Happy Pride! — is the greeting of the season. Many of us find ourselves feeling hornier than usual this time of year — as well as ready and willing to celebrate that feeling with whoever else may be feeling the same. Below are some ways to prevent bringing anything home that may linger and be an unwelcome reminder of an otherwise salacious, albeit fun, encounter.
First things First:
Know your status! Getting tested is the single most responsible thing a sexually active person can do. You may be carrying a sexually transmitted infection that of which you may not be aware. Without knowing it exists, there’s no way to treat it. Some places to check out for testing: The Salt Lake County Health Department, Utah AIDS Foundation, or Planned Parenthood.
Carry the right equipment:
Condoms and Dental Dams are your friends! It’s up to you to protect yourself. Someone may believe they are free from all STIs, but should you contract something in spite of that, the responsibility is really on you. We are each responsible for our own bodies – and that means protecting it from potential infections. If the person you’re hooking up with has sexual practices and/or partners that are little known to you, it’s best to err on the side of caution and use protection. Think it’s not sexy to insist on using a barrier? Know what’s even less sexy? Contracting an STI and having to take a trip to the doctor’s office for treatment that could’ve been prevented.
Lube lessens friction and therefore lessens the possibility of micro tears or abrasions. Tears and abrasions offer an access for unwanted bacteria or viruses to enter your body. Less friction equals less tearing which equals less risk of contracting an STI. *TIP* Coconut oil may be super popular these days, but it is not lube and can actually breakdown latex making many condoms ineffective.
This may sound counter intuitive to prepping up your sexy bits for a potential rendezvous with a new lover, but shaving can cause many little micro abrasions which in turn offer access for infections and bacteria to enter your body. Ever experience razor burn? Those minor little injuries to the skin are all the opening your body needs to invite something unwanted. If shaving is how you keep yourself manicured, do so 24 hours before heading out to play.
Wax in Advance:
If waxing is your jam, do so at least 48 hours prior to play time. Like shaving, waxing can cause an injury to the skin creating an opening for unwanted STIs to enter. Waxing injuries to the skin take a bit longer to heal than shaving as many waxes remove a bit of skin along with the hair follicle.
Brushing our teeth is not only necessary but also greatly appreciated by everyone we encounter. However, doing so right before playing orally may put you at a higher risk for STI contraction. Much like shaving and waxing, brushing can create micro-tears in our gums. It’s not uncommon for the gums to bleed a little when brushing your teeth. That bleeding is a sign of a (minor) injury to the gums and therefore — you guessed it — another potential opening for STI contraction.
Thankfully our mouths heal super fast and if you happened to brush your teeth in the morning, by afternoon you should be good to go. However, if you do find yourself with a mouthful of someone else’s deliciousness … swallow or spit but don’t let it sit. Our mouths are acidic and have the ability to kill a lot of bacteria. But let’s not test just how much they kill by allowing another person’s body fluids, no matter how tasty, to simmer in it for too long.
Your Safest Barrier:
Closed skin. Think of how we all work to prevent the spread of a cold or flu, which are simply other viruses that are not (usually) sexually transmitted. The best way we work to prevent them is to wash our hands often and disinfect areas that may be infectious. Treat your genitals the same way. Clean yourself often; tend to any openings in the skin; don’t knowingly expose yourself to something that may potentially infect you.
There certainly is a lot of unwarranted shame and stigma around STIs. Fortunately, there are cures and treatments and plenty of ways to prevent oneself from contracting a new STI or passing along an already existing one. Keep yourself in the know and appropriately protected so you can enjoy any and every sexual encounter that comes your way and thus — keep your Pride Days not only happy, but sexier too.
Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook is a Clinical Sexologist with a private practice in Salt Lake City. She can be reached at DrLaurieBennettCook@gmail.com