We've all been told that abstinence is the ONLY way to truly practice safe sex but how many people do you know actually abstain? Personally, I don't know a single one. Sex is a wonderful thing in life. Not only does it feel good but it can be very good for you and your health if you take certain precautions. Good for your health? Yes! It is a well known fact that sex increases the endorphin levels in your body by up to 200% during foreplay and sexual intercourse as well as releasing the hormone oxytocin. Together these natural chemicals can keep our relationships going by creating a stronger bond and easing aches, pains and other physical distresses.
Why Practice Safe Sex?
There are so many reasons to practice safe sex in this day and age. Many years ago the biggest concern was pregnancy but now we also have to worry about diseases such as Herpes, Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, Yeast Infection, and Genital Warts just to name a few. These and all other STD's cannot only cause severe pain, infection and infertility but they can also cause death!
How Can We Protect Ourselves?
No matter whom you are or what your sexual preference is, you can protect yourself! There are many different products women can get from their doctor to prevent pregnancy as well as many over the counter products we can all purchase to prevent pregnancy as well as most STD's. These include pills, creams, gels, implants, barriers and films. I will go more into detail about each product a little later.
Do Lesbians have to Practice Safe Sex?
YES! YES!! YES!!! Many of us do not realize that STD's can also be transmitted between two women during oral sex, vaginal/anal penetration using your fingers as well as toys, and kissing. Granted, the risk is much smaller for lesbians than it is for heterosexual couples and gay men but the risk is still there and definitely not worth it.
How Safe is Oral Sex?
Some people say that saliva contains natural inhibitors for HIV but because of factors such as open sores in your mouth, you not only risk being infected with HIV but also gonorrhea, Herpes and warts as well with oral sex. Many times these diseases will not only be asymtomatic but they can also be much more difficult to treat when they are diagnosed.
How Safe is Vaginal and Anal Sex?
Vaginal penetration using your fingers can also pose a certain amount of risk to HIV due to broken skin on your hands.
Anal penetration poses a big risk not only for the person giving but also for the person receiving as well. The walls of the anus are so thin that the smallest scratch can cause a world of trouble. Not only can HIV be passed but because feces contain acids, the smallest scratch can cause the rectum to rupture which results from a severe bacterial infection. Extreme care should be taken to avoid injury. Other diseases include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus which causes mononucleosis.
Toys are Safe, Aren't They?!
Penetration using toys can pose a risk since many toys are porous and STD's can be passed from one user to another if not cleaned properly.
So How Can We Protect Ourselves Better?
Prescription birth control
Over the counter methods
- Birth Control Pills (BCP's): Taken everyday, release a certain amount of hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy.
- Implants (Norplant): Six matchstick size plastic implants that are inserted into the arm that release a hormone that prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs. This method protects a woman from pregnancy for up to 5 years.
- The Shot (Depo-Provera): A shot that is given in the buttocks or arm and can prevent pregnancy for 12 weeks at a time.
- The Ring (Nuvaring): A small flexible ring that is inserted deep into the vagina that will prevent pregnancy for one month.
- The Patch (Ortho Evra): A small plastic patch that is placed on the skin of a woman's buttocks, stomach, upper arm, or upper torso once a week. The Patch releases hormones that prevent pregnancy for one month.
- Lunelle: This is a monthly injection that releases hormones into a woman's body to prevent pregnancy for one month. (Although this item is temporarily being recalled by the manufacturer I thought it deserved mention anyway.)
- Intrauterine Device (IUD): These are inserted into a woman's uterus, come in various shapes and sizes and contain either copper or hormones which both serve well in preventing pregnancy. Some IUDs need to be replaced every year while others can be left in place for up to 10 years.
- Emergency Contraception (morning-after pill or post-coital contraception): This can be either taken in two doses in a pill or a copper IUD can be used.
- Diaphragms and Cervical Caps: This is a barrier method made of soft latex that covers the cervix. They cover the cervix, preventing sperm from reaching an egg. Both of these must be correctly sized by a health care provider. Both of these methods must be used along with spermicidal cream, jelly or foam.
- Condom: A male condom fits over the penis and is made of latex, plastic or animal tissue. The female condom is unserted into the vagina and is inserted into the vagina like a diaphragm. Both prevent semen from entering the vagina and reaching an egg. This method also lessens the risk of STD's and pregnancy.
- Dental Dam: This method first started by dentists during dental surgery, is now also used in the prevention of STD's during oral sex. This is a small sheet of latex which acts as a barrier between the vagina, anus and mouth. These are not lubricated but water based lubricants can be used on the vagina side to help keep the barrier in place but to also heighten sensitivity. These come in various colors and flavors to make oral sex more pleasurable.
- Latex Gloves (Examination gloves): These are great when used during anal and vaginal fondling. They are pretty cheap and disposable.
- Finger Cots (Finger Condoms): These are also great when used during anal and vaginal fondling. These were originally used to cover a finger during injury and look like a very small condom.
- Plastic Wrap: Yes... You can even use plastic wrap instead of a dental dam for oral sex. This method is cheap and one roll goes a long way.
As you can see, there are many ways that we can protect ourselves if we just act responsible and think about what we are doing. Many of these are cheap and easy methods of birth control and STD prevention and definitely worth the time it takes to use them! Besides, do you really want someone to give you something to "always" remember them by?