Let’s talk about safe sex. Regardless of different lifestyles and choices, it’s a common subject. It’s shown in TV shows and movies, it’s in books, and it’s talked about among peers. Like any popular subject, it’s imperative to remain informed and up-to-date about the different aspects about sex. Not only will this give you more confidence in certain situations, it will keep you healthy and safe.
No conversation about safe sex is complete without three main topics: contraceptives, consent, and STIs. Contraceptives prevent against unwanted pregnancy and the spread of STIs. There are various components of consent, and it’s important that it’s confirmed during every sexual encounter. STI’s are common, and they’re nothing to be ashamed about having – but by possessing more information, you have a much lower chance of getting one. These three things shape what a sexual experience will be, and without knowledge of all three of them, it’s impossible to go into a sexual situation informed and ready.
Every subject has its own required products, and safe sex is no different. Here’s a list of items that can help keep you safe, so pick which ones work best for you!
Birth Control Pills:
This contraceptive requires a doctor’s prescription, and it doesn’t protect against STIs. It is highly effective against fighting pregnancy, as long as you take it at the same time each day. There are two types of birth control pills: progestin pills and combination pills. Mini-pills only have the progestin hormone inside – the side effects of these depend on the person. You may experience your regular menstruation period, or you may not have one at all. Combination pills contain estrogen and progestin. With these pills, it is possible to not only limit your period, but, with the addition of Lybrel, completely get rid of it. For a list of warnings, side effects, and possible pill options, check out drugs.com.
There are currently two types of arm implants out in the current market: Nexplanon and Implanon, and they last for about three years. Similar to the pills, this implant works through hormone release. Check out birthcontrol.com for a list of side effects!
These, like dental dams, are different than most of the class requirements, because these can actually prevent the spread of STIs. Make sure to use these in tandem with other birth control methods. You can obtain free condoms from the Wellness Centers on either campus.
These are super effective in preventing the spread of STIs, as they prevent contact with skin and bodily fluids, just like condoms. The Wellness Centers on either campuses provide these for free!
This is similar to the pills and implant, because it uses progestin. This contraceptive lasts for three months and is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. Similar to the other preventatives that don’t prohibit contact with skin, it doesn’t prevent STIs. Healthline.com has a long list of side effects that are important to check out.
While not nearly as effective as the other forms of birth control (it is effective 82% of the time), spermicide works well in conjunction with condoms. It can come in the form of films, foams, and gels, and it works by slowing and killing sperm. This method also does not protect against STIs.
The IUD is a small device that is placed inside the uterus. In the market there are currently five devices (depending on your insurance, these can cost anywhere up to $1,000): Skyla, Mirena, Kyleena, ParaGard, and Liletta. There are two types of IUDs: copper and hormonal. The first lasts up to 12 years in pregnancy, and the second can last anywhere between 3-6 years, depending on which brand your doctor says works best for you. What makes this contraceptive so different from the others is that it can also work as an emergency contraception – if implanted before 120 hours has passed, it has a 99.9% chance of preventing pregnancy. This, however, does not protect against STIs.
Chapter One: Consent, Consent, Consent
Consent is the most important thing about sex, specifically informed consent.
There are a few very important rules that must be followed in order for both partners to be safe.
CLEAR: Consent does not exist without a clear “yes.” Consent is not given if someone cannot reply or seems reluctant.
ONCE: An important fact to remember is that, just because a sexual act was okay once, does not mean the same thing is okay now. A prior “yes” does not mean the answer is the same now.
NON-NEGOTIABLE: No one should be pressured into having sex. If someone is uncomfortable – stop immediately.
SOBER: Consent cannot be given while under the heavy influence of alcohol. Consent cannot be given while someone is passed out.
EAGER: Both partners should be giving eager and giving continuous consent. Consent has been taken away if someone starts feeling uncomfortable, or stops responding.
NO: It doesn’t matter what is going on. As soon as the word “no” is heard, immediately stop. Any further acts are done without consent.
