Slutty for Sexual Health: A Germaphobe’s 7 Rules For Ultra-Safe Sex

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Hi, I’m Kelly, and I’m ready to come forward and speak my truth: I’m a sex germaphobe.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m also a proud slut who makes her way around town, and I love hot, sweaty, messy sex as much as the next person. But you know what else I like? Sexual health. Having a nice, clean, disease-free vagina as often as possible. Not being pregnant at a stage of my life when I still keep an emergency package of three-cheese pizza rolls in my freezer at all times. So, yeah — I’m very, very careful when it comes to getting frisky with anyone.

Here are the brutal facts: There are at least 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs, which are sometimes also referred to as “sexually transmitted diseases”, or STDs) in the U.S. every year, which costs some $16 billion in treatment. Add that to existing cases, and that takes us up to at least 110 million total STIs among Americans — and those are just the reported ones.

Diseases like HPV and herpes are not routinely diagnosed and reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meaning the numbers are likely much, much higher. Rates for chlamydia and syphilis have in particular been on the rise in the last several years. One in every six Americans between ages 14 to 49 has genital herpes, and two out of every three people have herpes worldwide.

Yikes.

Recognizing these facts is not an exercise in fearmongering, nor is it reason to suggest people need to have less sex. Sex is nourishment for the body and soul, and that’s exactly why we need to be taking better care of our bodies. If you’re sexually active, contracting an STI is hardly unusual — but even when it comes to the mildest and most non-threatening ones, the fact is that it still sucks to have any kind of disease or infection in your genitals. My vulva and vagina bring me so much pleasure. I know that if these valuable parts of my body experience pain or discomfort in any way, it has the power to actively impact and detract from my entire life.

Everybody practices safe sex a little differently depending on their priorities. If yours are to go to every length to keep your nether regions as healthy as can be — which, IMO, should be a top priority for everybody — here are seven of the best science-backed habits you should consider picking up. Some of these are non-negotiables; others are suggestions for if you want to be a little extra with your sexual health like me. And honestly, shouldn’t we all be?

Let’s begin.

1. Regardless of whether you’re on the pill or not, you must use a condom for penetrative sex. Every. Single. Time.

Ladies, repeat after me: Birth control alone will not protect you from STIs. The only exception to this rule is the condom. As magical as the pill and IUDs may be, they’re only contraception — so while they can stop you from getting pregnant, these forms of contraception offer absolutely no protection against getting diseases from your partner. If you want to be absolutely sure you’re not picking up anything you don’t want during sex, you cannot go it raw with people you’re not in a monogamous relationship with.

If you are in a monogamous relationship, and you’ve both been tested and cleared for STIs — go for it! No need for a condom, as long as you’re also using some other form of birth control to keep the fertilized eggs away. But if you’re single (this includes if you’re hooking up with someone regularly but still aren’t exclusive), you gotta wrap it up. This should be a non-negotiable.

If someone tells you they “always f*ck raw” or complain they “can’t get off with a condom” to avoid using one — run.

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2. Ask every new person you sleep with when they were lasted tested for STIs before any clothes come off.

Make a habit of always asking any new partners about their last time getting screened for STIs; if they can’t remember, you should probably skip sleeping with them or at least exercise extreme caution if you do.

Talking about this topic — even with a stranger — should not feel awkward. It’s admirable, and it shows how much respect you have for yourself and your body! There’s nothing sexier than when a guy asks me about my testing history; it shows they’re ultra-conscious about their sexual health, just like I am, and it’s an early indicator that I can feel a little more at ease sleeping with them.

Plus, if done right, it can be a pretty big turn-on to bring up sexual health and history over dinner because it suggests early on that you’re interested in heading home with them. I find that’s the best time to ask — as opposed to when you’re already stripping down in their bedroom, and now the question seems to suggest you’re skeptical of proceeding.

I tend to couple the STI question with asking how many people they’ve slept with in the last 3-6 months; most people will definitely know this number off the top of their heads. If they’ve hooked up with quite a number of people between now and the last time they got checked, I’d again put off sleeping with them until they’ve made an appointment.

One of my crowning achievements of my single life was getting all (yes, all) my partners to get tested and show me copies of their results before we embarked on an extended sexual relationship. Tell a guy they can have hotter, messier sex with you after a super routine checkup, and you’d be surprised how many of them will legitimately drop everything to race to the doctor’s office.

