Sometimes it can be hard to talk about safer sex, birth control, and STIs (also known as STDs). But, being honest and upfront and talking to your partner can help make it easier. Safer sex can even be slipped into a conversation about what kinds of sex you and your partner like!
When people usually talk about ‘safer sex’ they typically want to lower their chances of getting STIs and maybe pregnancy. 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 and testing for STIs when you’re already talking about the ways you want to have sex. This can make the conversation a bit less tense, because you can also talk about how you like to be touched, where you’d like to have sex, and more. Birth control, barriers, and testing get to be just part of the conversation!
Setting these boundaries and opening up about what you need to feel safe can also make things easier for when you’re in the heat of the moment. It can also make sex a lot more enjoyable by letting you focus on enjoying it! Talking about any worries you have can help reduce tension and make any boundaries clear.
Remember that it’s 100% your 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…
- condoms (for vaginal or anal penetration, oral sex, or skin to skin contact with a penis or sex toy)
- dental dams (squares of latex held between a vagina or anus and the mouth for oral sex)
- gloves (for touching or fingering someone’s genitals or anus)
- Lube! It can help prevent irritation, and makes it less likely any of the barriers above will break. It can also make things feel even better!
You can also think about getting tested for STIs before you have sex, and bringing up your status with your partners. Saying, “Here’s when I was last tested, and here’s what my results were” can make everyone feel more comfortable. Check out the links below for some places to get tested, or get free or cheap barriers and lube.
If you have a 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 add birth control. Some common things people use are condoms, the pill, or IUDs.
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 RAMQ insurance, you can go to a 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 anything goes wrong and there’s a chance for pregnancy, you can take emergency contraception (also known as the morning after pill or Plan B). It can lower your chances for pregnancy if you don’t use birth control, your condom broke, or anything else went wrong. You can buy Plan B at any age for about $40 at a pharmacy without a prescription. You just need to ask the pharmacist for it, and they’ll explain how it works.
Plan B is more effective the earlier you take it, ideally in the first 24 hours. Unfortunately, after 5 days, it won’t change your chances for pregnancy. Because of this time limit, it can help to get it before an emergency and keep it in a drawer, just in case.
Check out the links below for more info on clinics and safer sex!
The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner
Some tips and general advice about how to talk about sex with a partner.
Negotiating and Breaking a No Condom Habit
Scarleteen answers a question about how to bring up condom use with a partner.
Safe, Sound & Sexy: A Safer Sex How-To – Scarleteen
Ways you can reduce your risk of contracting STIs (such as barrier methods), information about testing, and other possible lifestyle choices.
10 of the Best Things You Can do for Your Sexual Self (at Any Age)
Explains why masturbation, communication, honesty, being informed, loving your body, and focusing on pleasure are all really important aspects of a having a healthy sex life for yourself.