Condom sense

Vi-Nguyen-online

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Last semester, I wrote an article covering a brief foray into the world of group sex in hopes of providing another perspective on something often associated with seedy basements or the counterculture of yore. Since then, I have occasionally received some amusing (read: somewhat flattering, somewhat brow-raising) emails lauding said article for inspiring other group adventures. As time went on, however, I grew increasingly concerned that people weren’t really thinking about safer sex.

Let’s say you spontaneously decide to have a threesome. Your heart is in your throat, you’re giddy with adrenaline … And you’re likely not thinking about how you really should be changing condoms between partners and orifices.

Putting a new glove on a dildo or your male member every time you go from one orifice to another isn’t exactly something they teach you in sex ed. When you sit down and think about it, it makes sense: You don’t want to be fluid-bonded with anyone whose STI status you’re not 100 percent sure of, including the cool chick your partner just penetrated. And considering that it takes months for some STIs to show up on tests, knowing everyone’s status is a bit tricky. Better to be safe than sorry and stick a new bit o’ latex on all penetrative agents — that includes penises, vibrators, butt plugs and so forth – before switching from the booty hole to the vagina, or switching to another partner altogether. (Not to mention, ladies: going from the ass to the cooch without a change of glove can also introduce some nasty bacteria that you really don’t want marinating in your vagina).

But I don’t think most are sitting down to think about these things before they get that mad glint of inspiration in their eyes — you know, the one that precedes their little sexual experiment. So let’s plant the seeds of safer sex in our collective heads and address some of the more practical, logistical matters about the weird stuff you might do in your bedroom. Because, c’mon, everyone’s a little weird sometimes.

This has been a long time coming, but here are some safer-sex tips that are often forgotten in the heat of the moment (and that you probably didn’t learn in high school):

1) Clean your sex toys after use or use a condom every time. Even if it’s for personal use, sex toys can accumulate bacteria that lead to very unhappy infections. And if you’re sharing sex toys, they can pass on STIs.

2) Only use water- or silicone-based lube with latex and nonlatex rubber condoms/gloves/dental dams — never use oil-based lube because oil breaks latex down easily.

3) Ah, the big “C” of 2013: consent. Legally, you can’t give consent while under the influence, which is a tricky business for many considering many colleges’ socializing cultures. It’s really just best to wait until you’re sober to do anything; as a friend of mine once said, “if your partner isn’t groovy with waiting, then they’re probably not that groovy anyways.” Other consent issues: Don’t assume that someone who is doing something a little outside of good ol’ missionary is down for just about anything. For example, just because someone’s in a threesome doesn’t mean they’re totally cool with anal sex. Ask for their consent before each new sexual activity.

4) Communication. People have different sexual histories and baggage. Know what you don’t like and communicate your boundaries and limits to your partner(s). It’s not a bad idea to establish a safe word so y’all can have a smooth and clear way to tell your partner(s) that you’re not into what’s happening when things are already underway.

5) Dental dams. For the unfamiliar, these are little pieces of latex you can stick on during oral sex or rimming. You can find them in drug stores or make your own by cutting a nonlubricated condom or a latex glove. Dams help prevent the transmission of STIs from the private bits through the mouth. “Oh caaaahmaaan,” you say. “Who would use those? They’d kill the mood.” Oh, that sounds kinda familiar … Didn’t they say that about condoms back in the day?

By the way, you can get HSV-1 – the herpes associated with canker sores – on your genitals after unprotected oral sex with someone infected with cold sores. And what we know as genital herpes – HSV-2 – can likewise cause lesions around your mouth, too. So … you know. Know your and your partner’s statuses, keep track of breakouts, you know the drill.

5) Don’t sidestep protection with anal sex. For penetrative sex: the rectum is delicate, and its mucosal membrane can 1) absorb some STIs, such as HIV, directly and 2) tear pretty easily, putting you at further risk for STI transmission. If you’re into rimming, you can be at risk for Hepatitis A. Dental dams would be a good call here too.

Sex is great. According to WebMD, it’s great for your immune system, ups your libido (obviously), lowers your blood pressure (and risk for heart attack), eases stress and lessens pain. But sex isn’t so great if you nullify all those health benefits by having unsafe sex. No sex is totally safe, but because that’s not likely to stop many of you punks, y’all might as well try for the safer variety.

Vi Nguyen is a former Sex on Tuesday columnist. Contact her at [email protected].