TALK: Talking with your partner is an important step in making sure that both partners are comfortable and consenting. It’s the best way to make sure that everyone is on the same page and that they are okay with what is happening.
Chapter Two: STIs and the Importance of Protection
STI stands for sexually transmitted infection; practicing safe sex by using protection, such as condoms or dental dams, minimizes your chances of getting one.
Chancroid: This is a bacterial infection that is spread through skin-to-skin contact, and results in open sores. It can be treated with antibiotics.
Chlamydia: Chlamydia is one of the most common infections, and it spreads through lower body fluids. Sometimes this infection doesn’t have any symptoms, but it can lead to serious issues, such as infertility. It can, however, be treated with antibiotics.
Genital warts: This is a type of HPV, and it manifests as skin growths around the genital area. Sometimes the warts can go away without treatment, but there are also some medicines and cryotherapy (or freezing them off).
HPV: Human papillomavirus comes in many forms and has many types of symptoms. Like previously stated, it can cause genital warts, but it can also cause cervical cancer. Like chlamydia, it is a very common STI, but most of the time, no symptoms show. This makes it easy to spread, as it can last anywhere from eight months to several years. HPV is a virus, therefor a vaccine is available. So, while the usual method of protection (condoms and dental dams) are not your only choice for prevention, they should always be used.
HIV: This virus can lead to AIDS. It has no cure, but it is treated immune system boosting medicines. It has many symptoms, but these may take a long time to manifest. Make sure to look out for these common ailments: increased yeast infections; thrush; and long periods of illnesses such as fevers, dry coughs, and diarrhea. This virus is spread through genital fluids, breast feeding, and blood, but not through saliva. Dental dams and condoms reduce the risk of infection.
Gonorrhea: This is a bacterial infection that affects the lower sexual organs. Some people don’t experience any symptoms, but some ailments include fever, irregular periods, pain during urination, and discharge. This infection is quite serious, because without the use of antibiotics, gonorrhea can lead to infertility, premature labor, and arthritis.
Syphilis: Syphilis can cause sores on your genitals, and contact with these sores is how it spreads. Like gonorrhea, it can be cured, but if left untreated it can cause blindness and brain damage.
Scabies: This is unlike the previous STIs, because it isn’t an infection – it’s parasites. Scabies mites are tiny parasites that can cause rashes and itching. It doesn’t have any serious side effects other than it being uncomfortable, but it does spread through any prolonged skin-to-skin contact. It is also possible, although unlikely, to get it through wearing someone’s clothes who is infected. The STI can be treated with a lotion called Scabicide or with a pill.
Pubic lice: Also known a crabs, this is caused by small insects that attach to pubic hair. Common symptoms are: the presence of nits, fever, and itching. Similar to scabies, people can spread pubic lice through physical contact (especially during sex), or by using the same clothing as someone who has it, although this case is less likely.
Hepatitis B: This infection manifests as a liver infection, and although it has no cure it can be prevented through a vaccine, dental dams, or condoms. Some symptoms include: nausea, headaches, fevers, hives, and jaundice.
Herpes: Herpes affects about 1 in 6 people, and it manifests as sores around either the mouth (oral herpes) or around the genitals (genital herpes). There is no cure, but medicine reduces the spread and symptoms. It is one of the easiest diseases to spread, because it’s spread through skin-to-skin contact, and can even infect others when no sores are present.
STIs are not as rare as people think; the CDC estimates 20 million people become infected with reportable STI’s in the United States each year.
More than half of these 20 million people are between the ages of 15 and 24. The best way to prevent getting an STI is to use protection and ensure that you and your partner get tested. There are a few places near KSU where you can get check-ups to ensure that you’re healthy. KSU’s Wellness Center offer these tests, as does the Planned Parenthood in Cobb County.
There are many different aspects to safe sex, and it’s important to remain educated on this subject. The sources linked in this article were really important in gathering the information to share with you guys, but these websites have a lot more to offer. Be sure to check them out!