When the term "safer sex" is mentioned, thoughts of protecting oneself from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the role of condoms, and sometimes, those awkward conversations with potential partners often come to mind. However, engaging in sexual activities with sex toys is generally considered low-risk behavior, with the potential for STD transmission varying based on how you use them. By following some straightforward guidelines, you can practice safer sex while incorporating sex toys into your intimate life.
The beauty of sex toys lies in the fact that you never have to inquire whether they're comfortable using a condom. They dutifully follow your lead (until the day robotic sex toys rule the world, that is). Safer sex, in this context, extends beyond guarding against STDs, and it can be approached from at least three perspectives.
1. Safe Sex and Sex Toys
When it comes to using sex toys, the risk of contracting STDs is generally considered low. Nevertheless, it's crucial to acknowledge that any object entering a person's rectum or vagina could potentially transmit HIV or other STDs, including sex toys.
While several research studies have established a connection between sex toy use and STD acquisition, few have delved into the specifics of how to safely use sex toys. Most of these studies primarily involve women who have sex with women, and though the transmission of STDs, including HIV, via sex toys is presumed to be possible, this hypothesis lacks extensive research. The transmission could potentially occur through mucous membranes or blood residue present on a sex toy.
To minimize the risk of STD transmission when using sex toys:
Don't share your sex toys: Sharing sex toys should be avoided entirely.
Use a fresh condom each time: If you share a sex toy, apply a fresh condom every time for each partner.
Consider silicone sex toys: If you own silicone sex toys, you can reduce the risk by boiling them in water between uses. However, you still should not share the toy without boiling it between users.
Use condoms with an STD: If you currently have an STD, consider using condoms on your sex toy, even if you don't share it. This precaution is essential to prevent re-infection.
2. Sex Toys and Other Safer Sex Concerns
Apart from the risk of STD transmission, using sex toys can sometimes lead to unintended and potentially painful consequences. Fortunately, there are simple measures to mitigate these issues:
Always use a fresh condom: When transitioning a sex toy from the anus to the vagina, using a fresh condom is crucial. Bacteria that are harmless in the anus can lead to severe problems in the vagina.
Utilize latex or non-latex gloves: When engaging in anal play, using latex or non-latex gloves can minimize the risk of introducing bacteria from the anus into lubricant bottles, your mouth, your eyes, or your partner's vagina.
Be mindful of lubricants: If you are prone to yeast infections, it's advisable to avoid lubricants containing glycerin. Similarly, you may want to steer clear of warming and flavored lubes.
Know your sex toy material: Some individuals may develop rashes or allergic reactions to sex toys. Being informed about the material of your sex toy can help reduce this risk. Opting for sex toys made from 100% body-safe materials is an excellent practice.
Educate yourself about phthalates: Environmental organizations have raised concerns about exposure to phthalates in sex toys. While no direct evidence links phthalates in sex toys to health problems, it is vital to stay informed about potential risks.
3. Sex Toys and Emotionally Safer Sex
An often overlooked aspect of safer sex is the idea of sex being emotionally safe. It is imperative that you engage in sexual activities only when you are genuinely willing and comfortable. If your partner expresses an interest in using sex toys, and you feel uneasy or unsafe, communicate your concerns openly.
While there may be ways for you to grow comfortable with the idea of using sex toys (starting by trying them on your own), the key principle is not to use sex toys because of external pressure or the belief that they are essential for a fulfilling sex life. Sex toys can certainly enhance your experience, but they are by no means a necessity for everyone.
In summary, practicing safer sex with sex toys involves thoughtful consideration of the risks, preventative measures, and open communication with your partner. By adhering to these guidelines, you can enjoy a healthier, more satisfying intimate life, enriched by the pleasures that sex toys offer while minimizing potential risks.