“Safer sex is sex where semen, vaginal secretions or blood are not exchanged between partners. The exchange of these body fluids can occur with…”.1

Umbrella
What may the Safer Sex Umbrella include?

Depending on the Source (DotS) this umbrella may include:

  • Safe Sex
  • Safer Sex

Definition

What is safer sex?

DotS the definition of safer sex may vary. The (Australian) Jean Hailes for Women’s Health’s (JH) definition is:

“Safer sex is sex where semen, vaginal secretions or blood are not exchanged between partners. The exchange of these body fluids can occur with the following sexual activities:

  • Vaginal sex
  • Anal sex
  • Oral sex
  • Oral anal contact
  • Fingers or objects in the vagina or anus (if they have these fluids on them)”.2

Regular Partner

Is unprotected sex with a regular partner, safer sex?

Not necessarily. The JH explain:

“Unprotected sex with your regular partner will only be safe as long as both partners are only having sex with each other, and you have both had an STI check-up”.3

Withdrawal

Is withdrawal, safer sex?

No. The JH note:

“Withdrawal (pulling out before ejaculation) is not safe sex because sexual fluids can be released before ejaculation (known as pre-ejaculatory fluid)”.4

Tell or Not

Can you tell if your sexual partner has an STI?

No. The JH explain:

“You cannot tell if a sexual partner has an STI. A strong and healthy person may still be infected. Some people may not even know they are infected. You risk getting an STI from any partner who has had, or is having, unsafe sex with another person”.5

Guidelines

What are safer sex guidelines for women?

In Safe Sex Rules Still Apply: Safer Sex Guidelines for Women of All Ages the North American Menopause Society’s (NAMS) include:

  • “Choose a partner carefully
  • Discuss sexual histories with your partner, and don’t let embarrassment compromise your health
  • Always insist that a male partner use a latex condom for genital, oral, and anal sex unless you are in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship. Never use petroleum-based products like Vaseline or baby oil to lubricate condoms because they can cause condoms to break
  • Don’t let a male partner’s erection difficulties keep him from using a condom. Dream up some erotic or stimulating methods for putting on the condom to keep his erection going. If all else fails, get a female condom
  • Have an annual physical exam, including a Pap test and lab tests to identify STIs if you are at any risk
  • If you are exposed to an STI or have received a confirmed diagnosis, urge any partners to be tested and treated
  • Consider having both you and your partner checked for STIs before starting a sexual relationship”.6

In Safer Sex & STIs: Safer Sex Practices the JH include:

“Practise safer sex by avoiding contact with your partner’s body fluids to reduce your risk of STIs.

Condoms are an effective barrier against most STIs. This includes HIV as well. Some STIs, such as herpes, genital warts and pubic lice, may still be spread even if a condom is used. They are spread by skin-to-skin contact.

Oral sex is not the answer to avoiding STIs as herpes, gonorrhoea and chlamydia can all be transmitted through unprotected oral sex.

Use dental dams if you are having oral sex with other women. Dental dams are small sheets of latex rubber that act as a shield between the vagina and the mouth.

Practising safer sex is important at any time including during your period”.7

Sex Between Women

What additional safer sex precautions may apply specifically to sex between women?

In Safe Sex Rules Still Apply: Safer Sex Guidelines for Women of All Ages the NAMS explain:

“Although lesbians have fewer STIs than heterosexual women, be aware that STIs can be passed from woman to woman. Some additional precautions apply specifically to sex between women:

  • Prevent transfer of any body fluids (including menstrual blood and vaginal fluids) into cuts, scrapes, or other openings
  • During oral or vulva-to-vulva sex, cover your partner’s vaginal area with a dental dam or similar latex barrier to avoid contact with secretions
  • Avoid sharing sex toys. Either clean them in hot, soapy water or use a new condom before switching users.

Keep in mind that oral sex with a partner who has a cold sore or fever blister can transfer the herpes virus to you if your mouth or genitals come into contact with the sore”.8

Things To Remember

What may it help to remember about safer sex?

