Sometimes it can be hard to talk about safer sex, birth control, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But, being honest and upfront when talking to your partner can help make it easier. You can even slip safer sex into a conversation about what kinds of sex you and your partner like!
When people talk about ‘safer sex’ they’re often talking about how to lower their chances of getting STIs and maybe getting pregnant. But, it also has a lot to do with consent. In the end, safer sex is about making sure you and your partners are having the kind of sex you want to have.
When should I talk about safer sex?
It can be easier to bring up things like condoms when you’re already talking about the ways you want to have sex. This can make the conversation a bit less tense. You can start by talking about how you’d like them to touch you, where you’d like to have sex, and more. Birth control, barriers, and testing get to be one part of the conversation!
Setting these boundaries can also make things easier when you’re in the heat of the moment. It can also make sex better by letting you focus on enjoying it! Talking about safer sex can also show your partner that you care about their health.
You have the right to agree or disagree to have any kind of sex if you wouldn’t enjoy it or you wouldn’t feel safe.
Depending on what kinds of sex you are planning to have, you might be at risk of different STIs. You can lower your risk by using barriers like…
- Internal or external condoms: for anal, oral, vaginal and front hole sex, and skin to skin contact, or contact with a sex toy
- Dental dams: squares of latex held between a vulva, bottom growth, or anus and the mouth
- Gloves: for touching or fingering someone’s private parts or anus
- Lube: can help prevent irritation and makes it less likely any of the barriers above will break. It can also make things feel even better!
Having these things close by can help because you can grab them when you need them. You can also think about getting tested for STIs before you have sex. That way, you can know your status and talk about it with your partners. Saying, “Here’s when I was last tested, and here’s what my results were” can make everyone feel more comfortable.
If the sex you’re having or want to have carries a risk for getting HIV, you can talk to your doctor about going on PrEP. PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s a medication that you take every day that lowers your risk for getting HIV. Doctors can prescribe it if someone is dating someone who is HIV positive, if someone is doing sex work, or if they’re an intravenous drug user.
If you have ovaries and a uterus and you’re hoping to have vaginal sex, there’s a chance you could get pregnant. If you want to lower your chances, you can use birth control. There are two main types: hormonal and non-hormonal.
You can get some of these methods for free or buy them without a prescription. You need to see a doctor for some others. If you have Quebec’s Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) insurance, you can go to a Local Community Services Centre (CLSC). Or, Head and Hands gives free and anonymous medical care to anyone under 25, even if you don’t have RAMQ.
What if something goes wrong?
If there is a chance of pregnancy, you can take emergency contraception. It is also known as the morning-after pill or Plan B. It can lower your chances of pregnancy if anything went wrong. You can buy Plan B at any age for about $40 at a pharmacy without a prescription. You need to ask the pharmacist for it, and they’ll explain how it works.
Plan B is more effective the earlier you take it. It works best in the first 24 hours. Unfortunately, after 5 days, it won’t change your chances of pregnancy. Because of this time limit, it can help to get it before an emergency and keep it in a drawer, just in case.
If you have a sexual experience that carries risk for HIV, you can also ask a doctor about PEP. PEP stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s a pill that you take for 28 days, starting less than 72 hours after your possible exposure, that can lower your risk for getting HIV. You can think of PEP like Plan B for HIV!
Check out the links below for more info on safer sex!