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Safer Sex

There are many barriers to having the “safer sex” conversation. For example, some people may fear that having this conversation will reduce the risk or cause them to lose a sexual opportunity.

Also, young adults may not perceive STIs, HIV, or unplanned pregnancy as a risk. When someone feels invulnerable they see no need to have the “safer sex” conversation. Data shows that no one (except those that abstain) is invincible from STIs, HIV/AIDS, and/or unplanned pregnancy. Because of this, it is important that sexually active individuals know how to negotiate safer sex.

Below are tips to talk with your partner about safer sex.

  • Think before you talk. Prior to having a conversation with your partner, have a conversation with yourself. Why do you want to practice safer sex? What does safer sex mean to you? What are your expectations in a sexual relationship? You also need to think about your own sexual history and decide how you want to share this information with your partner.
  • Plan when to have your conversation. Don’t wait until you are in a sexually charged situation to have conversations about safer sex. Plan to have this discussion during a time when you and your partner are comfortable, relaxed, sober, and not sexually aroused.
  • Stick to the point, even if your partner tries to change the subject. In a healthy relationship, your partner will respect the decisions you make (especially decisions to protect each other from the consequences of risky sexual behavior). If you find that your partner is not valuing what you are saying, stick to the point. Don’t like him/her change your mind about your sexual health.
  • Be prepared for denial or rejection. Ideally, your partner will respect your decision to practice safer sex. Don’t take it personally if he/she does not feel the same way as you. Remember, you’re doing your best to stay healthy. If your partner does not respect that, you are better off without him/her.

Safer Sex Comebacks

The “safer sex” conversation may involve some negotiation. A partner who is reluctant to use practice safer sex may try to convince you to engage in risky sexual behavior (i.e. having sex without a condom). Be prepared for the reasons that he/she may have.

Here are some popular safer sex comebacks: 

  • “I’m on the pill; you don’t need a condom.” – “The pill doesn’t protect us from HIV or STI’s.”
  • “I know I’m clean, I haven’t had sex in six months.” I want to use protection anyways. We’ll both be protected from any infections that we may not realize we have.”
  • “Just this once…” – “Once is all it takes.”
  • “I love you. I would never hurt you. Just trust me.” – “I love you too and I don’t think you would hurt me on purpose. This is not about trust. Many people don’t even know they have an infection.”
  • “I tested negative for HIV.” – “The test isn’t perfect. Besides, there are other infections besides HIV.”
  • “I don’t have protection on me.” – “Lucky for us, I do.”
  • “None of my other partners used protection.” – “Please don’t compare me to your other partners. If you want to have sex with ME we are going to practice safer sex.”
  • “Sex doesn’t feel good with a condom.” – “Let’s try another brand or style. Besides, I bet it feels better than an STI.”
  • “Stopping to get protection spoils the mood.” – “I can’t enjoy sex if it’s not safe. That spoils the mood for me. If that is what you’re worried about, we can make fun and enjoyable.”
  • “I won’t have sex then.” – “Okay, let’s not have sex.”

Always Get the Green Light

Always get true consent (a sober, verbal yes) form your partner before engaging in any form of sexual activity. Getting the Green Light means you are seeking active consent. Your goal is to get a yes from your partner rather than waiting for them to say “no.” Through discussion, you and your partner can gauge how comfortable you are prior to engaging in any form of sexual activity. This communication is vital to healthy relationships and also to the prevention of sexual violence. There is no reason why communication cannot be used as a way to enhance whatever sexual experience individual may share.

For more information on the Green Light Campaign, visit the Haven Project webpage.

Safer Sex Toolbox

If you choose to engage in sexual activity, you should always know what’s in your safer sex toolbox. Safer sex supplies won’t do you any good if they aren’t available when you need them. Always plan ahead and have your toolbox available for when the time is right.

Your safer sex toolbox may include:

  • Male condoms — to help reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting HIV or other STIs. This contraceptive method is also useful in reducing the risk of unplanned pregnancy.
  • Female condoms — are also helpful at reducing the risk of contracting or transmitting HIV or other STIs. This device can be inserted into the vagina or anus before sex.
  • Lubricant — can help reduce the risk of a condom breaking during intercourse. It can also make sexual activity more pleasurable.
  • Dental dams — can be used during oral sex on the vulva or anus to prevent the spread of HIV and other STIs. Dental dams are square pieces of stretchy latex or plastic. If you don’t have a dental dam you can make your own by using a large piece of plastic wrap or by cutting a condom or glove into a flat rectangle.
  • Gloves or finger cots — can reduce the risk of getting STIs through tiny cuts on your hands.

Remember, practicing safer sex EVERY time you engage in sexual activity can reduce your risk of HIV, STIs, and unplanned pregnancy!

Sources: Love Is RespectPlanned Parenthood, Women's Health, CDC, MayoClinic

Disclaimer: This site is a resource for IUP students. It is not intended to replace consultation with your medical providers. IUP Health Service staff members are available to treat and give medical advice to IUP students. Visit the IUP Health Service website for more information. 

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