By Colleen G
STIs are on the rise, but thankfully, so are modern prevention methods. Screw around to your heart's desire while toting these safer sex techniques in your back pocket.
The sex positivity movement is finally shifting societal views on healthy, consensual sex, but that doesn't mean infection prevention can be tossed aside. Contrarily, more frequent sex and/or more partners necessitates better protection methods, education, and regular STI testing.
If you're going to live the sex-positive lifestyle -- which simply means you're respectful of other's sexual choices and boundaries while honoring your own – your sex-ed knowledge base needs to include up-to-date information on STIs, or sexually-transmitted infections (also formerly known as STDs or sexually transmitted diseases, a term that's a bit antiquated but recognizable among some medical professionals).
Just last year, the CDC released new information on the rise of STIs. For the sixth year in a row, STI numbers reached an all-time high, especially for easily preventable and treatable infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
Truthfully, no matter how much or how little sex we're all having, things simply don't have to be this way. Preventing STIs can feel tedious, but it's as important as all other aspects of daily health and wellness maintenance, like brushing and flossing your teeth, eating fruits and vegetables, and working at least a moderate amount of exercise into each day.
In short, just like skipping your vegetables or never flossing, you might not notice any difference in your health at first, but eventually such risky behavior will catch up with you.
The only way to ethically date and fool around with a sex-positive mindset is to be in-the-know about STIs, both in a broader, educational sense and in regards to your own infection status.
Get schooled with the #LubeLife team as we cover all of the basics of modern STI prevention for all, regardless of your gender identity or relationship style.
2. Examine Your STI Stigmas and Ditch The Judgments
The first step in preventing STIs is acknowledging just how easily you or a sexual partner can become infected, whether you've had sex with one or one-hundred people. No, seriously. Hear us out.
You could lose your virginity to a partner who's had some kind of sex with other people before you, didn't know or disclose they were positive for an STI, and then boom -- your first sexual experience infects you, too. On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you've hooked up with hundreds of people, but they've all been free of STIs and/or were extremely careful to prevent or manage their STIs to prevent infecting someone else.
Case in point: One person has shared sexy time with only one other partner and now has an STI. Another has had sexual encounters with one hundred different people and has never has an STI. See how silly and unfounded stigmas can be?
Think of it this way: Shaming someone for contracting an STI is the real-world equivalent of a Facebook argument. The same goes for claiming someone who engaged in open, honest, and non-monogamous sexual activity “deserves” to get infected or is “dirty” for mindful, consensual sex with multiple partners.
You're not going to change the minds of those who choose an active, safer sex life with more than one partner, nor will you make the planet a better place by attempting to hurt someone who's past circumstances led to an STI.
Throwing around trigger-happy words that stigmatize other sexually active humans – like calling someone a “slut” for having an STI or blaming it on their number of past partners – just makes you an assumptive, uneducated asshole. Period.
STIs are all about regular, safer sex practices – not someone's potential to be a good human being or partner based on their sexual history (unless they're purposely lying about having an STI or having been recently tested, but that's another story – and still not likely worthy of a public Facebook call-out).
2. Get Tested Regularly If You're Not Monogamous (and Even If You Are)
“Get tested regularly” seems like a no-brainer, right? But seriously, when was your last visit to the doctor's office?
It doesn't matter if your partner always wears a condom, nor are you in the clear just because a new or non-monogamous lover swears they were just tested. In the end, the only person who's responsible for your body is you, and getting your own STI test is the only surefire way to know your infection status.
If you're sharing fluids with anyone other than a 100% monogamous lover, you need to get tested every three to six months or every time you change partners.
For those in monogamous relationships, get tested once to twice per year. Though it's not a fun fact to face, even the most solid of long-term partnerships can involve well-hidden extra-curricular sexual practices. You're better off safe than sorry.
Even more importantly, get tested any time you suspect a symptom of an STI, no matter how seemingly minor. Some STIs -- like syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia ,and trichomoniasis -- are curable and may not cause any further health risks if treated early.
Longer-term or incurable STIs -- like HPV (human papillomavirus) or herpes -- can be managed and prevented from worsening with regular medication and monitoring by a doctor.
Prior to getting tested, you'll also need to educate yourself on lesser known STIs like Mycoplasma genitalium, also known as Mgen. This treatable STI often shows no symptoms, can worsen and create further health issues if left alone, and was only deemed easily diagnosable via testing in 2017 (!!)
