You’ve probably heard of safer sex guidelines, which are designed to protect you from STDs and STIs. Most people find it difficult to talk to others because sex is considered taboo. Everyone has an opinion on the best way to practice safe sex, and sometimes, birth control and internal condoms aren’t easily understood.
It’s time to learn everything you can about protected sex, including how to make it feel better. Let’s get started!
What’s Safer Sex?
Safer sex focuses on protecting you and your partners from getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) through vaginal fluids and semen.
Overall, safe sex can keep you healthy, make sex better, and prevent pregnancy.
How Will Safe Sex Protect from STDs?
STDs can be passed between people during sexual activity. Anyone who has anal sex, oral sex, genital skin-to-skin contact, vaginal sex, or who shares any sexual fluids with others can get them. Safer sex means that you’re taking the steps necessary to protect yourself and your partners from STDs during sex.
There are many ways to make sex safer. One of them is using a barrier, including dental dams, internal condoms, external condoms, and nitrile or latex gloves. This should happen any time you have anal, oral, and vaginal sex or do something that might pass fluids, such as using sex toys. Barriers protect people from skin-to-skin contact and sexual fluids, which spread STDs.
You should get tested regularly for STDs as part of safer sex. Even if you use a condom each time and feel fine, you may not realize you have one. Most STDs have no symptoms, so people can pass their infection to others. Testing is really the only way to truly know if you’ve got an STI.
Getting tested can also protect you. If you get an STD, you can receive appropriate treatments to avoid giving it to others and stay healthy.
Generally, it’s wise to stick to sexual activities that rarely spread STDs, such as mutual masturbation (masturbating with another person) or outercourse. You can easily get pleasure and be intimate with others safely. However, if people remove their underwear and touch each other or are sexually active, barrier protection is the way to go for safer sex!
Likewise, if you touch the other person’s genitals with your hands, wash them before handling your mouth, eyes, and genitals to avoid passing along fluids. Those who share sex toys should wash them with soapy water or a special cleanser for that purpose before touching them to another person’s body. Condoms also work on toys! Make sure you change it before using it on someone else.
One more way to have safer sex is by avoiding drugs and excessive alcohol use. When you get wasted, it’s easy to forget how important safe sex is, which means you might make decisions that could increase the risk of getting an STD. Likewise, it’s challenging to use condoms properly and remember safe sex basics when you’re high or drunk.
The only way to be completely sure you don’t get an STD is by never having sexual contact with another person. However, that doesn’t work for most people; we are sexually intimate at some point in life. Therefore, if you plan to have sex, make it safer by following the tips below and understanding the basics.
How Do You Really Get STDs?
STDs are often passed between partners during anal, oral, and vaginal sex. There are various STDs out there. Some get carried in the body fluids, such as blood, vaginal fluids, and semen (cum). Others are passed from skin-to-skin contact with the infected area.
Using barrier protection, such as dams and condoms, could help you avoid those fluids from genital sex. Not using condoms can increase the risk of getting an STD.
All STDs could infect the genitals. Vaginal and anal sex without a condom spreads these diseases:
- Pubic lice
- Hepatitis B
- Genital warts and HPV
Sometimes, STDs infect the throat, mouth, and lips. Having oral sex without a dam or condom could spread these diseases:
- Hepatitis B
Likewise, some STDs might be passed with skin-on-skin action when there are no fluids present. These can include:
- Molluscum contagiosum
- Pubic lice
- Genital warts and HPV
Remember that any activity passing sexual fluids, such as sharing sex toys and touching other people’s genitals with sexual fluids on the hand, could spread STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia. However, using barrier protection, such as latex/nitrile gloves, dental dams, and female/male condoms, can lower that contact level and prevent the spreading of STDs.
Ways to Prevent STDs
Condoms are one form of barrier contraceptive. They stop the sperm from going into the anus, mouth, or vagina, which lessens the risk of getting STIs.
Types of barrier protection methods include:
- Male Condom (External Condom) – These are thin and strong latex condoms that come in various sizes and styles. However, non-latex condoms are available if you’re allergic to the latex.
- Female Condom (Internal Condoms) – This is a soft pouch made using synthetic rubber and looks similar to external condoms. There are two flexible rings on each end. Typically, the female condom is one size and lubricated, so they fit into the anus or vagina. Vaginal fluids can come out, but sperm cannot get inside.
- Diaphragm – This is a soft and shallow cup made using silicone that will fit into the vagina to cover the cervix (the entrance to the womb or uterus). They offer good protection from pregnancy but not from STIs. Consider using them along with a male condom for the best results.
- Dental Dam – A dental dam is made of polyurethane or latex sheets that sit between the vagina and mouth or anus and mouth and are used for oral sex. You can purchase them online, and some pharmacies carry them, as well.
You can find female/male condoms at pharmacies (chemists), supermarkets, sexual health clinics, or family planning clinics, such as Planned Parenthood. Some nightclubs, universities, colleges, and pubs also have vending machines where you may buy them.
Having Safer Sex with Barrier Protection Methods
Follow these tips when you use latex condoms or other barrier methods to have safe sex:
- Check the package’s use-by date, and never use a male or female condom after its expiration date.
