In summer months STI infections shoot up, but that doesn’t mean that you have to stop living life in the hottest season of the year with all the passion you feel. Prevention and enjoyment go hand in hand, especially in the summer when getting carried away is so simple and so tempting. Prevention, because reducing risk is almost as easy as being swept away by desire. Enjoyment, because you know that by taking the correct precautions everything is under control and surrendering yourself to pleasure is then so much more gratifying.
Summer and prevention
Summer is here and mmm... the sun on your face feels so good, as do the long days and balmy evenings. Oh, how we have missed it! It’s no revelation that summer makes us feel happier, more relaxed and with a reinvigorated libido.
And this increase in desire is no coincidence: reduced stress, increased exposure to the sun which boosts vitamin D production, endorphins, and serotonin; more direct exposure to body odours as we wear fewer clothes - and sweat more - along with social factors, make summer the ideal season for sex.
More sex equals more risk, especially if you skip the minimum level of protection that you should invest in when sharing pleasure with other people. This is why if you want to delve into sexual pleasure this summer in a responsible and pleasurable way, you need to keep reading. We’ll tell you everything you need to know!Test yourself
Not getting any STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) is important, but so is not giving any to others! Of course, apart from using the protection methods we are about to recommend, you need to have an annual check-up to be sure that, essentially, you’re free from sexually transmitted infections and diseases.
FACT: How are STIs different to STDs? STI stands for Sexually Transmitted Infection and STD stands for Sexually Transmitted Disease. The difference between them lies in the fact that infection does not always lead to disease. For example, HIV is a sexually transmitted infection whereas AIDS is the disease caused by the infection. In any case, here is the full lowdown on HIV and AIDS.
Having a test is simple. The most common way to detect STDs is by blood tests, which check for hepatitis, syphilis, or HIV antibodies (sometimes also used to detect herpes), and swabs (could be vaginal, oral, pharyngeal, or rectal) which are for studying secretions in search of pathogens which cause chlamydia, gonorrhoea or trichomonas. Some of them can also be detected through urine analysis. In addition to this, there are high-speed HIV tests which are ready in 20 minutes, 15 minutes for gonorrhoea and less than half an hour for syphilis. Of course, if any STI or STD test comes back positive, a more thorough check-up would be performed.
As you can see, checking that everything’s ok is a complete breeze, considering the mental peace if provides. What’s more, looking after your health is always, always a winner
King of kings, the condom. Unfortunately, their use has been squeezed out by contraceptive pills and, yes, a condom does prevent the risk of pregnancy by 97%, but it ALSO prevents STIs, something which, on the other hand, no other form of contraception does.
A condom, rubber, or prophylactic is a sheath-shaped barrier device which is used during sex to reduce the probability of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection. The most well-known is the male condom. Generally, they’re made of latex, though other materials are available for people who are allergic to latex, such as polyurethane. As you can see, not even allergies can stop you using them. So, use them!
As we mentioned, condoms are a contraceptive method, but they are also a way of preventing STIs. Both the male and female condom act as a protective barrier and are effective at reducing the transmission of the organisms which cause AIDS, genital herpes, cervical cancer, genital warts, syphilis, chlamydiosis, gonorrhoea and other diseases. According to the US National Institutes of Health, the systematic use of latex condoms reduces the relative risk of HIV/AIDS transmission by approximately 85% in comparison to no protection, reducing the infection rate from 6.7 in every 100 people/year to 0.9.
Using a condom is fundamental - no compulsory! - when having sex with people whose health status we don’t know (remember many STIs are neither visible nor symptomatic until they develop) or with partners in non-monogamous relationships.
FACT: Anal sex is particularly dangerous when it comes to STI transmission due to the fragility of the rectal mucosa. For anal sex, more than ever: CONDOMS.
You need to know that condoms are not 100% failsafe. Both for protecting yourself from STIs and avoiding unwanted pregnancy, a condom is your best ally, but there is still a tiny percentage of possibility of infection or pregnancy because IT CAN SPLIT. When the product suffers a quality failure (or the condom is out of date - watch out) there is not much you can do to stop it splitting. However, one thing you can do is use the condom correctly, putting it on and taking it off properly.
How to put on and take off a male condom?
Male condoms normally come rolled in an aluminium or plastic sachet and are designed to be placed on the tip of the penis and then unrolled over the erect penis. It is important that a little space is left at the end of the condom so that there is somewhere for semen to be collected; otherwise, it can leak out of the base of the condom. Once ejaculation has taken place, removing the penis whilst still erect is the best way so that, when it becomes flaccid again, no semen or other fluids are spilled inside the vagina or rectum.
What NOT to do with the condom?
- More is not better. Do not use two condoms thinking that you will be more protected. It is likely that, with the friction, they will both split.
- If you have ejaculated and are going to keep penetrating, change the condom for a new one. Used condoms must NEVER be re-used.
- Don’t use oil-based lubricants, they will cause the condom to break.
- Don’t open condoms with your mouth. It’s a bit cavalier, and you could tear it.
As you can see, condoms really are our best friends. But something you might not know is that they are not exclusively for penetration, whether penis-vagina or penis-anus.
Oral sex is also a way that sexually transmitted infections can be spread. You can catch some sexually transmitted diseases through the mouth and throat whilst performing oral sex on a partner who has a genital or anal infection, especially if you are giving oral sex to a partner with an infected penis. You can also catch sexually transmitted diseases through the penis, vagina/vulva, or anus/rectum by receiving oral sex from a partner who has an infection in their mouth or throat.
