The following information is from Planned Parenthood, an organization based in the United States focusing on sexual health issues.
What is Safer Sex?
Safer sex is anything we do during sex play to reduce our risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Even though a lot of people say “safe sex” instead of “safer sex,” there is no kind of skin-to-skin sex play with a partner that is totally risk-free. But being “safer” is something all of us can do.
These are the most important ways to practice safer sex:
- Find ways to make safer sex as pleasurable as possible.
- Be open and honest with your partners about your sexual history, and any infections, STIs, or other concerns you may have.
How Can I Lower My Risk Using Safer Sex?
One way to have safer sex is to only have one partner who has no sexually transmitted infections and no other partners than you.
But, this isn’t always the safest kind of safer sex. That’s because most people don’t know when they have infections. They are very likely to pass them on without knowing it.
Another reason is that some people aren’t as honest as they should be. In fact, about 1 out of 3 people will say they don’t have an infection when they know they do, just to have sex. So most of us have to find other ways to practice safer sex.
Another way to practice safer sex is to only have sex play that has no risk — or a lower risk — of passing STDs. This means no vaginal or anal intercourse. Many of us find that great sex is about a lot more than a penis going in a vagina or anus. It is about exploring the many other ways you and your partner can turn each other on. Not only is it a way to discover new sexual pleasures, it’s also safer.
No-risk safer sex play includes:
Lower-risk safer sex play includes:
- fondling — touching that stimulates of one another
- sexy massage
- body-to-body rubbing — frottage, “grinding,” or “dry humping”
- oral sex (even safer with a condom or other barrier)
- playing with sex toys — alone or with a partner
The highest risk kinds of sex play are:
- vaginal intercourse
- anal intercourse
Luckily, we can use condoms during vaginal and anal intercourse to make them safer.
Condoms work by forming a barrier between the penis and anus, vagina, or mouth. The barrier keeps one partner’s fluids from getting into or on the other. And condoms reduce the amount of skin-to-skin contact. There are two main kinds of condoms — latex condoms and female condoms.
- Latex condoms are great safer sex tools for anal or vaginal intercourse. They are easy to get at a pharmacy, or other health center. Some clinics may give condoms out as well. They are cheap. And they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and textures.
People with latex allergies can use condoms made of polyurethane. They also make sex safer, but they are not as widely available as latex condoms.
- Female condoms reduce your risk of infection, too. Female condoms aren’t quite as easy to find as latex condoms, but they are available in some drugstores and many Planned Parenthood health centers. You can also order them online if you can’t find them in your neighborhood. Follow the instructions on the package for using female condoms correctly.
CEPEHRG Peer Educator Demonstrating Condom Use
- Dental Dams – while not a type of condom, dental dams are another great barrier device. Dental dams are small, thin, square pieces of latex used to protect the throat during certain kinds of dental work. They can also be placed on the vulva or the anus when the mouth, lips, or tongue are used to sexually arouse a partner. Like the condom, dams keep partners’ body fluids out of each other’s bodies. They also prevent skin-to-skin contact. You can make your own dental dams using a piece of plastic wrap or a cut open condom.
Not all sexually transmitted infections are passed in the same way. Here are the basics:
UNPROTECTED VAGINAL OR ANAL INTERCOURSE — HIGH RISK FOR PASSING
- cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- genital warts
- hepatitis B
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- human papilloma virus (HPV)
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- pubic lice
UNPROTECTED ORAL SEX — HIGH RISK FOR PASSING
SKIN-TO-SKIN SEX PLAY WITHOUT SEXUAL INTERCOURSE — RISKY FOR PASSING
Lots of other infections, from the flu to mononucleosis, can also be passed during sex play.
More information about safer sex can be found at the Planned Parenthood Website, or from the Terrance Higgins Trust, an organization based out of the United Kingdom that has information on sexual health and HIV.