- Always use a lubricated and new condom each time you have sex.
- Be careful when opening the packet so that you don’t tear your condom with jewelry, teeth, or fingernails.
- Remember, a diaphragm offers a lower protection from STIs than other options.
- Use dental dams (sheets of latex worn over the genitals) for oral sex.
- Consider using latex gloves during “fingering” play of the anus or vagina.
- Use condoms on your sex toys and vibrators when sharing with sexual partners.
- Condoms must be used from the beginning to the end of sex. STIs could be transmitted when a partner pre-cums (pre-ejaculates) from arousal.
- If you require extra lubricant, make sure you’re using only water-based lubricants. Others could damage the condom.
Using Condoms Effectively and Correctly
Even if you use a male or female condom correctly each time, that doesn’t guarantee full protection against unplanned pregnancy or STIs. While they are crucial for safe sex, condoms:
- Could break if you don’t use water-based lubricants and don’t store them correctly
- Don’t cover the entire area of the genital skin, so you could still get STIs, such as scabies, pubic lice, genital herpes, and genital warts, because of skin-to-skin contact
- Work best with a water-based lubricant, as oil-based lubricants can cause them to break
- Could be damaged in the heat, especially after storing them in hot places for long periods (vehicle glove boxes, wallets, etc.)
- Have an expiration date and shouldn’t be used after that time
- Are only for single use and should never be reused
Are Certain Kinds of Sex Safer?
Yes! If you want completely safe sex, the best thing to do is to avoid sex altogether, but that’s not likely. Other risk-free ways to receive sexual pleasure or be intimate with others include:
- Dry humping or grinding with your clothes on
- Touching a partner’s genitals with the hands without getting sexual fluids on or in your genitals or mouth
Lower-risk activities can include using sex toys with your partner, kissing, oral sex, and dry humping without clothing. However, it’s still possible to get some STIs from those options, so always use dams or condoms to avoid skin contact and fluids.
Oral sex is generally much safer if you’re worried about HIV. However, you can still get other infections from oral sex, such as syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, and HPV. Therefore, any kind of sex you have should include dams and condoms. For this reason, you may want to look into oral sex toys.
Vaginal Sex and Anal Sex
It’s super risky to have vaginal sex or anal sex without a condom. You could get any STD listed and some that aren’t if you’re not protected. Overall, the best way to stay safe while having anal and vaginal sex is by using a new condom each time. Likewise, if lubricant is needed, ensure that it’s safe to use on condoms.
Tips for Safer Sex
Sex should be enjoyable, and safe sex means being ready and prepared. All forms of sex should be consensual, and both parties should feel protected and respected. This includes:
- Anal Sex – Inserting the penis and other objects (fingers, dildos, and other sex toys) into another person’s anus
- Vaginal – Inserting the penis into the vagina
- Oral – Using the tongue, lips, or mouth to stimulate a partner’s anus or genitals
You can practice safe sex by:
- Talk with your partner openly and honestly about your sexual health. Tell them your sexual needs and what you wish to explore for sexual pleasure.
- Limit the number of sexual partners you have.
- Get tested for STIs regularly.
- Get treated if you get an STI. Avoid any sexual contact until you are cleared by a medical professional, indicating you’re no longer infectious.
- Avoid sex if you’re affected by alcohol and drugs. These can cloud your judgment, which leads to regret later.
- Tell your partner if they’re pressuring you or making you feel uncomfortable. The law states that sex has to be consensual. This means respecting the other person’s decision when they say no or can’t consent.
- Use various contraception types along with a condom to avoid pregnancy.
It’s wise to avoid sex if the sexual partner:
- Is on her period
- Has a throat infection
- Has inflamed or unhealed piercings around the genitals or mouth
- Has cuts, sores, blisters, ulcers, rashes, and warts around the anus, mouth, or genitals (such as anal fissures and hemorrhoids)
Other Safer Practices
You can have safer sex without getting bored. The goal is to create intimacy within your relationship, and sex is only one part of that. You may experience sexual pleasure through physical contact and foreplay. Other ways that can reduce your risk of getting an STI can include:
- Sexual intercourse with barrier protection (condoms)
- Masturbation (individually or with different sexual partners) and ejaculating on the skin (unbroken)
Avoid Risky Situations
Sometimes, certain situations can increase your risk of developing an STI. It’s harder to have safe sex during these times:
- Believing you know that someone has an STD because there are symptoms involved
- Thinking it’s okay once
- Feeling pressured by your sexual partner
- Being drunk or high on drugs like shrooms, which leads to impaired decisions
Your sexual health is important, and you always have the right to say no if you’re uncomfortable with a situation.
How to Have Safer Sex with an STD
Learning you have an STD means knowing about safer sex so that you don’t pass it on. Most STDs are cured with medication or can be treated, so you’re less likely to give the disease or infection to others.
Practice safe sex by using this checklist:
- Always use dental dams and condoms during sex, regardless of whether you’ve got an STD.
- Do not have sexual contact if you have symptoms relating to STDs (sores/warts around the genitals, itching/pain/irritation/swelling of the anus/vulva/vagina/penis, and discharge from the penis/vagina/anus).
