What Is “Safe Sex”?

As we say here at Beforeplay.org, “Safe is sexy!” And boy do we ever we believe it. But what does “safe sex” really mean? Preventing pregnancy? Getting tested for STDs? Talking to your partner? Using condoms? Actually, all of the above. Here are some important reminders when it comes to sex and safety.

1. Consent
The only time that any kind of sexual attention or activity is okay is when both you and your partner feel comfortable, communicate and agree to it—every single time. This is called consent. If you’re unsure you have consent or if you’re getting mixed signals, it’s important to stop and clarify. That’s because if someone agrees to one kind of sexual activity, it doesn’t mean they’re automatically cool with anything or even with doing the same thing again. Didn’t say or hear a clear “yes”? Then it’s a no-go. And if either one of you has been drinking or doing drugs the law says that you cannot consent.

Sometimes a person is coerced into having sex, which is absolutely, positively not okay. He or she might give consent so that their partner doesn’t get angry, violent or threatening. This isn’t just an unhealthy sexual situation, but also a very dangerous type of relationship. If you need some help with this type of situation, we’ve got some great resources listed here.

2. Preventing STD/STI Transmission
STDs, including HIV can be transmitted from an infected person to another through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. Some STDs can even be transmitted through intimate genital skin-to-skin contact. If you’ve both been tested at a health care provider or clinic (which we HIGHLY recommend) and have clean bills of health, there’s no risk of transmission. That’s the safest sex.

On the other hand, unsafe or “risky” sex is intercourse without a condom with a partner who has a sexually transmitted disease or infection such as HIV/AIDS, or with a partner who doesn’t know his or her status. Even sharing sex toys with an infected partner can cause transmission. Oftentimes people are unaware that they have an STD, so using condoms every time is key, especially with new partners or if you’re sleeping with multiple people. And clean those dildos and vibrators, people. Trust us, it makes them way more fun.

3. Preventing Unintended Pregnancy
Most women underestimate their chances of becoming pregnant without using birth control, which is somewhat startling considering the stats. Did you know that women using no birth control account for 52% of unplanned pregnancies and women using birth control inconsistently (just using it some of the time, using unreliable methods such as withdrawal or skipping pills) account for 43% of those unplanned pregnancies? Well, it’s true.

Generally, if a woman does not want to become pregnant, it’s considered unsafe sex to have vaginal intercourse without obtaining and using a reliable birth control method. There are so many effective methods to choose from and it’s pretty easy to find free or very low-cost options. In fact, women with health insurance should have no problem getting their method covered, and those who don’t yet have coverage can browse their options at Connect for Health Colorado.

Now, not everyone takes these precautions all of the time. We know how that goes. So here are some tips for reducing your risk for pregnancy, STDs and HIV:

  • If you’re going to hook up with someone you met online, at a bar or at a party, we can’t stress how important it is to use a condom. Even if you know you’re safe and healthy, you never know about his or her sexual history. It’s undeniably not worth the risk—no way, no how.
  • Forgot a condom and just can’t wait to slip between the sheets? Consider choosing oral sex instead of vaginal or anal. There’s no risk for pregnancy with oral and the risk of STD and HIV transmission is less, especially if you use a dental dam.
  • If your condom broke and you’re worried about pregnancy, a woman can take emergency contraception within 5 days. You can find it easily in most pharmacies or drug stores, or you can visit a low-cost clinic.

So that’s the long and short of safe sex. With a little bit of knowledge, some good conversation and a few precautions, it’s easy to protect yourself and your partner, and if you ask us, there’s nothing sexier than that.