The best way to avoid this? Using a condom for penises or a latex dental dam for the vulva or anus.
A dental dam is a latex film which can be used on the mouth, vagina or anus so oral sex can be performed safely or, in the case of sex between people with a vulva, tribadism can be enjoyed safely.
FACT: Tribadism, or tribbing, is genital-genital sex between two people with a vulva. It goes without saying that it is not exempt from the risk of spreading sexually transmitted infections, so using a dental dam is essential when the sex is with people whose health status we don’t know (remember many STIs are neither visible nor symptomatic until they develop) or with partners in non-monogamous relationships.
Dental dams are not that easy to get hold of, which is why most people opt for latex barriers crafted out of male condoms. How? By cutting the end of the condom off and cutting it open along the long edge of the cylinder, then opening it out into a rectangular barrier perfectly ready for use.
Of course, self-care goes far beyond sexually transmitted infections. Sex involves sharing some very pleasurable parts of our bodies, but they are also very sensitive. Genitals, due to the multitude of nerve endings, are the perfect target for discomfort, or even pain. These inconveniences, if there is no actual diagnosed illness, appear mainly when we have very passionate sex, when it’s the first time with a lover and they don’t know what we like and how we like it and when communication is still a little stiff.
Amongst the most common injuries are:
- Penile fracture.
- Penile strangulation.
- Vaginal tearing.
- Anal tearing.
- Pulled muscles.
All of this is, of course, simply for information, given that these injuries are easy to avoid if one uses common sense, appropriate lubrication, and good communication during sex. Innovating in pursuit of pleasure is great, but always avoiding running unnecessary risks.
The B side
A fundamental way to avoid injury, trauma and various physical ailments is the responsible use of accessories designed for BDSM or bondage sessions.
You must always use quality accessories designed exclusively for such use and NEVER add into bondage games any other tools such as cords not designed for sex, bridles, plastic objects, locks... etc.
Of course, when we refer to toys, they must be specifically designed for the practice intended, as you must never use a toy for vaginal sex in anal activity as, if it is pushed all the way in, you won’t be able to get it out and it will need to be surgically removed. Once again, use common sense.
Only yes means yes
Consent comes FIRST in sex. Yes, first. Before safety, prevention, condoms, lubricants, and everything which comes afterwards. Without a yes (one per party involved) there is no sexual relationship. Full stop.
You need to know that consent:
- Is given freely. Consenting is an option taken without pressure, without manipulation and without the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Is enthusiastic. When dealing with sex, you must do things that you WANT to do, not what you are expected to do.
- Is specific. Saying yes to one thing (like kissing) does not mean that you are up for doing other things (like having sex).
- Is given when informed. You can only consent to something if you have all the information you need about it. For example, if someone says they will use a condom and then doesn’t do so, there is no consent.
- Is retractable. Everyone can change their mind about that they want to do, and at any moment.
Think you have suffered sexual assault? Call 016, the phone line for violence against women.
It’s summer, let’s have fun!
But summer is not all about prevention, it’s also all about enjoyment! Great weather, more daylight hours and balmy temperatures which make you want to go out; these are all big boosts to socialising. Above all during holiday season, when stress levels are lower.
But how can you enjoy your sexuality even more in summer? Listen and take note:
Now that you know how to protect yourself, make sure you always have condoms and your favourite lube in your bag, backpack, bumbag or wherever you keep your essential summer kit.
Remember condoms must always be in date. Check that they haven’t expired or been damaged. If you don’t know who is going to be wearing them, carry a variety of sizes. If you are going to wear them, be sure to buy the most comfortable size for you.
Like a bit of oral sex? Flavoured condoms are a good addition to your range. You can also use them to make latex dental dams for cunnilingus or annilingus. They are a great piece of kit.
When it comes to lubes... So that you don’t have to lug them all around, go water-based! Water-based lubricants are the most versatile. They don’t last long under water, but they are compatible with oral sex, condoms, and toys. Basically, they are good for (almost) everything.
Look after yourself
To enjoy sex, the act itself is important, but it isn’t everything.
So that your libido and body are 100% tip-top, you must look after yourself, especially during hot summers. Adequate hydration is fundamental, not only for your skin, your hair, and your gastrointestinal and neuronal systems, but also for lubrication. Believe me, when your body needs water the last thing it’s going to do is prioritise your pleasure. Before that, it needs to ‘water’ other VITALLY important areas.
Do regular exercise; your bones, muscles, and heart will thank you for it. And not only that, but it will also boost your performance for more intense sex sessions. Cardio and pleasure? What more could you ask for?
To finish off, eat well, don’t overdo the alcohol (it dehydrates) and avoid other drugs such as tobacco and other substances. A healthy and fruitful sexuality come from having a healthy body and balanced mind.
Listen to your desires
You are the combination of you and your desire. Get to know yourself, explore yourself, experiment, reject, discover... To enjoy sex, not only is it fundamental to know ourselves, but also to accept ourselves. So, you like anal sex? Go for it. Doing it fully dressed turns you on? Perfect. The only thing you want is oral sex? Great. You can do everything you desire with the right sexual partner.
Many people, especially women, find themselves stuck at a crossroads between what they know vs what they desire. Very often penetration is not enough, nor is lying in the missionary position time and again, or not using toys, not masturbating if you have a partner and an endless list of preconceived ideas meaning that if we don’t actively listen to ourselves, we’re going nowhere but the path to frustration.
Listen to your desires, put them into practise and have some fun.