Sex & Relationships

What does safe sex mean?

Learn what safe sex really means and how you can practise it properly.

The term ‘safe sex’ is thrown around a lot. You’ve likely heard someone in your life tell you to practice safe sex in one way or another.

But what does safe sex mean? It can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Safe sex is something that should of course cover your physical, but also consider your mental and emotional health too.

Sex should be something that you engage in consciously and when choosing to have sex, always ask yourself if its what you want, what your partner wants and if you respect each other enough to use the measures necessary to stay safe and healthy.

What is safe sex?

On its most basic level, safe sex is protecting you and your partner from contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or an unplanned pregnancy. There are a number of ways to protect yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted infections, some of which overlap with the ways that you can prevent an unplanned pregnancy.

Be sure to talk to a doctor, school nurse or clinician about the different ways that you can practice safe sex. Because let’s face it, sex is a natural part of life and nowadays there are so many strategies to prevent unsafe sex, that you’re guaranteed to find one or two that suit you.

5 ways to practice safe sex

1. Use condoms

Using condoms every time you have sex is one of the best ways to prevent STIs (including HIV and HPV) and prevent unwanted pregnancy. Read the instructions and practice how to use them as soon as possible, then work them into your sex life. Condoms can sometimes be seen as a ‘mood killer’, but there is no worse mood killer than contracting an STI. When used properly, condoms are about 98% effective in preventing pregnancy, and are the only form of birth control that helps prevent STIs. It’s best to use them in combination with another form of birth control if you want to be totally protected.

2. Be open with your partner

If you can’t talk to your partner about practising safe sex or agree on the form of birth control being used, you probably shouldn’t be having sex with them. Be open with your partner about what makes you feel comfortable and safe when it comes to sex. If they don’t respect how you feel, ditch them because there are plenty of other people who will.

3. Don't live by ‘just once’ can't hurt

You shouldn't think that something won’t happen to you or you’ll probably be okay if you ‘just do it this one time’. You’ll never be able to tell whether someone has an STI by looking at them, so always use a condom, especially with a new partner.

4. Don’t feel pressured into having sex

If you’re feeling guilty or pressured into having sex with someone, get out of the situation as soon as possible. Sex should be a pleasurable experience for all individuals involved, and definitely not one-sided.

5. Take charge of your sexual health

Make sure that you know what to do and where to get tested if you've had unprotected sex, and get vaccinations where possible. The HPV vaccine can be a life saver!

Why you should practice safe sex

STIs are dangerous, uncomfortable and more common than you may think. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 million STIs are acquired everyday worldwide and some of them can remain with you for life or even affect your ability to have children. While on the other hand, managing your own fertility can empower you and give you more control over when you decide to have a child. Taking care of another human being is a huge responsibility and requires a lot of resources and you should be able to decide when you’re ready for that.

What should I do if I’ve had unsafe sex?

Mistakes happen. If you’ve had unprotected sex, contact your doctor, pharmacist or go to a sex clinic as soon as possible. You’ll be able to get tested for STIs or pregnancy, and the sooner you know the better. Despite the seriousness of contracting an STI or having an unplanned pregnancy, there are options and medications available to you, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help.