Sex and Relationships

Sexual health goes beyond condoms

University of Calgary Student Mitch Goertzen holds a condom in Calgary on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. Safe sex prevents unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STIs. (Photo by Lief Garrett)

Safe sex is something that everyone who is sexually active should be aware of, but sadly, some of this vital information can get lost in the shuffle.

Whether you’re in a long term relationship, hooking up, or somewhere in between, keeping yourself safe is vital.

Condoms are the thing that comes to mind for most people when they hear the words ‘safe sex’, but there are options out there that prevent STIs and pregnancy that don’t get the attention the condom does.

That said, the good, old, reliable condom is a good place to start.

Condoms for safe sex

These are, by far, the easiest to get access to, and are available at just about any grocery store or pharmacy. They’re useful for vaginal, anal, and oral sex, though you might want to get un-lubricated condoms for oral sex, since the lube on most brands is not very tasty. There are flavoured options, but they’re usually listed as novelties and aren’t recommended for vaginal or anal use.

“The sugar in some flavorings can cause yeast infections,” said Ellie Goodwin, a local sex educator.

Condoms are the most effective way to avoid STIs and pregnancy, though if you or your partner have a latex allergy, do keep in mind that sheepskin condoms are less effective against STIs.

So, the old rule still stands true. No glove, no love.

Internal Condoms

Often referred to as “female condoms,” these come with a very detailed instruction manual, mostly due to the fact that many people are not familiar with them or how they work.

Basically, the internal condom goes into the vagina and leaves a bit hanging out that covers everything on the outside of the body.

While they say you can insert one hours before you have sex, many said that wasn’t really a comfortable option.

“It’s not exactly uncomfortable,” said Danielle Park, about the one time she tried one.

“I was just super conscious of it the whole time. It’s hard to be in the moment with a deflated balloon between your legs.”

Despite being marketed as a way to have more control over one’s sexual health options, the internal condom is not widely available.

But, if you don’t mind hunting for them, and you follow the instructions, they are an effective option.

Dental Dams

No, we are not looking for plaque with these. Dental dams are square or rectangular pieces of latex that work as a barrier between the mouth of one person and the genitals of another while performing oral sex. They protect against all the same STIs that condoms do, but they are woefully unheard of for many people.

“I don’t know if it’s because we don’t want to talk about oral sex that doesn’t involve a penis, or what but too many people don’t know what they are or what they’re for,” said Goodwin.

Woefully lacking too, are places to buy them in Calgary.

But, never fear, it’s super easy to make your own.

All you need is an unlubricated condom. Unroll it, cut through it from the bottom to the tip and, voila! You’re ready for safe oral sex.

Keep yourself safe

No matter how you protect yourself during sex, it’s important to use the method as instructed and consistently.

“It’s your health on the line, and even the best sex isn’t worth risking that,” said Goodwin.

“Have fun and be safe and informed.”

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