Safe Sex: Breaking Barriers And Challenging Perceptions
By Cara Sutra
Today I want to talk about safe sex. Challenge how we translate the term ‘safe sex’. I know that I have a tendency to link safe sex and condoms together inextricably, probably due to sex writing work. This often takes the form of condoms reviews, safe sex articles and other sex education articles here at the blog.
After I’d brainstormed on the two words a little more, I came to the conclusion that ‘safe sex’ covers a surprisingly wide variety of topics for discussion.
There are a lot of ways we need to be aware of safety during sex for our physical health and well being.
Keep safe against sexually transmitted infections and diseases (STDs) – where a barrier form of contraception is required, such as a condom or femidom, or dental dams for oral sex and rimming
Keep safe against unwanted pregnancies – a barrier form of protection is required for this, usually condoms, if with a partner you’re not in a relationship with and unsure of their medical history. In long term relationships a hormonal form of contraception may be taken such as the Pill, the IUD (coil) or an implant.
Keep safe from physical harm whether by accidents in the bedroom or deliberately through abuse and rape – General common sense about where and how you’re having sex should prevail. Beware of slippery floors in the bathroom and shower, and guard against carpet burns (unless they’re your particular fetish). Use sex lubes to avoid unwanted pain and possible skin tears, particularly during anal sex.
Make Sensible Decisions
Of course there’s no way to avoid the very real and horrible event of rape, sadly. I know this as well as anyone. But having sex with people you know and trust should be part of your decision making process when it comes to having sex. Don’t meet someone in their home for sex without knowing them, and don’t invite strangers back to your house for any reason either. Let your friends know where you’re going if you are going on a blind date or first date – and check in with them to let them know you’re home safely. Until you know someone better, it’s a great idea to keep your friends informed of your whereabouts, just in case.
Keep safe during outdoor sex and public play; stay safe from being caught by others or getting in trouble with the law – Apart from the obvious, like ‘don’t do it in the rose bushes or in a nettle patch’ I think there’s some other important considerations when you’re planning outdoor sex. Or even for unplanned outdoor sex, which can happen more often than you’d think.
Remember that as amorous as you’re feeling, there may be others around who don’t want to either see or know what you’re doing. This would in fact be filed under ‘public indecency’ and it’s an offence you can get arrested for. In any case, even if the adults around didn’t mind, depending where you are there could be kids wandering past. Just not nice. It’s an exciting new way of spicing up your sex life, and you may want to literally start ‘on your own doorstep’.
Going further afield (ahem), make sure you’re in a place where you’re not likely to be approached by or disturb others. A March 2014 quote from UK police after complaints about dogging states:
“Having sex in a public place is not actually an offence – the offence is one of public indecency, or public nuisance.”
Spice Up Reproduction
Something a little different – Couples can also enjoy safe ‘unsafe’ sex. It can be a feature of intense sex to celebrate ditching the condoms or other contraception when those in a long term trusting relationship are trying for a baby. Sometimes doing the ‘baby dance’ can become a formality and routine; focussing on the aspects of her feminine fertility and his masculine, life-giving seed can be quite hot if you play it up a little.
Stay Safe Psychologically
Protect yourself from emotional as well as physical damage during the vulnerabilities of sex by only engaging in sex acts with a partner you know and trust. Having hot sex with a stranger is a fine fantasy – one I regularly mull over myself, actually – but in reality it’s more than a little worrying. A sexual partner needs to know and respect your boundaries and limits. If you’re wandering into kinky sex and play territory (some of us can’t help it, ok) the YKINMK ethos and the use of your safeword and/or traffic lights system is essential. Aftercare is also extremely useful when it comes to safeguarding against emotional hurt when you’re in a particularly vulnerable or fragile state, after an intense session or subspace.
This leads us on quite neatly to the next point. I’m a strong advocate of freedom of adult, consensual, sexual expression through BDSM (Bondage, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism), so…
An important facet of safe sex is SSC (Safe Sane and Consensual ethos) in BDSM. OK so not everyone needs to have sexual contact or sex in order to practice and enjoy BDSM. But many fetish practitioners, BDSM Lifestylers and Fetishsexuals need to bear in mind safety aspects and safe sex falls under this umbrella.
Why is safety such an important concern in BDSM particularly? Many of the consensual activities can cause damage, emotionally, mentally and/or physically if not done properly. By ‘properly’ I mean with safety and consent as top priority. There are activities such as edgeplay, bloodplay, breaking the skin through knife play, razors and even heavy beatings in corporal punishment and judicial canings. Other risky kinks are those involving erotic asphyxiation; choking and suffocation for the pleasure of one or both parties. Other physical kinks include ball busting, ball kicking and more in CBT, as well as anal reaming and urethral sounding. When you get your bondage sex toys out, the possibilities to damage someone are limited pretty much only by your imagination.
It’s often been said that pain and pleasure are the two sides of the same coin. For some, pain and pleasure is a 2D image. One and the same, intermingled and entwined, indistinguishable. Delivering and receiving pain allows the chance of too much pain, unwanted pain and/or lasting damage, so precautions must be taken.
Protect Our Sex
Another part of sex we need to make sure is safe is the sex itself. Is our sex safe?
SOS: Save Our Sex.
We are being so herded, so governed about the style of sex we have. This is shown even in the type of sexual enjoyment we can fantasise about and view pornography about. Should everyone’s sex life be dictated by the majority, or by the government’s own moral code? I don’t think so. There are many advocates for stopping the censorship of porn and other sexual practices and I am one of them. Recently I’ve written about the importance of rapeplay to me. In that piece I explain why rape porn and fantasy is not a bad thing. I also talked about the need to make sex workers feel safe and shame-free. Society has a tendency to slut shame sex workers and those known as ‘prostitutes’ as ‘whores’ and worse.
It can all combine to make us feel not even safe to fantasise about things that turn us on anymore, never mind actually do those things in reality with our adult, consenting lovers and sexual partners in a safe way and location.
There are many ways you can make your voice heard. To speak out against censorship of our sex lives, fantasy and porn. For example, this Indigogo Stop UK Internet Censorship Campaign. There’s also this Stop Vine and Twitter Censorship petition on change.org.
Safe sex is important on all levels, whatever safe sex means to you personally. It definitely encompasses more than merely rolling on a rubber before fucking, though. There is a need to communicate the importance of condoms, dental dams and other physical barriers and protection during sex. However, I feel that an important point has been highlighted today.
Safe sex can mean the facilitation of breaking down barriers completely. This means a safer yet still enjoyable sex life for everyone.
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