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What is Safer Sex?

What is Safer Sex?
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It’s a buzz-term, it’s an ever-present harbinger of doom, it’s somebody else’s problem: what is safer sex, and why is it all about YOU?

  Responsibility is teh Sexay

And then there are those who solemnly swear, as if testifying before a congressional sub-committee, that introducing any articles of safety or responsibility into the sexual paradigm is tantamount to lobotomizing one’s libido.

We respectfully call bullshit.

And on the subject of brain damage…d’you remember when you were young and stupid (you were, trust us; we were, too), and just as you were on the cusp of doing something jaw-droppingly stupid, your mother would fix you with a cross eye, sort of like the Ancient Mariner, and utter to you these famous words:

“If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?”

Let’s amend that to more grown-up terms: if your potential sex-partner is your friend, and said partner wasn’t sexually responsible, would you be willing to jump off that sexual cliff, too?

Or, perhaps a more pointed question: which of the following sounds like a sexier scenario to you?

1. Saying, just before the two of you get down, “hey, baby – I really like, dig you and all that – let’s get it on. I’m clean; don’t worry – we won’t need any protection.” And then, a few weeks or months later, you go get tested, only to find a shiny new STD swimming around in your bloodstream.

2. Saying, just before the two of you get down, “hey, baby – have you been tested lately? I have – I’m clean as a whistle. But just to be sure, here’s some condoms and lube and stuff. Now let’s get it on!”

Knowledge isn’t just power; it’s sexy, too. Because it’s a lot sexier to know up-front what your (and your partner’s) potential risks are and to address them beforehand, rather than finding out later – the hard way. And if your potential partner can’t be bothered to look out for your safety, then guess what? There are plenty out there who will!

And just how does one achieve this miracle of safer sex sexiness? Well, here’s a few easy, handy tips for you.

  Get Yourself All Tricked-Out

Rule Numero Uno: Be prepared! Have safer sex supplies with you if there’s any chance of you getting, ahem, lucky. Because luck’s mirror side might not be a walk in the park. Whether you’re male, female, transsexual, or a Cylon, here’s what you should be carrying in what we like to call the Safer Sex Trick Kit*:

- 2 pairs nitrile (non-latex) gloves
- Dental dams
- Condoms (latex AND polyurethane) – 2-3 of each
- Female condom
- Pillow-packets of water-based lubricant
- PJUR med-wipes (antibacterial toy and skin cleaner)

Keep in mind that you can use the gloves as dental dams; the condoms can also be used for this purpose as well.


* For those of you not in the know, the current slanged-up incarnation of ‘trick’ refers to a person with whom one has casual sex.

  Get Your Helen Thomas On

Rule the Second: Get tested – regularly. And if you come up positive for ANY form of STD, tell your potential (and past) partners BEFORE you do anything that either of you might end up regretting. Don’t assume you’ve got it covered with a pill or a prophylactic – because your partner has every right to know what risks they might be getting themselves into.

Rule Number Three: There are no stupid questions when it comes to safer sex. So ask your partner when they were last tested. Because you have every right to know as well.

Rule Number Four: Educate yourself. Find out what STDs are out there. Find out how they’re transmitted and how they can be prevented. That way, when your partner tells you that they have (or had, or have been exposed to) a particular STD, you can make an accurate risk-evaluation and decide what course of action (or inaction, if necessary) is best for you.

Remember, your job as far as communication and negotiation go is pretty journalistic in nature. Your charge is not to make the news, but to find out what it is: ask the right questions, ask relevant follow-ups, and then report it – to yourself and your partner(s). We heartily recommend modeling your Q&A M.O. on the one and only Helen Thomas – she’s been doing it forever, doing it exceedingly well – and tenaciously at that. There’s a reason why the Bill O’Reillys of the world loathe her – not because she’s witch-like; but because she asks the right questions.

  Take Care of Your Toys

Rule the Fifth: Understand how to clean your toys, and then – clean them!

