Safe Sex: Beyond the Condom and Pills
I am a proud sex-positive person. My sex positivity is centered on Womxn of Color who do what they want, with whom they want, wherever they want, however that looks like. From not having sex, to having a lot of sex with whomever, I’m all for it. But at the core of my sex-positivity, I believe that that sex should come from a mentally, emotionally, and spiritually safe place. Now that brings on the question: who decides what is safe, and what is healthy? The answer is you. Only you can decide that and what feels right for you.
I think this includes all sexual interactions from sex work, to masturbating, to having sex with one partner, to multiple partners, to no partners.
I can only talk from my personal experiences and from the people I surround myself with, and I can say that I have had unhealthy sex. Sex because I’ve felt unwanted, unattractive, and that that’s all I had to offer. I’ve also stopped having sex for the same exact reasons. And with this realization, some questions came up. How can we have a healthy sex life/or lack thereof that is centered on what we want, and how we feel? People might also see sex/not having any as something that isn’t a big deal, something that can be done casually. And that’s true. But sex can also be used as a coping mechanism—and then what do we do? Some will say, “well, stop having sex,” but what if not having sex becomes something unhealthy as well? (Talking strictly on people who do not identify as Asexual). Below are some steps that folks could consider following.
5 Steps to Safer Sex
1) Talk about Sex!
Talking about sex can be triggering, uncomfortable, intimidating and even irrelevant, so I’m assuming that if you are reading this you are curious. So whether you are on one end or the other when it comes to talking about it, it is most important that you are comfortable talking about it to yourself. Knowing what you want, and what you don’t want; and what you like and what you don’t like. Even talking about it with a partner is important as well. In Dr. Sue Johnson’s “The Three Kinds of Sex”, She state “folks in long term relationships who can talk openly about their sex life have more and better sex than new or more reticent couples. What really determines what kind of sex you are going to have isn’t the novel positions you find in the sex manual or the new tips in the latest magazine. It’s how safely attached you are to your partner. Emotional presence and trust are the biggest aphrodisiacs of all.” (www.drsuejohnson.com) More reason to talk about sex!
Reflect on why you like what you like, why you don’t like something, and why you are making the choices you are. Whether it’s for personal, political, or religious reasons, its good to reflect on them. It gives these actions purpose. Thinking about what does sexuality mean to you, and if sexuality is even important to you. It’s okay if it isn’t, and it’s okay if it is. But it’s reflecting and knowing that is important and powerful. Reflect on all the feels, and whatever experiences make you feel happy, comfortable and safe and think about why these instances felt so great. And then, reflect on moments that might not have been so great for you on an emotional, and mental level. This goes on to reflecting with your partner(s) as well. After having sex, yeah it might be awkward but if something didn’t make you feel so great, speak up! If this person really cares for you, they will listen and make changes accordingly.
3) Be Honest!
Be honest with yourself and with your partner(s). There are many different sexual orientation and relationship variations that might really work for you. A lot of times people try to fit into a monogamous, heterosexual and patriarchal mold of what relationships are supposed to be, what sex is supposed to be—guess what? That does not work for everyone and that is okay! But when we aren’t honest with ourselves with that, and what that looks like we end up hurting ourselves and other people. Not intentionally, but people do end up hurt. In Heather Corrinna’s “Safer Sex….for your heart” She makes a list of situations that may not be all that healthy for you emotionally and mentally because of the baggage and stress they bring. Some of the things listed are “Faking or pretending orgasm, arousal or sexual interest, Being dishonest about what one is seeking in the relationship, such as stating a relationship or hookup is casual or ‘only friends’ when you want or feel far more, or stating a relationship is seriously romantic and intended to be long-term when you do not have those feelings…Taking up with someone who already has a [partner who hasn’t consented to them seeing other people]…Agreeing to relationship models or relationship ‘rules’ that you know you can’t live with… Taking up with a partner with whom you cannot assert yourself with or say no to readily.” (www.scarleteen.com) If you want a healthy sexual relationship with yourself and others it’s good to be honest with every aspect that comes with it.
Lets have some real expectations for what sex fulfills and what it doesn’t. When we have unhealthy expectations for sex, not only does it make sex less fun, it also becomes unhealthy for us. There are tons of articles talking about how porn and movies have led us to have unrealistic expectations to what sex is suppose to be but also how its suppose to make us feel as well. I talked earlier about how I’ve used sex to feel worthy, and to feel better about myself but, guess what? I might have felt a little better afterwards for about a second but all my insecurities came back, sometimes worst. Sex might mean different things to a lot of people but sex shouldn’t be used to try to prove ourselves, or to fulfill an emotional hole that comes from different things not related to sex. Think about the expectations you have for sex. Some people expect to orgasm every single time, and that’s not the case for a lot of us. So does that mean the sex was bad? No. Sex can still be amazing without the big “O,” but it’s recognizing what expectations work for us, and what does sex mean for us in relation to who we are having it with and why. For example, if you are looking for that big “O” but you achieve it better masturbating then you do with a partner, there are two things that can come out of that situation 1) when you feel that itch to orgasm just take care of it yourself or 2) When you are having sex with a partner let them know what works, and that you want to orgasm, or you can mutually masturbate. It all depends on your needs and wants.
5) Own it!
Now that you know what you want, and what you don’t: own it, rock it, and constantly take care of yourself. Remember that safe sex goes beyond making sure you don’t catch STIs or get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. It’s about your mental well being as well, since sex does go beyond the physical depending on what you are looking for.
I hope this helped create some thoughts and conversations on the emotional well being surrounding sex, whether you are having it or not having it. If you can add any additional steps, or have any comments or questions, please let us know.