Safer Sex is Sexy

We are often bombarded with messages about the risks associated with sex. Don’t get a sexually transmitted infection! Don’t have an unintended pregnancy! Don’t have sex outside of a monogamous relationship! In fact, this is often all we learn about when it comes to sex education. At the Halifax Sexual Health Centre, we take a sex-positive approach. This means that we think sexuality is something to be celebrated - not inhibited, and that we should talk about the benefits and pleasures of sexual relationships. However, it also means considering the risks involved, because keeping ourselves healthy and safe is part of experiencing pleasure and satisfaction.

Holistic approach to sex = enhancing pleasure + reducing risk

Safer sex is about harm reduction, which means educating ourselves on the risks that we are taking, and then doing something to reduce those risks (as opposed to avoiding them all together).

One of the risks associated with vaginal sex is unintended pregnancy. If you are sexually active with someone of the opposite sex, and you want to avoid pregnancy, it is highly recommended that you use a form of birth control correctly and consistently.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are another major risk that we need to protect ourselves from if we are sexually active. STIs can happen to anyone. They happen to people of all sexes, genders, ages, abilities, education and income levels. They can happen to people who do not have intercourse and they can happen to people who only have sex once. Therefore it is important not to get caught up in the “it could never happen to me” fantasy. In 2003, 854,817 people aged 15-49 who had had sexual intercourse reported having been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection at some point in their lives (Stats Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2003).

A basic rule of thumb to protect yourself from STIs is to avoid exchanging bodily fluids with others. This includes semen/cum; vaginal fluids; and blood. It is also important to avoid skin-to-skin contact with any sores, blisters, lumps, bumps, and/or rashes on your partners’ genitals and/or around their mouths.

The best way to do this is through abstinence. Abstinence means choosing to refrain from some or all types of sexual activity. People may choose abstinence for many different reasons, including age, health, religion, family values, etc.

If abstinence is not a realistic choice for you, there are 5 key steps you can take to practice safer sex:

  • MAKING HEALTHY LIFESTYLE CHOICES – limit the number of your sexual partners; limit or avoid high-risk sexual behaviors, limit or avoid non-sexual STI risks (e.g., IV drug use, tattooing with non-sterile needles); and take care of your general health.
  • COMMUNICATION – communicate openly and honestly with your partner(s) about their sexual history, STI testing practices, and about your boundaries (e.g. “I will not have sex without a condom”) before you become sexually active together.
  • STI TESTING – have full STI screenings at least once a year – more often if you have new or multiple partners. Request that your partners also get tested for STIs before becoming sexually active with them.
  • USING BARRIERS – always use barrier methods such as condoms, oral dams, and latex gloves during sexual activity involving the genitals.
  • USING BIRTH CONTROL – if you are sexually active with member(s) of the opposite sex, and you want to avoid pregnancy, it is very important to use a reliable form of birth control correctly and consistently.