Guest Article: A Modern Guide to Safer Sex

Red condom and thumb up

A Modern Guide to Safer Sex

Most (and hopefully all) sexually active individuals know the risks involved with having sex. While condoms are usually a go-to for couples looking for a birth control method and STD prevention, there are many other products out there that you may not have learned about in sex-ed. A lot of them can not only make your sex safer, but even make sex with your partner better.

Dental Dam & Butterfly Clips
For some of us, the first time we heard mention of a dental dam was in Knocked Up, and we had the same response to the mention of it as Katherine Heigl’s character did, “What the hell is a dental dam?”

Adam and Eve explains in their safer sex guide that dental dams are used to hinder the transmission of HIV and STDs. Oral dams are “boxlike items made of elastic cellophane utilized by dental professionals. Multiple businesses currently produce finer and lightweight dams developed only for sexual intimacy.” (It’s also worth mentioning that the site has a list of STDs and information on all of them that everyone should revisit.)

The dam is placed over the entirety of the female mound, to prevent skin to skin contact during oral sex. Because it is so thin, the dam does not hinder any sensation, allowing for a satisfying experience for both parties.

Although the two don’t necessarily relate, it’s worth noting that, oddly enough, Knocked Up mentioned another sex item few of us had heard of — a butterfly clip. Again, our response was, what the hell is a butterfly clip? To save you the research, Webmd describes them as a bandage or clip that is used during a laparoscopic tubal ligation surgery. This is a permanent method of birth control where the fallopian tubes are surgically tied off from the ovaries, eliminating the ability for an egg to reach the fallopian tubes or uterus to be fertilized. While it can protect against unwanted pregnancies, it does not protect against STDs.

Toys & Safer Masturbation
Yup, even solo sex requires some safety reminders. And with the growing popularity of sex toys, users need to be aware of the risks involved with them as well.

If you’re using any kind of device or toy around your genitals or in your vagina or anus, it’s crucial that you make sure it is properly cleaned after each use. A sanitary toy is not only essential for its upkeep and maintenance, but it’s vital to your personal health as well. When you’re using the toy alone, you might not have to be as concerned about STDs. However, properly sanitizing the toy after each use will help prevent bacterial infections, such as a yeast infection or UTI.

It’s especially important to keep your toy clean if you’re using it with a partner. It’s recommended that if you are sharing a sexual device, you treat it as you would if you were having intercourse. Using a fresh dental dam with the toy or putting a new condom on it after each individual’s use will help prevent the spread of STDs and make cleaning up afterwards a breeze.

As good rule of thumb for cleaning toys. Brown recommends cleaning the toy with warm water and antibacterial soap. You should only completely submerge your toy under water if the instructions for it allow and you should always remove the batteries before doing so.

Lube
Using lube for masturbation, on toys, or during intercourse can make sex more a more comfortable and exciting experience. With dozens of different kinds ranging from varied flavors, textures, and compounds that can cause different sensations, you’re sure to find one that both you and your partner enjoy. Without the proper lubrication, sex can be uncomfortable, and even downright painful for both parties. Using lube is a great way to prevent tearing in the walls of the vagina or rectum during intercourse, both of which can cause long lasting discomfort, painful urination, burning sensations, as well as increase the risk of infection.

Using lube can also prevent a prophylactic from tearing during vaginal or anal sex. However, you need to take extra precautions that the type of lube you are using is safe to pair with with your sex toy or condom. Some lube can breakdown the exterior of your sex toy, increasing your risk of infection. As ASHA Sexual Health explains, you should never use oil-based lube with latex condoms. They say that oil-based products other than lube also include “baby or cooking oils, hand lotion or petroleum jelly” as well as lubricants. The reasoning is that “the oil quickly weakens latex and can cause condoms to break.” Combining the two will greatly increase the risk of your condom failing, increasing your risk of transferring STDs or unwanted pregnancies.

While there may be a lot of products that can help you have a safer and more enjoyable sex life, there’s also something to be said for the importance of open communication with your partner. You might feel slightly awkward at first, but having honest discussions about your desires, your boundaries, and your need for safety will ultimately lead you to having a more satisfying sex life then ever before. And who knows, with the right products, you’ll be able to stop worrying about safety and relax enough to try out a few new things together!

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