Safe sex needn’t just refer to STIs or unplanned pregnancy and the need to protect ourselves from unexpected consequences. Safe sex is about more than our physical health. Safe sex is equally about our emotional well-being, our mental health and our general sense of being safe and sound, protected from danger and harm when in sexual partnerships. Safe sex involves a whole range of attitudes and behaviours that we need to have considered, discussed and committed to, before we start having sex, if we are to ensure our own and our partner’s ongoing safety and well-being.
We know sex is risky. There are all sorts of risks associated with sex, from the obvious to the ambiguous. If we haven’t considered our sexual preferences and boundaries and discussed them with our partner beforehand, safe, consensual, pleasurable sex can become hit-and-miss rather than a sure thing. And risky sex is hardly sexy. Worrying about your safety, or that of your partner, is hardly conducive to passion and pleasure. Taking the time to consider our safety, including conversation, pausing to check in with our partner makes sex sexier. It makes it more real and more intimate, more fun and more pleasurable. Sex shouldn’t be a race to the finish line, heedless of the condition you’ll arrive in.
Sex, unless you’re having it alone, needs to be conversational. What conversational means for you and your partner can be up to you, but unless sex is accompanied by some agreed upon form of open and honest dialogue, it becomes a very risky undertaking indeed. No one should fear for their safety during sex, no one should be wondering whether their partner will or will not respect their desires and their choices, no one should ever feel too afraid to speak up and say no, or stop, or that feels good. Sex is never a one-way process, it is not about one person’s desire or pleasure or expectation. Sex is not a duty, nor an obligation. Sex must be a shared undertaking, an exchange of pleasures and preferences, a negotiated, communicative experience.
If you can’t talk about sex you shouldn’t be having sex. If you can’t establish good communication, if you don’t know or can’t speak openly about your desires and boundaries, if you can’t ask or hear your partner’s preferences and willingness or unwillingness then you are in danger of disrespecting yourself and/or your partner. Consent is sexy. Respect is sexy. Safety is sexy. And each is necessary. If the sex you are having isn’t enthusiastically, mutually consensual, respectful and safe then there’s a good chance it isn’t sex at all, but a crime. Don’t risk it. Be safe, make safe, stay safe – always when it comes to sex. Seek consent, communicate and cooperate with your partner. It’s not optional – it’s the law. Only engage in freely consensual sex, it’s not too much to expect.