HOW TO: Have Safe Sex
The state of sexual and reproductive education in Australia is dire, to say the least. It’s important that young people are as informed as possible about sex and reproductive health, so that they can make informed choices about their sexuality and bodies. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, but links to resources will be included at the end of this article. Let’s talk about sex, baby.
Check They’re into It Before You Get into It
Consent should be the basis for every sexual encounter you participate in, and should be informed, coherent, freely given and enthusiastic. Someone who is extremely intoxicated by drugs or alcohol can’t consent, and consent can be withdrawn at any point: if someone isn’t feeling it, you need to respect their requests to stop or slow down. You should also be attentive to the way they’re communicating with you: if someone’s body language is indicating that they’re not into it, you need to stop and make sure they’re okay. Ultimately, consent should be a continuing conversation between you and your sexual partner (or partners.) It doesn’t need to be a serious one: establishing your boundaries and what you’re into can be a very fun conversation. Though consent isn’t inherently sexy: it can be! Ask your partner how they like to be pleasured. Good communication makes sex infinitely more pleasurable and fun for both parties.
Condoms and dental dams are the most effective barrier protection against STIs. Condoms prevent infections that may be transmitted during penetrative sex, and dental dams do the same for oral. You can buy them at your local supermarket, chemist or sex shop: it’s a good idea to keep some on you if you’re planning on getting freaky. Free condoms and dental dams can be picked up from Family Planning and Play Safe NSW, as well as from the clinic at RPA Sexual Health.
It’s a good idea to get tested at least once a year, and if you’re someone who frequently has sex with different partners, you should get tested once every 3-6 months. The RPA Sexual Health clinic offers free, anonymous, HIV/STI testing that doesn’t require a Medicare card to access, and is queer, drug user and sex worker friendly. Check OUT is run by ACON and Family Planning NSW, and provides HIV/STI testing for all members of the queer community, and cervical screenings for all members of the queer community with a cervix. There’s a lot of societal stigma around HIV and STIs, which means that many people go untested for fear of experiencing shame or judgement as the result of a positive test result. Both Check Out and the RPA Sexual Health Clinic are discreet, non-judgemental spaces where people can access sexual and reproductive services free from judgement. Best of all, regular testing means that STIs can be detected and treated quickly, meaning you can get down and dirty, worry free.
If you’re a person with a uterus there are multiple ways you can prevent pregnancy, including condoms and hormonal contraception (such as the contraceptive pill.) Long Acting Reversible Contraception is an option if you want something that you can leave in over a period of months or years, such as an IUD or Implant. Access to reproductive healthcare in Australia is dire, and cost is a barrier for many people. Family Planning have a clinic in Ashfield where you can discuss your contraceptive options, and they can also arrange a free interpreter if you need one.
If your contraception fails you can access emergency contraception without a prescription: there are two pills you can take, which can be used within 72 or 120 hours of having sex respectively. Both are available from most chemists at a cost between $15 and $45, depending on type and brand. It’s important to remember that the effectiveness of the pill decreases after the first 24 hours, and you can chat to your chemist about your options if you have any questions or concerns.
Lastly, it’s important to note that both partners should be taking equal responsibility for contraception, as well as any costs involved.
Reading is sexy, and so is making informed choices about your sexual and reproductive health. Here are some resources for those of you that want more information: