to do that is by putting on the condom with your mouth. (If you’ve never seen it done, check out Putting on a condom w/ NO HANDS, starting at 6:21). During our interview, sex educator Tasha Douge explains why this method can be highly effective:
What are your secrets to negotiating condom use? Share them in the comments below!
Veralyn Williams is a Multimedia Freelance Journalist currently working in New York City. She has spent 4 years at WNYC Radio working with various departments including: Radio Rookies, Culture, News, and Freakonomics. She also freelances for Black Enterprise, BronxNet Television, Bedsider, and The Museum for African Art. Her independent work is featured on her website VeralynMedia.com. Through all of her endeavors she aims to give a voice to perspectives that are often forgotten in the media.