We love sexual health! To help us find our way through this maze of sex and relationships we have the YEP Crew bringing us a series of blogs on the theme of Safety, Pleasure and Respect in young people’s sexual and romantic lives! Before we delve into the nitty gritty, here’s the quick low down on they we are and what they do!
Okay, so what does it mean to be safe sexually?
1. The condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury.
2. Denoting something designed to prevent injury or damage: “a safety barrier”; “a safety helmet”.” (www.google.com)
When it comes to sex and young people, we’re often told about the dangers of sex and all the things that can go wrong if we don’t protect ourselves. Some of you may have been shown some nasty looking pictures of STIs (sexually transmissible infections) like Chlamydia or herpes, or had the glorious opportunity of putting condoms on bananas in the classroom.
When it comes to sexual health, YEP Crew believes that the definition of safety has a broader meaning than one simply taken from a dictionary. Although it could be said that using contraception and/or protection helps to protect from risk and that wearing a condom is a ‘safety barrier’, making sure that you are safe emotionally is also very important! Sexual health means more than just being free from sexually transmittable infections (STIs) and blood-borne viruses (BBVs), it’s also about feeling happy and comfortable with what you’re doing and the decisions you’re making.
YEP Crew have been talking with young people about the importance of safe sexual health in a physical manner for a couple of years now, and there is a heap of information regarding this in schools and on the internet. Even if you know all the info, it can still be difficult and sometimes awkward to talk about contraception and protection with your partner(s). It’s important to know that the contraceptive pill does not protect you from STIs, so if you’re in a guy/girl situation, then using a condom (and lube, to prevent breaking and also for pleasure!) is really important. Practising safer sex is just as important in guy/guy and girl/girl sexual relationships too, so make sure you use condoms and dental dams. Scarleteen has ALL the info for you on how to use condoms, and is inclusive of LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, intersex and queer) young people with a fantastic condom how to guide.
Buying and carrying condoms holds less of a stigma than it used to, and wanting to use condoms doesn’t mean you have an STI or you think your partner has one. It just shows that you’re aware of the potential risks associated with what you’re doing, and that you know how to care for yourself and someone else, which in our books deserves a gold star sticker, not shame! Knowing that you are prepared can give a peace of mind, as having it there helps if something happens in the ‘heat of the moment’ (as it so often does).
Having regular sexual health checkups is also still very important, even if you’re using protection. Sexual health clinics (like Family Planning centres Australia wide) have a relaxed atmosphere and are also less expensive than going to a doctor but find what is best suited for you. Depending what state of Australia you’re in, a simple google search should bring up a list of youth-friendly doctors in your area. Not sure what a sexual health check up involves? Visit the sexual health page here on Tune In Not Out to find out more.
At YEP Crew, we believe that being prepared with contraception and/or protection, as well as having regular sexual health tests helps empower you to be sexually safe. However, staying safe physically is one thing. It’s another thing to stay safe emotionally. This side of safety is not spoken about as much as the physical safe sex stuff, maybe because it is harder to ‘define’ and means something different to everyone. At YEP Crew we think it is very important that you are emotionally safe when it comes to sex. Sex can make you feel happy, awesome, loved, connected and valued. But it can also leave some people feeling confused, hurt and upset.
Having open lines of communication is a significant part of having emotional safety. Discussing your thoughts, desires and boundaries before engaging in any sexual activity can make it clear to you and your partner about what is okay and not okay for you. Our friends at Passionate You put together a cool video on how to have this exact conversation – they call it their safe sex evaluator pitch.
You have the right to have these choices respected. However, if in any situation you aren’t being respected, or haven’t been respected in a relationship, then remember – this is NOT okay, and it is NOT your fault.
If you feel that your safety is (or has been) compromised then there are people that you can talk to. Different states in Australia have varying laws around sexual assault or relationship abuse; find out what your legal rights are if you have concerns. If you just want to talk to someone though, family and friends can be a good place to start if there is someone you trust and are comfortable with. Counsellors can be found at schools, universities, and at various mental and sexual health support centres. There are also phone lines to ring such as Kids Help Line and Lifeline. For relationship advice: Call 1800 MYLINE (1800 695 463) or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For relationship violence Call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). If you’re in W.A you can contact the 24 hour emergency line for SARC (Sexual Assault Resource Centre) on (08) 9340 1828 or 1800 199 888.
Safety is something that you have a right to. Being protected from something that may cause risk or injury and having a safety barrier like a condom or dental dam is just the basics. We hope that you have a better understanding of the importance of physical AND emotional safe sex, and how important it is in order to have respectful and pleasurable sexual experiences! Stay tuned for our blogs on pleasure and respect later in the week!
Check out all the stories in this Safety, Pleasure, Respect relationship series
Also check the related topics:Sex Sex and consent Sexual assault