Pro tip: If you’re having penetrative sex and want to ditch the condoms, get your new flame’s STI-free receipts and then ask for sexual exclusivity coupled with transparency — as in, the assumption is that both of you are not sleeping with other people. This doesn’t have to be an emotional arrangement! If one of you does sleep with someone else, cool. Just tell each other so you’re both aware, and then start using the condoms again.

3. Get tested for STIs — more than once a year.

 

The CDC recommends sexually active people get tested yearly for various STIs. If you’re having a ton of casual sex with multiple partners, some doctors recommend you get tested at least every six months.

Especially if the latter is you, it might be helpful to come up with a set of “rules” for yourself (and ideally with your doctor involved) for how often you should be getting checked.

For me, my rule was “two months, two partners” — meaning if I had more than two sexual partners over the course of two months, I had to get tested again. I knew I tended to sleep with dudes who, like me, were also sleeping with a lot of people, meaning there was a lot of fluids getting passed around among our collective network. I just didn’t want to take the risk.

Obviously my rule doesn’t make sense for everybody, nor is it always feasible depending on your health insurance plan and your financial situation. But the point here is, have a definitive system for maintaining your sexual health. And then stick to it.

4. No unprotected oral sex with strangers.

People seem to forget that STIs are not only passed along through P-in-V action. In reality, you can get chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV and more from oral sex alone.

What does that mean, practically speaking? It means you should not go down on randos, and you should not let them go down on you. Period. Get the STI screening receipts, or stick to protected acts like penetrative sex with condoms, using toys and the like.

The same strategies apply here: Tell a guy he can get blowjobs if he shows you his screening results, and you’ll see that boy taking work off the next day to make the appointment. Trust me.

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5. Avoid genital-on-genital contact.

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty. Yes, you read that right: You really shouldn’t even be letting your genitals touch a rando’s genitals without prior knowledge of their STI status. That means no playfully rubbing his dick against your vulva, or whatever else. Not all STIs require the transfer of fluids to go from one body to the other; HPV, herpes, pubic lice and a handful of other infections can all be transferred from dry outer skin touching dry outer skin.

I know what you’re thinking — no oral and no privates touching? Yeah, it’s a hard-knock life for us germaphobes. But if your goal is to be as protected as humanly possible from the risk of STIs, those are the rules.

6. Stay on top of symptom management.

Some STIs are particularly stubborn and tend to recur frequently, and of course there are a handful of STIs that are totally incurable. When it comes to these tricky jerks, make sure you and your partners are taking the necessary preventative and suppressive treatments to manage outbreaks and symptoms.

For example, when my boyfriend and I first started dating, we told each other about how we both have a history of getting cold sores. Cold sores, of course, are just another word for herpes. I was already taking a daily suppressive to avoid passing it on to others, but he wasn’t. I asked him to get a prescription and start taking a suppressive on days we’d be hanging out so that he could go down on me without us worrying about him giving his oral herpes to my genitals (which is possible!).

In addition, we’re both ultra-cognizant of stress now, and we make sure to both take our meds when either one of us is feeling particularly overwhelmed, since that’s when we tend to have outbreaks. It’s all part of managing our symptoms and being careful not to make things worse for each other.

7. For you straight sex folks: Keep Plan B on hand at all times.

You never know when your normal birth control method is going to go haywire during or after a sexual encounter. If you find yourself facing the unexpected — e.g., you forgot to use a condom, or it broke, or you suddenly realized you forgot to take your pill that morning — you can make your life ten times easier by just having emergency contraception conveniently stashed in the bottom drawer of your dresser. It’ll save you a stressful, hasty trip to the drugstore during an actual crisis.

Bonus: Plan B is actually a bit cheaper if you purchase it online in advance of when you need it — about $50-60 in stores compared with about $37 on Amazon. When you’re in a pinch, you won’t have time to wait for a delivery order since Plan B is only effective if taken within three days of the sexual encounter in question, and it is more effective the sooner you take it. All the more reason to keep it in stock at home!

The bottom line

Maybe I’m overdoing it. Maybe most people are underdoing it. No matter how much of this advice you take to heart, it’s good for everybody to understand what serious sexual health precautions look like so you can make more informed decisions about how you want to conduct your most intimate and physically vulnerable moments. To help ground your decision, make sure to talk to your doctor to figure out which safe-sex protocols make the most sense for your body.

Here’s to happy, healthy humping for us all!

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