When talking about sexual health and sex education, emotional health is equally as important as physical health when it comes to sex. Staying emotionally and physically healthy as you attempt to navigate through your sexual awakening and into your adult life is incredibly important, as well as making sure to avoid pregnancy scares and contracting an STI.
Consent is one of the most important parts of sex education, and the part of sex education that our school systems seem to ignore outside of a brief gloss over as “no means no”, with very little elaboration. Consent is a simple, but vital, aspect of any sexual relationship.
WHAT IS AND WHAT IS NOT CONSENT
Consent is an enthusiastic and informed “yes.” Consent is not something to be pried out of someone or something you pressure or coerce them into giving to you, whether you do it through emotional manipulation, guilt or through taking advantage of a clearly high or drunk person.
All sexual experiences should be healthy, safe, and based on communication, consent, and you and your partner enjoying yourselves. Pressure, unrealistic expectation and coercion have no place in a sexual relationship with anyone, and should also not be apart of your relationship with your own sexuality.
We live in a very sex-obsessed society, so it can be easy to even pressure yourself into thinking you need sex to be “normal.” In our society, women feel pressure from men to engage in sex, while men similarly feel that other men in their lives and society as a whole pressure men to be sexually active to “prove” their masculinity. This creates an environment extremely conducive to the high rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our society. Men feel pressure to relentlessly pursue sex, and women feel heavy pressure to consent to the sex that these men pursue.
It is also important to remember that even consensual sex can be traumatizing and violating, and that should be kept in mind when you think about your sexual trauma or the sexual trauma of those close to you.
*Consent can be given and rescinded at any point in time. If a “yes” becomes a “no,” any previous consent is dismissed*
Obviously abstaining from sex is the only 100% effective way to prevent contracting an STI, but let’s be realistic, we’re not all going to stay abstinent through our whole lives, and lowering your risk of contracting an STI is an important part of maintaining your health.
CONDOMS + DENTAL DAMS
Condoms and dental dams are the only forms of birth control that protect against STIs as well as acting as a contraceptive. Dental dams are a thin latex barrier that you place over the vagina during cunnilingus, and you can easily make one with a condom! Just cut the condom in half length-wise and you’re good to go!
Other Forms Of Birth Control
When engaging in anal sex, use a water or silicone based lubricant, and stay away from oil based lubricants. Apply it over the condom and inside your partner’s anus before sex. Also, even though there is no risk of pregnancy during anal sex, using a condom is absolutely necessary to prevent getting a UTI or spreading any kind of STIs. Using a dental dam during rimming is also recommended for 100% safe sex.
HIV can only be transmitted through blood and sexual fluids (semen, vaginal discharge, etc), so be aware of that when choosing what kind of protection to use during sex if you or your partner is HIV+, but kissing, holding hands and cuddling are all intimate and 100% safe activities. Dental dams and condoms are recommended and are 80% effective in preventing the transmission of HIV. Even when you and your partner are both HIV+, using protection is still important due to the fact that your partner can pass a different strain of HIV to you that may not be able to be controlled by the medications you are currently on.
Getting tested with your partner or alone is something that we as a society desperately need to normalize and consider an integral part of any sexual relationship. Getting tested should be the starting point, as knowledge about your partner’s status on STIs will help you be better informed when it comes to choosing what kind of contraceptives to use during sex. You can get tested at your local planned parenthood, or you can talk to your doctor about getting tested.