Sarah Iuliano talks contraception misconceptions and other safe sex myths
Fact: sex can be a lot of fun. Fact: safe sex using a barrier method is even more fun. Yet another fact: ‘safe sex’ is a misnomer. Using protection, namely condoms, largely reduces your risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and – if you’re hetero – pregnancy, but it’s not fail-safe. FYI, ‘safer sex’ is a better term and it has a lovely ring to it, you can roll the ‘r’ tacked on. RrrrRrRRr!
Misconceptions about safe sex may have penetrated your mind and underpinned your love-making. Whether you love consensual sexy-times with men, women or people identifying otherwise, it’s time to confront a few safe sex myths to arm you with the facts to best protect yourself.
Myth #1: Condoms prevent all sexually transmitted infections
If you – unlike many Australians – use a barrier method every shag, give yourself a pat on the back. Condoms are super effective in preventing STIs and the same can be said when they’re used in lieu of dental dams (which are hard to find offline.) However, using a condom correctly isn’t foolproof. Several STIs, including genital herpes, warts and syphilis are spread via skin-to-skin contact, meaning areas not covered by your latex lifesavers can be exposed to them. Tip: always use a barrier method before there’s any genital contact with your partner(s).
Myth #2: Non-penetrative sex acts don’t need protection
STIs can be spread during oral sex, mutual masturbation and other acts. Family Planning NSW Health Promotion Officer Lisa Bogie, suggests condoms and dams for oral and disposable gloves for mutual masturbation. “These barrier methods of STI protection minimise the amount to skin-to-skin contact and stop the transfer of bodily fluids which occurs in pretty much all forms of sex, perhaps with the exception of Skype [sex],” Lisa said.
Lisa said it “can sound clinical but it doesn’t have to be…have some fun when putting them on and experiment with different shapes and flavours.” UoN Health Clinic physician Dr Carolyn Hackworthy, agrees, saying the long term effects of some STIs or pregnancy outlasts the throes of passion. “The consideration shown by protecting one’s partner, (in addition to protecting yourself), could perhaps be interpreted as more emotionally intimate,” Dr Hackworthy said.
Myth #3: You don’t need to undergo STI testing if you don’t have symptoms
Some STIs have obvious symptoms and some don’t show any until their late stages, possibly resulting in pain or damage to the reproductive system. “If you’re sexually active, it’s important to visit your GP or Family Planning clinic for a sexual health check-up and STI test on a regular basis or whenever you change sexual partners,” Lisa said. Ergo, by knowing your STI status, you’re having safer sex.
Myth #4: If you’re only sleeping with one partner, you don’t need to use protection
A load of crappola, provided you haven’t discussed:
- Undergoing STI testing to minimise your risk of transmitting/contracting an infection
- Contraception, if one of you could get pregnant
- The results of the aforementioned tests and contraception quest
- If you’re mutually exclusive (if not, cool, but maybe use dem ’doms and dams)
Myth #5: Only people who have a lot of sex with a lot of partners can catch an STI
STIs are amoral. They affect all social classes, ethnicities, political persuasions and people engaging in sexual behaviours, regardless of their experience level. As Lisa sums up, “anyone who has a sexual history is at risk of having an STI”.
If you need to have a chat about your sexual health, you can make an appointment with Family Planning NSW’s Hunter St. clinic on (02) 4929 4485, or if you’re under 24 years old, drop in Tuesdays and Wednesdays between midday and 5:30pm. Consider visiting one of UoN’s medical centres, both services bulk bill for Medicare card holders.
Image: Zorah Olivia flickr, no changes made