The bottom line is that you can still have safer, more enjoyable sex – even with multiple partners – after becoming infected with an STI. But you can't do that without knowing your status and how to manage your specific infection if you get one.
In a show of honesty, solidarity, and commitment to a safer sex life, we recommend booking your STI testing session together and accompanying each other to the MD's office. Nothing shows you care more about a partner – no matter how short or long-term you'll be having sex – than showing up for each other, literally and figuratively, to find out your respective STI statuses as a pair.
3. Talk About Sex and Boundaries Before You Do the Deed -- and Skip the Numbers Judgments
While your parent's jaws might drop at the notion of talking sex on the first date, many modern relationship therapists and sexperts think the future health of your relationship could depend on it.
Though it's up to you to feel out the sex convo with new partners, early chats about sexual preferences and your respective STI histories can save you both from heartbreak and surprise infections later on.
If, for example, BDSM activities are essential to you for a good sex life and you can't imagine a relationship without, say, domination and/or submission or impact play, you'll need to find a partner who's an enthusiastic participant in such kinds of sex. The same goes for disclosing your current STI status, as it will shh your immediate and long-term future with any given partner.
Previous generations were mostly hush-hush about sex until their clothes were off and the bedroom lights were dimmed. While we're all for passionately spontaneous sex, new partners need to disclose their STI statuses and subsequent safer sex methods before you're both too riled up to care about who's got the condoms.
Now here's the advice your parents would never agree with, but modern science has proven true: you can have fantastic, passionate and satisfying sex with a partner who's positive for STIs, even the incurable ones like herpes and HIV. You and said partner just need to be on the same page about how and when you'll sexually engage, how you'll prevent transmission, and how you or your partner will manage their symptoms when they arise.
4. Get Comfortable with Condoms, Dental Dams, and Non-Penetrative, Non-Fluid Sharing Sex
Feeling overwhelmed and less than sexy from all this STI talk? Remember, this ain't your parents or grandparents age of sexual freedom. It's time we re-framed safer sex and STI prevention as necessary and loving parts of any sexual partnership, even if only for a single evening.
Condoms (both internal and external) for vaginal, anal, or oral sex and dental dams for oral play with all orifices should be deemed as potentially pleasurable as sex toys, kink accessories, and lingerie – and absolutely necessary if you're anything less than 100% monogamous.
For all the condom haters out there: Seriously, it's 2022. There is a condom for every vagina or penis (or strap-on dildo) size and shape, for every material allergy, and for every level of genital sensitivity. You've got zero excuses for not practicing the safest sex possible.
Test out condoms and oral sex dental dams with the same enthusiasm you'd bring to a new vibrator or butt plug. Today's condom selection, which includes all different kinds of lubricants, flavors, and textures, could seriously rival even the most diverse of sex toy and kink accessory collections. Think of condoms as your partners in orgasmic crime, and combine them with your favorite pleasure toys to maintain safer fluid-sharing during partner play.
In another very sex-positive move, be open to exploring new methods of intimacy that don't involve sharing fluids or penetrating your partner's body.
Don a pair of rubber gloves and have your partner keep their underwear on while you rub a vibrator over their genitals. Add #LubeLife Water-Based Lube to the inside of a condom and give your partner a hand job, or lubricate the underside of a dental dam and use your fingers to rub their vulva and clitoris. You can even keep both of your pants on while each riding a high-powered, vibrating massage wand, all while maintaining eye contact and touching each other's bodies and faces.
The bottom line is that STI prevention needn't be annoying, boring, or otherwise a barrier to a truly amazing sex life, whether monogamously partnered, polyamorous or multiply partnered, or for those seeking more casual encounters.
With STIs on the rise, everyone – regardless of whether or not you or a partner can get pregnant – needs to prioritize safer sex to prevent and mitigate the spread of infections.
While medical technology may have caught up enough to provide us with medicines to manage infections, Mother Nature has yet to provide us with a permanent solution to forever eliminate STIs from the planet. Therefore, it's up to all of us to take the initiative and halt the spread of sexually transmitted bacteria and viruses.
Just remember, protecting yourself and your partners can be as easy as a trip to the local drug store. In the search for great partnered sex, condoms and sex-positive doctors are your friends. Use them accordingly, enthusiastically, and frivolously. Your future love life with thank you.