There is nearly an infinite number of ways people can have sex; “From licking an armpit to having a five person penetrative orgy, sex isn’t limited,” says Kaleigh Trace, the education co-ordinator at Venus Envy, Halifax’s award winning sex shop.
With so many ways to have sex, there is also an array of risks to navigate on your way to safer sex.
Whether you’ll come across semen and sperm on your sexual adventures or not – you’re still as susceptible to STIs and injuries as anyone else. Mouth on vulva sex, hand on vulva sex, vulva on vulva sex and sharing sex toys are all ways that a range of STIs can be transmitted.
“Any act where fluids are exchanged can pass along STIs”, says Gail Neville, Halifax Sexual Health Clinic’s HIV programs coordinator.
Luckily, there are ways to lower risks.
Trace and Neville agree that education and communication can be the most useful tools to reduce risks associated with sex.
A person’s sexual health status should be something that they know and talk about with their partner(s) before sex, says Neville who insists, “everyone should get tested for STIs.”
Vaginal swabs, mouth swabs and blood work are routine tests that can be taken at the Halifax Sexual Health Clinic. People should get these tests every six months if they frequently change partners, says Neville who mentions that we should also get tested after any event occurs where we think we might have risked contracting an infection.
Once you know that you have an STI, you can act accordingly and legitimate consent can be established. Beyond knowing if your partners have any STIs, barriers like condoms are useful to avoid spreading infections – even if no semen or sperm is involved.
Trace says putting condoms on penetrative sex toys is a good way to avoid potentially passing along STIs. The only type of sex toys that can be adequately sterilized are toys made out of medical-grade silicone. These toys can be sterilized by putting them in boiling water.
People can use dental dams to prevent transmitting infections when performing oral sex and gloves can prevent transmitting blood-borne diseases during digital penetration if someone has a cut or scrape on their hands.
STIs aren’t the only risks to think about.
Different sex toys and other ways of having sex bring different risks of injury into the equation.
Whether it’s chafing from wearing a strap-on, vaginal tearing from digital penetration or toys that are made from materials that contain toxic chemicals, education and clear communication can control and lower risks of injury.
Venus Envy provides a plethora of books and literature about all sorts of sex. Trace recommends Girl Sex 101 as a great source, “for anyone who wants to bone down with chicks.”
“There’s no such thing as completely safe sex,” says Trace. “Sex will always involve risk.”
But education, communication, getting tested and using barriers can control risks and help avoid any unwanted surprises during or after sex – all of this plays into a greater culture of consent, safer sex and more enjoyable sex.