Safe Sex & Valentine’s Day: You Ready?
By: Amelia Pooser
As Valentine’s day approaches and love fills the air, do you remember how to have safe sex? In today’s realm, safe sex and its practices sometimes saturate the media, and people have started to assume that safe sex is the status quo. Regardless of your so-called “skill level” in the sex arena, it’s always good to review your safe sex practices. This is especially true in the Valentine’s season, where kinks are experimented with and people are ready to get it on!
The most essential part of any safe sex practice is consent. The simple definition of consent is to give permission to do something. In the case of safe sex, it means that a party is agreeing to have sex or sexual contact with another individual. The common acronym to remember for practicing safe sex is FRIES.
Consent should be freely given. It cannot be coerced or assumed, and needs to be a choice made of free will. The person consenting needs to be able to understand what they are consenting to; if they are inhibited in any way (alcohol, drugs, unconscious, sleepiness, etc.), they cannot provide consent.
Next is that consent is reversible, meaning that at ANY time consent can be revoked. Saying “yes” once does not mean that a person said yes to everything or repeated behavior. Just because your partner has agreed to something before doesn’t mean they will say yes again.
Consent should also be informed. Both parties should know exactly what is going on. For example, if there is an agreement to use a condom and that condom is not used, then consent was violated.
Next, consent should be enthusiastic. If a person cannot give a confident and excited “yes” then there needs to be further discussion. Anything but an outright “yes” is a “no”, and being unenthusiastic could be a sign that a person is feeling forced or generally doesn’t want to consent.
Lastly, consent should be specific. Consenting to one action doesn’t mean they consent to anything else sex-related. Just because someone consented to kissing another person does not mean they said yes to any form of foreplay or any sexual acts.
In general, follow the acronym as best you can, and remember that consent is NOT assumed. Consent is NOT silence. Consent is NOT pressured and consent can NOT happen when someone is incapacitated.
Condoms are most commonly-used latex sheaths with a tube-like structure that are put on a penis so that bodily fluids are not directly exchanged during sexual intercourse. There are condoms for male genitalia and female genitalia, and condoms for oral sex called dental dams that can be used for any type of oral sex (vaginal, penis, anal, etc.). Condoms prevent the spread of semen and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and as a form of protection from pregnancy. Condoms are not 100% effective, but their effectiveness increases with continual and consistent use. Thus to keep both parties safe during sexual intercourse, it is best to use condoms. It is important to note that if one party wants to use a condom and the other party does not comply (not wearing a condom in the first place, slipping a condom off mid-sex, etc.) this is considered a form of sexual assault. Free condoms, lube, and dental dams can be picked up at CHWS anytime. Let the condoms rain down!
#3: Birth Control
Birth control is another important part of safe sex practices. Birth control is a tool that is used to ensure that everyone has a choice in their reproductive health, including female-identifying, male-identifying and nonbinary individuals. Therefore, birth control is something to be discussed before sex. If the expectation of the couple is to not reproduce, steps should be taken to ensure that is not the case, such as birth control, condoms, and morning-after pills. Obviously, accidents can occur, and that is part of the voluntary risk participants take on when they have sex, but to violate the agreed expectations intentionally (not wearing a condom, sabotaging condoms or birth control, or lying about birth control) is unacceptable. So communicate with your partners and ensure that both parties’ expectations are set and understood.
#4: STD Testing
Lastl on our safe sex list, we have STD testing. The stigma around STDs is, for lack of a better word, stupid. Testing is a smart and safe choice for everyone. It is a safe choice not only for you and your health but also for your future partners. STD history is a part of sexual relations, and partners do have a right to ask about each other’s STD history for their own safety. This is not something that anyone should be ashamed about or something to hide; honesty is always the best policy for safe sex. If you are at all suspicious that you have an STD, you should get tested. One option for testing is to go to CHWS, where they do confidential STD testing. In general, safe sex should always account for STDs, and involve an open conversation about STD prevention. Hiding an STD from a partner is not only dangerous but also a violation of their trust and their consent. So just be honest and open when it comes to STDs.
With that, hopefully, everyone has a safe and fun Valentine’s day! And if you want to, get it on!