If there’s one thing we do in the sextech business, we keep learning. No matter how much we have sex, write about sex, and talk about sex, there’s always something more to learn. The truth is, high school sex ed class is sadly unhelpful. The stuff we learn in school often isn’t accurate, and it’s rarely complete—especially when it comes to safer sex.
Yeah, we all remember the banana on the condom and the awkward questions kids would ask. But safer sex (and enjoyable sex, but that’s a different topic entirely!) goes much deeper than that. Today, we’re breaking down what safer sex is and how to have with your partners. Safe sex is crucial for your sexual health and wellness, so let’s dive in.
What is safer sex?
Safer sex is sex that’s less likely to result in the spread of a Sexually Transmitted Infection, or STI. Although intercourse is never 100% risk-free, there are always steps you can take to better protect your health.
Back in 2010, Planned Parenthood published an excellent article about the difference between “safe sex” and “safer sex.” That post pointed out that anyone having partnered sex is never 100% safe from STIs, or sexually transmitted infections. That’s why the term “safe sex” isn’t really accurate, and PP advocates against using it. In fact, PP says many sexually transmitted infections come with no symptoms and that pregnancy can happen, although that’s rare, even when using birth control.
All that isn’t to scare you—we love sex and we think you should be having a lot of it! But safer sex is very important to your sexual health and wellness. Safer sex is anything we do to prevent STIs and reduce our risk of infections; it’s anything we do to make partnered sex safer.
No matter your gender or orientation, there are additional steps you can take to make sex safer for you and your partners.
5 ways to practice safer sex
According to Planned Parenthood, “anybody who has oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex, genital skin-to-skin contact, or who shares sexual fluids with another person” can get STIs. But there are things you can do to protect yourself!
1. Use condoms and barrier protection during sex
One of the best ways to prevent STIs is using a barrier. Barriers prevent the exchange of bodily fluids, and the most common are condoms, used for penetration during partnered sex with folks who have a penis. Condoms should also be used for anal sex and when sharing sex toys between partners.
However, there are tons of other kinds of barriers, including internal condoms, dental dams, and gloves. These are all equally important for oral sex, such as when someone has oral sex with a person who has a vagina.
You should use condoms or another barrier any time you have sex for the safest sex possible, but it may be more doable or realistic to use barriers when having sex with a new partner or when partners haven’t been tested. This is especially important if you have multiple partners or enjoy casual sex.
2. Go for frequent testing to check for STIs and other sexual health issues
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, partners should regularly get STI tests as well as pap smears and pelvic exams. This ensures safety for partners with penises and vaginas. It also contributes to your overall sexual health if you have a vagina because pap smears and pelvic exams catch sexual health issues and illnesses that have nothing to do with STIs, like cervical cancer, cysts, and more.
The CDC lists some guidelines for how frequently you should get tested, although we’ll say the information is a bit limited because of gendered language. Still, it’s important to establish some base guidelines on STI testing. We also recognize that some people have limited financial situations or live far from a testing center, and there’s no shame in that. Get tested as frequently as possible and use safer sex techniques to reduce your risk.
- All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
- All sexually active women younger than 25 years should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year. Women 25 years and older with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STD should also be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
- All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B starting early in pregnancy. At-risk pregnant women should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea starting early in pregnancy. Testing should be repeated as needed to protect the health of mothers and their infants.
- All sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Those who have multiple or anonymous partners should be tested more frequently for STDs (i.e., at three- to six-month intervals).
- Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent HIV testing (e.g., every three to six months).
- Anyone who has unsafe sex or shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year.
3. Clean your sex toys
Clean toys regularly with a body-safe and toy appropriate cleaner after each use. This is good personal hygiene and ensures they’re ready to share with partners. Make sure to use a toy-safe cleaner and not just any soap you find in the house.
Our Product Cleaner is meant for all Lora DiCarlo toys and safely removes bacteria and bodily fluids to keep your toys like new. You’ll never be embarrassed to whip out your extensive toy collection in front of a partner when it’s all clean and ready to go!
4. Enjoy Masturbation
Masturbation is the only “safe sex” there is, because sex with only yourself reduces your risk of pregnany and STI spread to 0%. Consider co-masturbation without touching or even via video if you’re worried about your partner’s STI status or if you’re far apart.
This is also a great way to prevent COVID-19 spread and to stay intimate in long-distance relationships. Plus, sexting and video calling for sex is really hot. It’s sort of like putting on your own adult show for a partner!
5. Lube it Up
Using lube reduces the risk of irritation and tearing, which boosts your overall sexual health and keeps things enjoyable. Whether you’re using toys, p-in-v penetration, or experimenting with anal play, you can never have too much lube.
Be sure to choose the right kind, as well. A condom-safe and toy-safe lube is important to protect yourself and your toys! We would recommend our Well Balanced with CBD for this, as it will enhance your pleasure by relaxing your muscles, easing tension, and increasing sensitivities. Plus, the healing properties of carrageenan will hydrate and moisturize your skin while helping you keep a balanced vaginal pH.
Other ways to have safer sex
While no partnered sex can truly be 100% safe, safer sex is possible. Take as many steps as you can to ensure your sex life is as enjoyable and fun as possible. This could also include removing alcohol and drugs from your sexual encounters and having important conversations about boundaries and desires, especially during kinky play or role play!
No matter how you go about it, be sure to implement as many steps for safer sex into your sexual activity as often as you can.