- See a doctor to get treated for the STD.
- Take all the medication just as prescribed for a curable STD. The infection could stay in the body until the medicine is finished. Avoid sexual contact until you’ve completed treatment and the doctor clears you for sex.
- Discuss your options and sexual health with a doctor about incurable STDs. There are various medications available to lower the risk of spreading it to others.
Communicate with Sexual Partners
Always tell your partner about your sexual history before having sex. They have the right to refuse to avoid the risk themselves. If they’re compatible with you, they’ll work with you to create a safe sex plan that meets both of your needs. Never lie about having an STI! This is illegal in some US states, but it’s also rude and damaging to other people.
How to Make Safe Sex Feel Good
Protection is crucial, but you also crave pleasure. Luckily, safer sex can do both! An easy way to make safer sex feel good is by making it sexy. Kiss and touch each other’s bodies while getting the protection out. Keep up the mood by letting your partner put on the dam or condom.
When using internal condoms, the partner can insert them into the anus or vagina. It’s all about attitude here. If you feel good about using protection, it will feel good while using it!
There are countless condom types on the market, so you can easily find one that feels good and fits correctly. Some are designed to increase the sensations and include ribbing, studs, ultra-thin material, colors, and special lubricants.
When using internal condoms for safer sex, the inner ring could stimulate the man’s penis, while the external one rubs against the woman’s clitoris or vulva. Sometimes, condoms make sex last longer, too!
Using more lubricant is another great way to make sex feel good and keep you protected. Add a few drops into the condom before putting it on, or rub it on your genitals. Flavored lube and condoms work well for oral sex, and some people even enjoy the feeling of receiving oral sex through the dental dam.
Stress can ruin your sex time. Safer sex is always better because you can focus on the pleasure for you and your partner without the fear of STDs. When you know you’re protecting yourself and others from pregnancy and STDs, you are being responsible, and that’s a proud moment.
Likewise, it’s best to talk to your partner about protection, STDs, and getting STI testing to strengthen your bond and relationship, increase trust and intimacy, and improve communication.
Making Safe Sex More Convenient
Condoms and other barriers don’t protect against STIs unless you use them, so it’s best to have protection nearby to stick to your safer sex game plan. Luckily, they’re portable, small, and easily stashed in a backpack or purse. Consider keeping condoms and lube by the bed, too!
You can make safe sex convenient by adding condoms to the foreplay. Put it on your partner and rub the lube on while kissing and touching. In a sense, the condom is part of the action instead of preventing it. When using internal condoms, put them in before sexy time to be spontaneous.
If you plan to become or are sexually active, safe sex is crucial. Buy condoms without fear or embarrassment, or find places that give out free condoms.
What to Do If You’ve Had Unprotected Sex
Speak to a nurse or doctor about getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sometimes, STDs show up early, and others take longer. Therefore, you should focus on your sexual health and get tested immediately.
Though you or your sexual partners might experience symptoms, you could both be asymptomatic. Even if you feel okay, part of safe sex is getting tested. You don’t have to do so after every sexual encounter, but once or twice a year is sufficient.
If you’re worried about an unplanned pregnancy, you should consider emergency contraception. The morning-after pill often prevents pregnancy five or fewer days after sex.
What If You Think You Have an STI/STD
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are very common, and almost everyone will get one during their lifetime. Most are curable, but all sexually transmitted diseases have treatment options.
If you’re sexually active, you should be tested once a year with a urine or blood test. Make sure you know your sexual history and speak to your doctor about the possibility of STI exposure. This includes:
- Noticing symptoms after having unprotected sex
- Condom slippage or breakage during sex
- Starting a new relationship (with a casual partner)
- Becoming pregnant or planning to start a family
How to Use Sex Toys
Whether alone or with sexual partners, a sex toy can add excitement and interest to the relationship. You can’t get pregnant from them, but they could spread STIs. Therefore, you should always sterilize or wash them between uses. Consider using latex condoms over the toys to keep them clean and reduce your risk of infection.
Types of Sex Toys
You can increase the fun for every sexual encounter with mutual masturbation or go at it alone when you don’t have someone around. There are many types of sex toys, including:
- Vibrators (personal massagers or vibes)
- Sleeves (strokers or penis sleeves)
- Anal toys (plugs, beads, wide-based dildos, and prostate massagers)
- Penis rings (ED rings and cock rings)
- Pumps (vacuum or penis pumps)
- Ben Wa balls (Kegel balls or orgasm balls)
- Packers (prosthetics)
- Harnesses (strap-ons)
The Difference Between an STI and STD
STDs are sexually transmitted diseases, but STI means sexually transmitted infection. They’re exactly the same – an infection you get from sexual contact with another person.
Typically, sexually transmitted infections have had various names throughout the years, such as VD (venereal disease), the drip, the clap, and STD/STI.
Before every sexual encounter, you should plan to practice safe sex. Your sexual health is crucial, and you want to avoid infections whenever possible. With these safer sex guidelines, you’re sure to find enjoyment and fun without the risk. However, nothing is fully guaranteed, so you should still be careful and get tested periodically.