If you start thinking about sex risks and making safer sex decisions, then you’re on the right track! No matter what sexual activity you and your partner are going to do, everything must always be consensual. Decisions about having safer sex include:
- What you will and will not do.
- Decisions about the amount of risk you’re willing to take when it comes to STIs or pregnancy.
Any kind of sexual activity with a partner is not guaranteed to be 100% safe: STIs don’t always have symptoms; some people are not aware that they have them, and; the risk of pregnancy is still there even with contraception (although it is unlikely, depending on which method is used).
Practicing safe sex is the only way to protect yourself from getting any kind of STI when having sex. Safe sex can’t be practiced just sometimes or most of the time—it must be practiced always.
Using a condom is the best and easiest way to prevent getting STIs.
Condoms can also be used during oral sex to protect yourself. This is very important if you are unaware of your partner’s health status, or if you are in a non-monogamous relationship.
You are responsible for your own protection, and here are a few tips to help you stay protected:
- Use condoms correctly and consistently every time you have vaginal and/or anal intercourse. Latex condoms are the best protection against STIs, and using them with a little bit of water-based lubricant will make sex not just safe, but also better!
- Getting checked and having screenings for STIs regularly, especially if you have a new partner, or had multiple partners.
- Limit your number of partners. The more sexual partners you have, the more likely you are to contract an STI or have an unplanned pregnancy. If you have more than one partner, keep yourself safe by being smart with your sexual encounters.
- Be aware of the common symptoms of STIs, and read about them here. If you notice any signs, inform your doctor immediately. Many STIs will not show any symptoms, which is why testing is still important.
- Clean your sex toys, if you and your partner are using any. Washing and sterilizing your toys in between uses will help prevent spreading STIs, and using a latex condom with the toys will also help keep them clean. Each toy may require different ways of washing depending on the material, so carefully read the instructions that come with them.
- Avoid douching, or washing the inside of the vagina. Doing so removes some of the normal bacteria that protects the vagina, and increases the chances of contracting some STIs.
- Avoid having sex with someone who refuses to use protection, or someone whose health status you are unaware of.
- Avoid having sex when you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You might do things that you’ll regret later on when you make decisions while you’re not in the right state of mind.
Emotional risks are also present in sexual activity. Since emotions are also involved, it is very important to discuss with your partner what is okay and what is not, and to ask yourself what you are ready for, what you want, and what you are looking for in a sexual relationship.