Sexual relationships and intimacy are complicated. And when identity and sexual politics gets thrown into the mix, this can create an even more complex situation. Being communicative about a range of issues including sexual limits, identity politics, your STI and HIV status, and more can help create a safer and better sexual experience for all parties involved. Here are five tips to help you have a sexy and safe time.
Using protection is always a good idea. Even though sexual acts like oral are considered low-risk, there’s still a chance you can catch something. STIs can be contracted through oral, vaginal, an anal sex, and to make things even worse, it can be spread through simple skin-to-skin contact without bodily fluids.
You may think using condoms is a total drag, but having an STI or STD (while, yes, they are common!) are a bigger drag to deal with. Even if you’re using toys with your partner, put a condom on them, and definitely change that condom and clean the toys between partners.
Practicing safer sex habits can greatly reduce your exposure to STIs and HIV, and in the long and help you have a healthier and happier sex life. Condom technology has come a long way and you no longer have to compromise a lack of feeling for protection.
Know Your Status
Knowing your STI/STD status is nothing to be ashamed of—it’s actually incredibly necessary. Getting tested should go right along with all your other annual health checkups, and possibly more frequently if the situation warrants it.
Withholding your status, if positive, is actually illegal in most states, so taking control of your health is something that benefits everybody. There are resources for free and low-cost tests across the US, more information can be found here.
Be Open About Who You Are
It’s good to be open about who you are, but sometimes that can be a scary topic to broach when it comes to discussing where you may fall on the gender and sexuality spectrum. It’s up to you how little or how much you want to reveal in this context. However, the benefit to having these conversations earlier on can also give you a better idea of who your potential partner is as well.
Being communicative with your partner is one major thing that can help make yourself feel comfortable and safe in a situation. By expressing what you’re okay with, and speaking up when something doesn’t feel right is very important.
Having the ability to be open with your partner creates a space where both of you can share your sexual wants and desires. Communication is a two-way street and it is vital to be able to speak up for yourself inside and outside of the bedroom.
Know Your Boundaries
Only you can set your limits, and knowing how far you’re willing to take a situation is very important. You have to decide what’s right for you, and it’s always okay to change your mind no matter what. Remember, you’re your own boss.
As a queer woman who occasionally dates and hooks up with CIS* heterosexual men, the larger issue of my own sexual identity comes up. Often my queerness is mislabeled, or even worse overlooked, and requires a larger conversation. These chats let me define what queer means to me, while also explaining the larger nuances of my sexual and identity politics, and even my limits.
Being open about where I’m coming from and what my expectations are have helped alleviate some potentially very awkward situations and in the process has helped me learn about myself. Sex is supposed to be fun, and everyone involved should feel comfortable and safe. Remember if something feels off, and you don’t feel like you are on the same page as your partner there is no shame in changing your mind and getting out of the situation.
*CIS is a descriptor that means you identify with the same gender you were assigned at birth.