We’ll be going further into the dos and don’ts of toy cleaning in other articles, but for now, here are a few simple things to keep in mind when it comes to keeping your toys safe:

Choosing the Best Cleaner: ideally, the information label on the container will tell you whether it is effective in killing HPV, HIV, or HCV (Hepatitis C Virus). HIV is relatively easy to kill; HCV is much more germicidally resistant, so given the choice, opt for one that kills HCV. Some popular viricides include:

1. Immersion-based cleaners: Cidex Plus, Metricide, 10% bleach solution (appropriate for metal & other non-porous objects)

2. Spray-based cleaners: Citrus II cleaner, Professional Lysol, MadaCide (appropriate for equipment cleaning & non-porous substances)

3. Cleaning Wipes: Sani-Cloth Plus or Sani-Cloth HB (appropriate for wiping down play equipment, paddles, etc.)

  A Safer Sex Depth Chart: How Risky is It?

Remember, no sexual act that involves physical contact can be guaranteed as being 100% safe. The purpose of this list is just to give you an idea of which activities, when performed safely, carry the highest/least risk of STD transmission.

Pretty Gosh-Darn Safe – you’re probably good to go with these, providing you’re doing it right – but just remember (yet again) that nothing’s entirely foolproof:
- Gloved hand-to-genital contact
- Mutual Masturbation
- Phone Sex / Talking Dirty
- Breast-fucking / frotteurism
- Barriered Oral Sex
- BDSM play that doesn't involve bodily fluids

Moderately safe – again, you’re probably good to go with these; but, as each one involves mucous membranes and bodily fluids, the risk goes up a bit:
- Barriered anal / vaginal sex
- Unbarriered Oral Sex

Highly Unsafe – unless you’ve both tested negative for everything (and recently), and/or you’re in a completely monogamous relationship, any and all of these activities should be considered definite no-nos, especially if you are having casual sex:
- Unbarriered sex (vaginal or anal), particularly if it's rough sex
- Feces in mouth (particularly for Hepatitis A)

Also, keep in mind that vaccines are available for Hepatitis A & B and certain strains of HPV. HPV can cause cervical cancer & other carcinomas, as well as genital warts (depending on which strain). HIV and Hepatitis C, however, are treatable, but NOT curable.

  Specific Risks

Oral Sex:
Oral sex, for those of you unaware (insert long, hearty bellylaugh here), is mouth-on-body-part contact, usually the genitals, but not always (see Anus, the). The following are STDs that can be contracted via oral sex, if one partner is infected:
- Herpes
- Gonorrhea
- Syphilis
- Genital Warts / HPV (throat cancer risk!)
- HIV(?)
- Hepatitis (blood/blood contact) – A & B from rimming (a.k.a. analingus)

Anal & Vaginal Sex:
The following are STDs that can be contracted via penetrative sex, a.k.a. vaginal/anal intercourse:
- Herpes
- Syphilis
- Gonorrhea
- Chlamydia
- Genital Warts / HPV
- Hepatitis B & C (requires blood contact)

Hand-on-Genital Contact:
A.k.a. handjobs, or any other manual stimulation of your partner’s genitals or anus. Hands can transmit diseases if they are not washed thoroughly prior to being in contact with a mucous membrane (eyes, mouth, genitals, anus).

You should always wash your hands before sexual contact. You wash your hands before you prepare food, right? Well, sex is just as important as food, from a safety standpoint. We recommend following standard food-safety practices when hand-washing:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds, with hot, soapy water.
- Thoroughly scrub hands, wrists, fingernails, and between fingers.
- Rinse and dry hands with a clean towel or paper towel.
- If you interrupt your sexual activity to do something else, re-wash your hands before returning to sex.
Credits:
  • Co-authored by Sarah Sloane

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What is safer sex? We bring together clinical and practical data on STDs and their prevention, including information on identification and treatment, as well as social/cultural significance and stigmas.

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