When approaching the topic of safe sex, the typical first response is something along the lines of; “No sex until marriage!” or “If you make love, where a glove”. In a nutshell, those are the core of most discussions on safe sex.
Although many communities have rules about when a person is and is not allowed to have sex, rules have a tendency of making perceived problems worse then they would have been if left alone… so unsurprisingly, they aren’t working that well. Although we can not disagree with the fact that abstinence is likely the only way to avoid unwanted pregnancy and STDs, the social construct created in at least the western world is not in tune with that philosophy.
Rather then dwelling on when the right time is for everybody, we would just like to remind everyone to stay in tune with their own bodies, and to stay true to themselves as much as possible. If the person you are with isn’t willing to wait for you to be ready, then you can fill this part in yourself…
That said, when you are ready to have sex, you will already know that safe sex is a responsibility of all parties involved, and that knowledge and practice, are the best tools to making sex fun, positive and safe. Use a condom, every time, for any reason, and you will be much less likely to have a problem.
Performing safe sex is recommended whenever possible, but we can not stress the importance enough of using it when with a new partner.
- Whenever possible, use latex condoms over other materials.
- Since no birth control method is bullet proof, a condom is great backup.
- Condoms are a great way to keep toys clean for multi-hole penetration.
- Using a latex glove for finger penetration prevents cuts from fingernails.
- Using dental dams for oral sex can prevent fluid transfer from a cut lip or gum.
- ONLY use water-based lubricants with latex as oil based products destroy it.
In one recent U.S. study* about one-half of the sexually experienced teenagers had failed to use a condom the last time they had intercourse. So for all the kids, bumping and grinding and forgetting to wrap it up, this next section is a taste of reality that can be easy to forget about until it happens to you.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Well, that was our pitchy intro, hope you got the point. A little “finger wagging” as our mother’s would say, and now comes the stats. These are important, so pay attention. They provide the foundation for answering the too often asked ‘what are the odds that I’ll catch something this time?’ question, and should convince you that this is a serious affair affecting at least 40 million people around the world every year.
AIDS / HIV
We will begin by looking at the AIDS epidemic. In 1997 2.3 million people were estimated to have died worldwide from the disease. Though that number may be coming down in western countries, the number of people contracting the disease is certainly going up. And over the last twenty or so years over half a million people have died in the USA from AIDS, and it still registers as the primary killer of people ages 25-44. What is the most scary part of this epidemic in North America is the fact that the number of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) positive teenagers doubles every 14 months.
Q: What is driving these seemingly out of control numbers?
A: up to 80% of infected Americans don’t know that they are carrying the virus.
In an attempt to even the playing field I have included a brief description of what HIV/AIDS is and how it is spread. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS and is spread when semen, vaginal fluid or blood passes from an HIV positive person into the bloodstream of another person. To enter the bloodstream, the virus must enter through a break in the skin or tissue in the mouth, vagina or rectum, or, enter the tip of the penis. The virus then breaks down our immune systems that fight off infection and other illnesses. People tend to contract fairly harmless bacterial or viral contagions, which under normal immune operating conditions would simply keep you in bed for a couple of days, but when the immune system doesn’t work even a common cold can be fatal.
The World Health Organization says that in the first five years of the new century, half of all new infections world-wide will occur between the ages 15-19, and the fastest growing infection rates are among young women. This means that this issue is most pressing for our young people. We can no longer afford to not talk about it, or not educate our children about sex and their responsibilities.
The fact that AIDS and HIV are so dangerous should not reduce our concern over other types of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s). Left untreated, sexually transmitted diseases can cause infertility, cancer, birth defects and miscarriages – even death. This being said, with the amount of treatments available and easily accessible, Americans still suffer 10 to 50 times more sexually transmitted diseases than people in other developed countries. This highlights the alarming deficit of knowledge within the general population and need for greater dissemination of preventative methods and awareness of the risks.
To further examine this problem in the US and Canada it is astounding that sexually transmitted diseases are diagnosed 12 million times a year in the United States — including 3 million cases among teenagers. In light of massive empirical evidence suggesting that perhaps there may be a problem, the U.S. spends just $1 to prevent sexually transmitted illnesses for every $43 spent treating them. Gonorrhea strikes 150 times per 100,000 Americans, vs. just three times per 100,000 people in Sweden and 18 per 100,000 in Canada.
There is strong evidence that sexually transmitted diseases greatly increase the risk of sexual transmission of HIV, and thus are not something to exclude from any discussion of safe sexual practices.
Click to learn more about other STDs.
What about Oral sex?
Is oral sex safe? Well, yes and no. This is certainly not to say that there are no risks, though unprotected oral sex is generally considered less risky then unprotected vaginal or anal sex. Since the lining of the mouth is less permeable than the lining of the lower orifices, there is a less likely chance of getting a small tear from the activity. That being said, if a cut is already there (e.g. cut during flossing), then it can be equally dangerous.
To minimize your risk while engaging in oral sex follow some suggestions for experimenting with at least new partners:
- Use condoms or dental dams whenever possible
- If you decide to roll the dice on the first tip, avoid ejaculating in someone’s mouth
- If you see something suspicious, put the fantasy on hold until a doctor clears it
- Floss and brush regularly – but not right before oral sex
- Above all, get tested and know your status, so that you can help protect others
Remember to take things slow, and that behind every unwanted pregnancy or STD infection, is a person thinking it wouldn’t happen to them.