Island Sexual Health Society Be informed, not surprised!

examples of sex safety supplies such as external and internal condoms, lube and an oral dam.

Barriers such as external or internal condoms and oral dams and lubrication can reduce the risk of STI transmission.

Sex safety

Practising sex safety means protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STI/STDs) and unintended pregnancy.

Part of sex safety is keeping up to date about safety practices. There are many tools and skills you can use to make sex safer, and these safety recommendations are frequently updated with new developments.

Sex safety techniques

  • Know the risks
  • Use barriers and prevent sharing body fluids
  • Regular infection screening
  • Lube
  • Birth control
  • Healthy relationships
  • Abstinence

Know the risks

Anyone who has sexual contact is at risk for catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI/STD).

Different kinds of STIs can be spread by:

  • skin to skin contact or sharing sex toys—no intercourse required! (herpes, hpv)
  • oral sex or deep kissing
  • unprotected vaginal or anal sex (all)
  • non-sexual activities like sharing equipment for drugs (straws, needles, etc), or using unsterilized needles for tattoos, piercings, or accupuncture

These infections can be passed between any sexual partners where an infection may be present. Some can even be passed through childbirth.

It is not usually possible to tell if someone has an STI because many of them are “silent” infections; many people who have an STI don’t even know themselves that they have it! Your risk of STIs is based not only on your present or past partners, but also on all of the present and past partners of those partners. It’s no wonder they get passed around so much!

Some STIs can be cured with medication (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis), but others cannot be. Some are caused by viruses that can stay in your body for a long time (going away, then coming back again) and some even stay in your body forever. With these viral types, you can only treat the symptoms when they arise, but you can never totally “cure” the virus.

Find out more about:

Use barriers and prevent sharing body fluids

Latex and polyurethane barriers can block sperm as well as the bacteria and viruses that cause sexually transmitted infections (STI/STDs).

Condoms are cheap, easy to get, easy to use and they are your best defense against STIs. Everyone should carry their own supply.

Other ways to reduce your risks of sharing bodily fluids and catching an infection include:

  • limiting your number of sexual partners
  • not sharing sex toys (use a new condom for each person)
  • not having sex with someone who has had a lot of sexual partners
  • avoiding sex if you are intoxicated or unreliable

Some STIs can also be spread through non-sexual activities like sharing equipment for drugs (straws, needles, etc), or using unsterilized needles for tattoos, piercings, or accupuncture.

Regular infection screening

We offer complete, confidential infection testingMake an appointment to get tested or find out more.

Lube

Lube refers to fluid that is meant to be used during penetrative types of sex (i.e. activities that involve another body part/sex toy/object entering  an opening to the body). Of course, it can also used for solo sex aka masturbation.

Why is it important to use lube?

  • Helps barriers (condoms, dams, and gloves) stay strong and flexible and feel more natural

Most condoms come with a bit of lubrication that helps to keep them from drying out while they’re in the package. It’s a good idea to add a little bit more (a few drops to the inside and the outside of the condom before you put one in or on). Dams and gloves aren’t usually lubricated. Adding lubrication to gloves during digital sex (hand and genital contact) helps the gloved hand to feel glide across the skin or in and out of the body more easily and feel more natural. Using lube on the underside of the oral dam will increase strength of the dam and sensation between genitals or anus and mouth.

*Hot Tip* Make sure that the lube you’re using is compatible with the type of barrier you’re using. You CANNOT use an oil based lube (petroleum, massage, cooking oil, or hand lotion products) with latex products. The oil causes the latex to quickly break down and will result in a broken barrier.

  • Decreases the not so good friction that can result in tears and increase the risk of STI transmission

Lube reduces the possibility of the not so good friction that can occur during sex due to a lack of lubrication. This not so good friction can result in microscopic tears to the lining of the vagina, anus, and rectum. If an infection is present in either/any partner, these tears increase the opportunity for infection transmission to occur. Of course, lube isn’t a replacement for barriers in reducing the risk of STIs but they make a great pairing! 

  • It can make sex feel WAY better

Many people report that lube helps penetrative sex to feel more comfortable, fluid, and sensual which increases the possibility of pleasure. Some people say that it helps them engage in sex for longer periods of time!

Want more info about Lube? Check out our FAQs post about Lube!

Birth control

Our detailed birth control section explains different methods of contraception and how to get them. We offer most types of birth control at our clinics.

Most methods of birth control do not protect against infections; you need to use condoms and barriers as well.

Healthy relationships

It’s important for both partners to support sex safety. Our healthy relationship tips and warning signs can help you protect yourself.

Abstinence

The only way to be completely protected from STIs and unplanned pregnancy is to abstain from any kind of sexual contact.

Our detailed abstinence page explains which activities you need to avoid in order to prevent infections and in order to prevent pregnancy.

Sex Toy Safety

Enjoying Sex Toys
Sex toys can certainly be fun and can be enjoyed by yourself or with others! There are certain things one should know before using sex toys though…!

Toys and cleanliness
Washing toys in-between use is VITAL! STI’s such as Chlamydia, HPV and Gonorrhea (just to name a few!) can be transmitted via shared sex toys. Also, when using toys from anus to vagina, bacteria from the anus can cause irritations in the vagina resulting in things such as yeast infections! To find out how to wash toys read on!

Storing your fun
It is important to store your sex toys correctly so you can enjoy them for longer. Some types of sex toys are very sensitive and need to be stored properly.

Enhancing your relationships
Although you may comfortable with using toys, it is important when sharing toys that all parties are aware they will be used. You wouldn’t want to spoil the mood by unpleasantly surprising your partner! Best to disclose toys with others if you’re planning to share! Communication and talking with your partner about their comfort level in using toys is important.

How to Care for Your Toys

Washing
Most toys can be washed by scrubbing with mild soap and warm water. It is important to scrub gaps or indentations if present on the toy because these areas are prone to harboring bacteria and viruses. Rinse the toy with warm water and air dry after.

If using toy cleaners, some may be more effective. Most cleaners usually have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties to them and kill on contact. The toy cleaner sold at the clinic has the added of bonus of not having to rinse with water after cleaning. Toys can simply be swabbed with cleaner using cotton balls or cloth.

It is always advised to USE A CONDOM with applicable sex toys. This can reduce the risk of some STI’s and will also be easier to clean after! Just remove the condom and clean any part of the toy that was exposed.

Storage
It is best to keep your toys out of direct heat or sunlight as some toys can melt! Toys are best kept wrapped in a breathable material in a drawer or cupboard.

It’s also useful to store toys with batteries out of the toy as this can make batteries last longer! It is will also protect your own personal health as batteries corrode over time and may leak onto your toy.