In Safer Sex & STIs: Things To Remember the JH remind us:

Safer Sex

  • “Have a check-up for STIs before having sex with a new partner
  • Use condoms
  • Use dams for oral sex
  • Talk to partners about sexual health
  • Limit the number of sexual partners to reduce your risk”.9

Health Care Provider

What if I would like help with safer sex?

If you would like help with safer sex, it may be in your best interest to choose to talk to your health care provider about this. The NAMS reassure:

“If your provider asks about your sex life or sexual function, don’t miss the opportunity to be frank and look for help. More important, if your provider doesn’t ask specifically about your sexual function, don’t be afraid to bring up a distressing sexual problem yourself when you’re asked, “How are you feeling?” Most providers today are comfortable addressing such a problem; if your provider is not, consider looking for another.

There is absolutely no need to suffer (or let your relationship suffer) in silence”.10 

The (United States) Mayo Clinic also encourage us to talk to our health care provider explaining:

Safer Sex
“Your health has a big impact on your sex life and vice versa. Don’t be embarrassed about discussing sex with your doctor. Your doctor can be a reliable source of information on sexual health. He or she can help you manage chronic conditions and medications that affect your sex life. Your doctor can help you understand how sexual activity may change throughout your life”.11

Health Topics A-Z

Where may I find Health Topics related to Safer Sex?

In Health Topics A-Z you may find:

Links

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Sources

Where may I find the Sources quoted?

You may find the Sources quoted at:

Sources

  1. Safer Sex & STIs: What Is Safer Sex? Last Updated: 22 March 2020 | Last Revised: 02 December 2013. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/sex-sexual-health/safer-sex-stis/ Accessed: 21 October 2020
  2. Safer Sex & STIs: What Is Safer Sex? Last Updated: 22 March 2020 | Last Revised: 02 December 2013. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/sex-sexual-health/safer-sex-stis/ Accessed: 21 October 2020
  3. Safer Sex & STIs: What Is Safer Sex? Last Updated: 22 March 2020 | Last Revised: 02 December 2013. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/sex-sexual-health/safer-sex-stis/ Accessed: 21 October 2020
  4. Safer Sex & STIs: What Is Safer Sex? Last Updated: 22 March 2020 | Last Revised: 02 December 2013. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/sex-sexual-health/safer-sex-stis/ Accessed: 21 October 2020
  5. Safer Sex & STIs: STIs Don’t Discriminate. Last Updated: 22 March 2020 | Last Revised: 02 December 2013. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/sex-sexual-health/safer-sex-stis/ Accessed: 21 October 2020
  6. Safe Sex Rules Still Apply: Safer Sex Guidelines for Women of All Ages. North American Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/reminders-and-resources/safe-sex-rules-still-apply Accessed: 21 October 2020
  7. Safer Sex & STIs: Safer Sex Practices. Last Updated: 22 March 2020 | Last Revised: 02 December 2013. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/sex-sexual-health/safer-sex-stis/ Accessed: 21 October 2020
  8. Safe Sex Rules Still Apply: Safer Sex Guidelines for Women of All Ages. North American Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/reminders-and-resources/safe-sex-rules-still-apply Accessed: 21 October 2020
  9. Safer Sex & STIs: Things To Remember. Last Updated: 22 March 2020 | Last Revised: 02 December 2013. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/sex-sexual-health/safer-sex-stis/ Accessed: 21 October 2020
  10. Talking To Your Health Care Provider About Your Problem. North America Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/effective-treatments-for-sexual-problems/talking-to-your-healthcare-provider-about-your-problem Accessed: 21 October 2020
  11. Have Questions About Sex? Ask Your Doctor. 01 October 2020. Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/sexual-health/in-depth/art-20048805 Accessed: 21 October 2020

Topic Last Updated: 21 October 2020 – Topic Last Reviewed: 21 October 2020
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