When we talk about sexual health, it’s easy to jump straight into thinking about STIs and using those all important condoms. However, our sexual health is far more complex and multi-layered than that. It is a unique relationship we build with our bodies, minds and society so as to have pleasurable experiences safely and securely. This can take a gentle process of unlearning negative ideas to welcome in a new sense of sexual confidence. So, whether you’re playing on your own, trying new ideas out with a partner, or searching for a new kinky playmate, here are our suggestions for ensuring your sexual health stays in tiptop condition, all year round.
Talking about Sexual Health
Communication is key when it comes to engaging in sexual pleasure. Being able to explain what you want and how you want it before jumping into bed with someone is an essential element of sexual wellbeing. It fosters trust, respect and certainty about the situation you’re about to step into. Remembering that our desires don’t stay the same, take some time to reflect on where you are at on your own sexual journey and any concerns, worries, or anxieties that have been playing on your mind. For many people, changes to their sexual orientation and gender identity can have a big impact on libido and confidence around intimacy. Avoid negative experiences by working out what boundaries you need to feel relaxed and how you want to be addressed (and undressed!). Check out the article ‘How to talk about sex’ for advice during those tongue tied moment.
How we feel in our bodies can change on a daily basis. For many mothers, the experience of childbirth can mean reestablishing a whole new relationship with their body. While conditions like vaginismus, erectile disfunction, and physical disabilities can all make sex tricky. Be gentle with yourself and others by recognising, respecting, and discussing how traumatic or life changing experiences are having an impact. It’s 100% OK not to want to have sex, and it’s perfectly normal to have a high sex drive. Keep checking in on your sexual lifestyle to make sure it is serving you in the way you deserve; in love, respect, joy and pleasure. If you feel the need to do deeper work, psychosexual therapists and cognitive behaviour therapy are both great options for dissecting and releasing any obstacles that are getting in the way of pleasure.
Sexual Health when getting down and dirty
The act of sex can get pretty messy. With a party of bodily fluids being exchanged, it’s important to play safe. If you are exploring forms of oral and anal sex then implement ways to reduce any risk of contracting infections or jeopardising your health. For folks who are into rimming, cunnilingus and blowjobs, using condoms, and great new inventions like Loral latex pants mean that you can engage in a safe and sanitary way. Anal douching and washing thoroughly before and after intimacy, especially if you’re enjoying a golden shower, can help protect you and your partner from diseases and infections.
Moving into the world of BDSM, from impact play (flogging, spanky, whipping) to experimenting with wax and rope tying, you want to eliminate any possibility of things going wrong. Once again, this comes down to communication, practise, and providing aftercare for everyone involved. Start by discussing what you want to explore, the mood you are in, and any worries that arise. Use safe words to make sure you never push yourself or your partner too far. A simple option for this is saying ‘green’ (keep going), ‘amber’ (almost at a hard limit), and ‘red’ (stop) so your partner knows how you are feeling. These allow you to relax completely knowing that you are always in control of the situation. And most importantly, whether it’s a one time thing, or a long term relationship, make sure you are connecting with people who respect your wishes and never undermine your needs. Your safety will secure your sexual pleasure.
The very idea of Sexually Transmitted Infections can come with a bucket load of shame and embarrassment. But in reality, checking your sexual health through regular testing and discussing STI statuses with each partner you meet is an act of self care and self respect. Visiting a sexual health clinic is nothing to be nervous about and, in most cases, you will be tested for 4 things – HIV and syphilis (done on a blood test), gonorrhea and chlamydia (tested with urine samples or a vaginal/anal swab). If you’re scared of showing your genitals, fear not – often you can do these tests on your own, in private. The only time you’ll have to strip down is if you have any symptoms (such as changes in smell, new lumps or rashes appearing). As always, it’s best to avoid Dr Google and seek professional medical attention in these moments.
In recent years there have been wonderful advances in HIV antiviral treatment meaning that anyone taking effective treatment can expect to live a normal life span without the risk of transmitting the virus. For partners of people with HIV, the availability of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) further reduces the risk of contracting the disease. Take extra precaution by using condoms and femidoms, and remember that STIs can be contracted through oral, anal and vaginal sex. Much of the time STIs will be asymptomatic meaning you won’t know you’re carrying a disease. If left undiagnosed or untreated, conditions such as Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Syphilis can lead to infections, fertility, heart problems and even dementia. Avoid any undue stress or anxiety by getting checked each time you’re about to engage with a new partner. If you struggle to reach a sexual health clinic, check out home testing kits available online, and often provided by charities for free.
Tips when at Home
Whether your engaging in solo sex, loved up with a partner, or playing with a kinky family, your health and wellbeing are fundamental to the joy you will get out of every experience. Alongside looking after your mind and body, make sure you’re keeping all your toys clean by washing them thoroughly with warm water and soap before and after use. Boiling water and alcohol are great ways to kill off any invisible bacterias, especially on surfaces and kinky clothes. And be sensible when sharing toys – some objects are best left for just one sexy soul in your life.
We suggest you take a look at the article ‘Sexual self esteem, what is that?’ to dig a little deeper into your own sensuality. Give yourself time to journal, research, and explore what feels right to you. Let that kinky imagination take you to new levels of sexual wonder, and keep giving your body the love it deserves.