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If and when we want to reduce the risks of STIs as much as possible, while still engaging in sex, then:
Read the rest at Scarleteen here.
(P.S. When we say “safer sex,” we use that term as it was originally developed and intended, to describe the choices and practices to help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections, not to describe birth control or contraception. When we’re talking about those things, we’ll say birth control or contraception.)
Every day, we explain here in articles, advice pieces and on the message boards what safer sex is. But some of our readers come to Scarleteen with ideas about safer sex that are incorrect or incomplete, not knowing they’re taking higher risks with sexually transmitted infections (STIs or STDs) than they think or without the level of protection they assume that they have. We recognize and honor everyone’s right to make whatever choices about their bodies and selves that they feel are best, but we want to be sure that the choices anyone is making with sex and their health are the ones they truly mean to be making, and are based in fact, not fiction.
So, we figured it might be time to also explain all the things that safer sex is not.
What isn’t safer sex?
- You asking someone if they have a sexually transmitted infection and them saying no
- Your partners having asked previous partners if they had STIs
- Someone telling you they’re “clean,” especially someone who has never had any testing done, or isn’t current with their tests
- Using condoms sometimes, but not always
- Putting condoms on after genital contact begins, or only before ejaculation or orgasm
- Sharing sex toys without covering them with a condom or boiling them before or after use
- Not doing anything at all for prevention, because everyone’s previous partners said they were virgins
- Having pap smears be the only testing anyone is getting
- Having an HIV or Hepatitis screen during blood donation be the only testing someone has had
- Avoiding any vaginal intercourse, but having unprotected oral or anal sex
- Giving a partner oral sex but not swallowing their ejaculate
- Not having intercourse, per se, but rubbing genitals directly together without clothing on or latex barriers
- Having had the HPV vaccine, but not using barriers
- Using withdrawal (“pulling out”) for vaginal or anal intercourse
- Hormonal methods of contraception: they protect against pregnancy, but not against STIs
- Being “virgins,” particularly if that means either person having had no partners for intercourse before, but having had them for other kinds of sex, like oral sex
- Having someone be your first partner, or being theirs, but one of you has had sexual partners before
- Being a certain age
- Being married or engaged
- Being lesbian and/or only having slept with women
- Being serially monogamous: in other words, not having had what you consider any casual sex partners, but still having had more than one partner and just moving relationship to relationship
- Being in love with or loving someone
- Looking at your genitals and those of your partner and seeing nothing unusual
- Using condoms or other barriers past their expiry dates
- Washing genitals before and/or after sex or urinating before and/or after sex, but not using barriers
- Someone or yourself only having had one previous partner, only two previous partners, only five previous partners, or any other arbitrary number of previous partners
- Being a “good girl” or a “good guy”
- Being a member of a certain economic class, race, sexual orientation, size, shape or gender
These are some of the things we commonly hear from users who either think they’re practicing safer sex, but aren’t, or who think they’re protected against STIs without doing any part of safer sex practices. I’m pointing them out, because false ideas about what’s safe endanger everyone, and no one can make informed choices well if the information they have or hold is false or faulty.
Read the rest at Scarleteen here!
Some stats from this today, in case you or someone you know needs them:
If you are having the kind of sex that presents a possible risk of pregnancy, you are having one of the two kinds of sex (anal intercourse being the other) that presents the biggest STI risks, too. When there is direct genital contact — including for people with the same kinds of genitals, where there isn’t a risk of pregnancy — there are always risks — a definite maybe — of STIs. And those risks are usually not smaller than pregnancy risks for people in the age group we work with most, even though a lot of people think they are.
Experts estimate that almost half of the United States’ over 19 million STI infections each year occur in youth ages 15-24. A recent study found that one in four young women ages 15-19 has an STI in the U.S. One in four: we’ve had that figure for a long time now, it’s nothing new. More broadly, people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for 50 percent of all new STIs.
In 2008, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate was 67.8 pregnancies per 1,000 young women ages 15 to 19: in other words, just under 7 pregnancies per every 100 people aged 15-19, or around 7%. And, more broadly, about 30 percent of Americans who have the ability to become pregnant do before the age of 20.
So: One in every four people aged 15-19 acquires an STI each year. But less than one in every ten in that same age group becomes unintentionally pregnant. To put it another way: 25% of young people in the United States has an STI. Only around 7% in that same age group become pregnant in a year.
You can perhaps then see how you are most often more at risk of STIs than pregnancy if you are a young person engaging in the kind of sex that poses risks of both.
More at risk. Not less. Not the same. More.
Imagine being denied emergency contraception after a sexual assault; to not even be informed about the steps you can take to prevent an unwanted pregnancy; and to later find yourself pregnant as a result of the rape.
For thousands of Native American women this is reality.
That is why the ACLU and NACB have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with Indian Health Services (IHS) seeking information on policies governing access to over-the-counter emergency contraception (sometimes known as “Plan B”) at IHS facilities and demanding to know what steps the government is taking to solve this problem.
Did you know 34.1 percent or more then 1 in 3 Native American women will be raped in their lifetime? Native American women experience sexual assault at a higher rate than all other U.S. populations, which is one reason why it is essential that they have access to Plan B.
According to FDA guidelines, Plan B is available to women 17 and older OTC. If used within 120 hours, EC can safely prevent pregnancy after contraceptive failure, unprotected sex, or sexual assault. But EC is most effective the sooner it is taken, with effectiveness decreasing every 12 hours.
Although Plan B has been available without a prescription to adult women since 2006, 90 percent of Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities do not provide Plan B OTC to the Native American women they serve. Given the rural locations of many reservation communities, if EC is unavailable at the IHS facility the next closest commercial pharmacy may be hundreds of miles away and transportation costs may be insurmountable, making timely access to EC difficult, if not impossible for too many women.
Read the rest here.
In case you forgot, or aren’t sure of all we offer, there are four different avenues to be able to get help tailored exactly to you from one or more of our staff or volunteers at Scarleteen, dedicated to helping young people get the sexuality and sexual health information, education and support they need since 1998.
All of these services are thoughtfully, carefully, and sensitively delivered and moderated: we take your serious issues as seriously as you do. And all of these services are always available, not just on certain days of the week or at certain times of day.
1) Our Message Boards: Without over 55,000 registered users, our message boards are a safe space to talk with peers or get information, help or advice from staff and volunteers. Check them out here.
2) Our SMS Service: Available for mobile users in the United States. Find out about it here.
3) Our New Live Site Helpline: Find out all about it here!
4) Our Advice Column: For those with big questions who want big answers, and can wait a while for an answer, or are comfortable waiting for an answer while getting more immediate help from one of our others services, here’s our advice queue. For the archive of all our advice column answers, click here.
Of course, you can also peruse any of the thousands of pages of content — articles, checklists, previous advice answers, resource lists, the find-a-doc database for in-person services, and so much more —on our website, starting right here: http://www.scarleteen.com