Bedroom Insider

A blog about relationships, intimacy and sex toys.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Talking About Safer Sex

Woman with Condom Packet in Underwear

How did it go the last time you engaged in sexual activities with a new partner? Was it awkward? Did you discuss condoms and birth control? Did you gloss over the whole thing and wish for the best?

Perhaps you've already dealt with negative repercussions because you didn't take safer sex seriously, or you may be wanting to make sex for the first time go as smoothly as possible. Safer sex is definitely something you need to consider then!

Safer Sex Protects You

Perhaps you don't know how crucial safer sex is. This is especially true for people who had little to no sex education, and the recipients of sex ed that focused on abstinence only. Instead of teaching about how the risks of sex can be minimized, many try to instill a fear of sex. However, this leads to bad sex and actually encourages risky behavior.

There's an even greater lack of guidance when it comes to talking about sex, which can be tricky at the best of times. These talks can remind us of partners who weren't receptive or bring up feelings of guilt surrounding our pleasure, neither of which are productive.

It becomes much easier to talk about safer sex when you stick to big-picture thinking. Sure, talking about it might be a little awkward now. But if you don't have a talk, you could wind up with some consequences that are far worse than a little awkwardness or missing the chance to have sex with someone, including becoming pregnant and having to choose to have a child or abortion.

STIs are another serious risk, and the consequences vary depending upon the infection. For instance, you might wind up with abnormal Pap smear results from HPV and find yourself visiting your provider more frequently. If you're fortunate, you'll have an asymptomatic strain. Less fortunate women have contracted a strain of HPV that lead to cervical cancer and infertility.

HPV and other infections that cause periodic breakouts will limit your sexual activity in the future. You may always have to use condoms, even when you decide to become fluid-bonded with a single partner, or you may have to avoid certain activities entirely during a breakout. Medication, whether temporary or prescribed for life, is a reality for the many people who have had an STI.

This isn't our attempt to slut-shame anyone or to scare you away from sex. Quite the opposite is true. Sex can be pleasurable and a wonderful way to show someone that you care. Through sex, you can learn more about yourself and other people, but there are risks, some of which are quite severe. Being able to talk about safer sex and sexual histories can prevent much of this stress and keep your body healthier, and it doesn't take a lot of effort!

The Talk Can Be Easy
There is another common reason that people avoid discussing safer sex: they're worried that they will have to disclose their sexual history and have to learn the same about their partner in return. It can be difficult to admit to someone the number of partners you've had, and it can cause shame if you haven't always practiced safer sex.

Furthermore, many people find it upsetting to learn about their partner's sexual pasts. But there are a few things you should keep in mind so that this doesn't interfere with talking about safer sex.

1. Most people have a sexual past. There are previous romantic and sexual partners, and that doesn't negate your current relationship, nor does it invalidate any feelings that you and your partner share.

2. Your disclosure doesn't need to include hard numbers or names, just the relevant information. This could just mean when you were last tested for STIs and the results of those tests. That's it.

Logically, there only exists reasons to talk with your partner about safer sex, but even if you know that you might not know what to say. A lot of people think there's a perfect time or that it needs to be formal. Neither is true. You should talk about safer sex before engaging in activities such as anal, oral or vaginal sex, and the conversation doesn't have to be awkward or long.

You could simply say “My STI panel came back clean last week, and I prefer to use condoms with my partners even though I'm also on the pill. Is there anything I should know?” This opens up the conversation to your partner's test results and preferred methods of protection against pregnancy and STIs.

If you don't want to interrupt sex, simply keep a few condoms (or gloves, dental dams, etc.) on hand. Don't rely on your partner to have those things. For a casual encounter, keep those things in place sight, so there's no reason not to use them.

Safer sex talks don't have to be uncomfortable, even though many of us worry they will be. The two of you could have a fun time shopping for them together. Do you like unique shapes or special features? Lubricated or not? What about your partner?

Because so many people rely on condoms with their casual sex partners, these conversations are also a good way to talk about latex allergies and size issues. Fortunately, all major condoms companies make non-latex condoms as well as those that come in larger sizes. Trojan's Magnum line is just one example. The Female Condom is both non-latex and roomier than a traditional male condom, which can help you have sex without worrying.

During conversations about safer sex, one partner might express disinterest in using protection. It might be because it doesn't feel good or because of the issues mentioned above with latex and sizing. Knowing how to navigate those issues can keep your sex life as safe as possible, and if your partner isn't willing to do the sensible thing, consider this a sign that it's not meant to be.

If someone pushes you to have sex without first talking about safety precautions or ignores your desires, there's no need to have sex with this person. Stand your ground. Make a clear argument using some of the examples listed in this article! Be willing to walk away if you have to.

Here are just a few more tips to make the conversation go smoothly.

  • Use “I” statements about your tests, preferences and more. Use yourself as the example to help put your partner at ease. 
  • Don't become defensive if your partner brings up the subject. It doesn't mean they're accusing you of being a “slut” or anything like that. It's just smart sex.
  • Add humor if it helps, but don't make fun of your partner.

Ask anyone who's had to deal with consequences of not practicing safer sex because they were afraid to talk about it, and they'll likely tell you they would change their actions if they could back. Talking about – and engaging in – safer sex is ultimately easy and prevents potentially life-altering results.

By: Adriana Ravenlust
Follow on Twitter @adriana_r