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Keep it sexy and safe

Published:Monday | February 1, 2016 | 2:00 AM

As the season of love draws near, February 1-5, 2016 is being celebrated as Safe Sex Week.

While vaginal intercourse always involves some risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), there are definitely ways of making your sexual experiences safer. Though oral and anal sex do not have a risk of pregnancy, being safer and smarter can help prevent STIs. Here are 10 simple things you can do, say and think about now before you have sex:

1 Talk smart first. Have smart sex later. STIs and unintended pregnancies affect both partners, not just one person. If you feel uncomfortable discussing sex, disease prevention, and birth control with your partner, then you shouldn't be having sex just yet.

2 Don't succumb to fear or pressure. Do not indulge out of fear of hurting someone's feelings by saying no or of being the only one who isn't doing it. Virtually everyone wants to fit in with his or her friends, but you should never compromise your values to be part of the crowd.

3 Don't abuse alcohol or use drugs if you think things could get physical. Drug use or alcohol abuse interferes with decision-making, which can lead to sexual assault, forgetting to use contraceptives or contracting an STI. The lowering of inhibitions that often accompanies alcohol use might make you think you'll enjoy sex more, but in fact, for a variety of biochemical reasons, too much alcohol actually makes sex less enjoyable for both men and women.

4 Two are better than one. To help prevent both pregnancy and STIs, you should correctly and consistently use a birth control method for pregnancy prevention and a condom (to prevent STIs). If your partner says no to contraceptives that may prevent STIs, like condoms, it's probably time to rethink your relationship.

5 Use the buddy system. If you go to a party or a bar, go with friends and keep an eye out for each other. Agree that you won't leave with another person without telling someone. Sometimes a friend's second opinion could help prevent you from making decisions that you might regret later.

6 Remember that "no" means no and passed out doesn't mean yes. Being drunk isn't a defence for committing sexual assault. If you are too drunk to understand a person trying to say no; if you are too drunk to listen and respect a person saying no; or if you have sex with somebody who is passed out or incapable of giving consent, it can be considered rape.

7 Respect everyone's right to make his or her own personal decision, including yourself. There is no imaginary 'deadline', ideal age, or perfect point in a relationship where sex has to happen. If your partner tells you he or she is not ready to have sex, respect his/her decision, be supportive, and discuss the reasons behind it.

8 Be prepared for a sex emergency. Consider carrying two condoms with you just in case one breaks or tears while it's being put on or during intercourse. Both men and women are equally responsible for preventing STIs, using contraceptives, and both should carry condoms. Women should also know about emergency contraception - taken within 72 hours of intercourse, to prevent pregnancy.

9 The best protection doesn't mean less affection. Postponing sexual activity is actually the most effective way to protect against STIs and pregnancy. But practising abstinence doesn't mean you can't have an intimate physical relationship with someone - it just means you don't have intercourse.

10 Make sexual health a priority. Whether you are having sex or not, both men and women need to have regular check-ups to make sure they are sexually healthy. Women should have annual gynecological exams, and men under the age of 40 should have an annual physical that includes a testicular exam.

Nothing is worth the potential lifetime consequences of a few minutes of unprotected fun.

Source: www.smartersex.org.