Sex can be mind-blowingly wonderful. It can also lead to disappointment, confusion and a host of other unwanted consequences. Start creating emotional and physical safety practices around sex now, so you can have great sex for the rest of your life. Read on for three topics to consider to plan for safe sex.
Substances + Safe Sex
Mixing substances and sex can be a titillating experience if done with consideration. Utilizing a buddy system if you’re going out for the evening is one way to create accountability. If that doesn’t appeal to you, think about planning ahead.
Creating safety plans can decrease anxiety and increase a sense of control. Think less “what ifs?.” Individuals with anxiety are two to three times more likely to develop a substance use disorder, and substances have the potential to increase anxiety. Yikes.
Drinking is a depressant, meaning it slows your entire nervous system down; while this makes it easier to loosen up it also makes it more challenging to experience bodily sensations. Alert, this is pleasure stopper. Drunk sex might feel good in the moment, but how do you think about the experience the next day?
Smoking cannabis can reduce stress and anxiety, allowing for more potent sensory experiences, but drug effects are user dependent. If you aren’t familiar with a substance, go back to your safety plan and be prepared to walk away or catch an Uber if you’re not feeling well.
Wanting to experiment with drugs and alcohol isn’t inherently problematic, but make sure you understand the risks. When the feel good neurotransmitters are flowing it’s much easier to ditch your plans and precautions.
Evaluate your recent sexual encounters and assess for safety and value alignment. If you need a few ideas to add to your safety plan, try these:
- Set a limit on the number of drinks you are going to have throughout the evening.
- Stick with a friend when you go out and make plans to go home together, even if you meet someone.
- Turn on your location tracker if you decide to part with your friends and ask them to call you at a designated time.
- Make sure your phone is fully charged before you go out.
- If you’re trying a new drug, commit to being present for the experience solo first.
- Carry condoms! Perhaps have some water based lubricant on hand as well (oil based lubrication may not be compatible with some condoms).
STIs. Yup, still a thing.
Sexually transmitted diseases can be a serious anxiety pusher, and no one is immune from the potential for risk. There is currently no cure for herpes, HIV/AIDS, or genital warts, three common, and easily spread sexually transmitted infections. While most forms of sexual protection aren’t 100% effective, items such as latex condoms and female condoms such as dental dams can be often be better than nothing at all during penetrative sex, oral sex, anal sex, or really any kind of sexual contact.
Instead of crossing your fingers, try practicing safer sex from the get-go. Talking about expectations and boundaries with sexual partners before it happens may seem unsexy and taboo, but what if it wasn’t? How would you feel if someone came to you and said:
“Hey, I was tested last week, just wanted to show you my test results. I hope you’ll do the same.”
Would you feel respected and slightly shocked? Maybe. It might also increase a sense of safety and connection, a requirement for many women to experience desire. Sex is riskier for women, period. It makes sense to need security first. Talk about sexual health before you get hot and heavy, and if you’re nervous, try rehearsing beforehand.
If you have an STI and are worried about sharing with a partner, know you are not alone, and you are inherently worthy, and get to have great sex! Practice how you’d like to share your truth with a trusted friend or therapist, learn about what safer sex strategies can help you keep reduce the risk of transmission, and let go of the outcome.
The more you practice, the more your confidence and commitment to your sexual health becomes easier to discuss without shame. If someone laughs at your attempt to practice safe sex, run! If they can’t respect your health, why would you want to sleep with them?
Access your “no”.
In the age of consent, the rule is, consent. The moment you feel pressured, unsafe, uncomfortable, or just plain over it, you have the the explicit right to stop.
It can be challenging to access your no in sticky situations, particularly if you have loose boundaries. If this is your first time with someone, if you’re feeling sick because you had too much to drink at dinner, check in with yourself, sex need not be obligatory, ever.
Learn to listen to the internal cues of your body. This practice is called interoception, moving from eyesight to insight. Anxiety is a warning sign from your body of a threat, don’t deny your instincts; do learn to understand your body’s triggers. If you find your mind is keeping you from enjoying sexual activities that you want to say yes to, you might seek insight from a sex therapist. Sexual complaints are highly common amongst those with anxiety.
Don’t feel ashamed for stepping on the brakes at any point before or during sex. Worries about coming off as hostile or disinterested can be a product of built-in societal expectations of being agreeable and likeable. Otherwise known as sexism for many women. It can also be a learned fawn response. Try rehearsing boundary statements and overtime it will start to feel more natural.
Having great sex doesn’t have to be an elusive construct reserved for your fantasies. Start discovering how you can create safety around sex and feel comfortable enough to let loose. If you find you are struggling on your own, Modern Intimacy’s mental and sexual health care professionals are here to help.