What Is Safe Sex?

An important part of approaching the issue of sex responsibly is thinking about your reasons for having sex. If your reasons for having sex are not truly based on what is good and right for you, the chances of doing something you regret and that has serious, irrevocable consequences increase. Here are some not-so-good reasons:

  • Having sex maintains and improves the relationship.

  • Sex makes you look cool and grown-up to others.

  • Curiosity.

  • “It just happened.”

If you do decide to have sex, it is your responsibility to have safer sex. Safer sex means protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and protecting yourself or your partner from pregnancy (STDs are often also referred to as sexually transmitted infections, or STIs). Abstinence, or not having sex, is the only 100 percent sure way to avoid pregnancy and diseases; it is the only truly safe sex. For those who choose to have sex, however, there are many ways to make it safer.

Whatever type of birth control you choose, it should offer dual-protection. First, it should protect against pregnancy. But second—and just as important—it should protect against potentially deadline sexually transmitted diseases like the HIV virus (which causes AIDS) as well as genital herpes and others. Effective contraception must serve these two critical purposes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 20 million new cases of STDs each year in the United States, and about half of these are in people between the ages of 15 and 24. Some teens define “sex” strictly as sexual intercourse. However, other types of intimate acts, including oral sex, can spread sexually transmitted diseases.

Discussing safe sex and protection can be awkward and scary. It means not only talking about sex, but also talking about trust and honesty. If you are not able to talk about these things with your partner, perhaps you are also not ready to be sexually active with him or her. In addition to ensuring that sex with your partner is as safe as possible, talking about it can also increase your emotional intimacy and comfort level with each other. So, try to force yourself to get past the initial awkwardness and embarrassment and speak honestly and directly with your partner. You will probably find that it draws you even closer together.

When it comes to safe sex, you need to be comfortable not only with your partner but also with yourself. You need to know the facts and feel comfortable talking about your and your partner’s bodies. You need to make good decisions about taking care of your body and staying healthy. In the end, it is up to you to act responsibly.