Safer sex techniques
“ The following guide covers “ALL” sexual lifestyles and represent more than you will find in the swinging lifestyle. The main protection and barrier used and always available at swing parties and clubs is the CONDOM. Since the swinging lifestyle is mainly made up of married couples and single ladies who already use condoms and different lubricants, the following guide will be primarily for interest. Most swing couples do not use oral barriers or gloves.”
The goal of this guide is to give people of all genders, orientations, and preferences the information they need to perform a wide variety of sexual acts safely, pleasurably, and comfortably.
The subject being dealt with in this document is STD prevention, not birth control. Of all of the STD-preventative supplies and techniques that will be discussed, only condoms and spermicidal products are also effective tools for contraception, and then only when they are used together and are used properly and consistently by male/female couples engaging in penile/vaginal intercourse. We urge you to see a health care provider, student health clinic, or Planned Parenthood clinic if you need an effective means of birth control.
Sex is any activity that one engages in for erotic pleasure or reproduction.
Sex includes, but is not limited to, vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral intercourse, manual manipulation of the anus or genitals, SM play, mutual masturbation, solo masturbation, fantasy, cunnilingus, analingus, penetration with dildos, etc. Sex is still sex whatever the gender, orientation, preferences, or number of the participants.
SAFE, SAFER & UNSAFE*
- “Safe Sex” is sex which affords NO risk for disease transmission or injury. Fantasy, masturbating yourself, hot talk, and non-sexual massage on healthy skin, for example, fall in this category.
- “Safer Sex” is sex which affords ALMOST NO risk for disease transmission or injury. When using effective barriers, vaginal/anal intercourse, cunnilingus/analingus, fellatio, and manual penetration all fall in this category.
- “Unsafe Sex” is sex which affords a HIGH risk for infection or injury. Anal or vaginal intercourse without a condom falls in this category.
For the purposes of this document, we will for the most part limit ourselves to discussions of “safe, safer, and unsafe” in the context of disease transmission. It should be noted, though, that disease is not the only potential hazard in sex. It is possible, for example, to injure someone with a dildo if they are penetrated with it beyond their anatomical limits. The general guard against mishaps such as this is to listen to one’s partner, and to heed any feedback they give you as to how something feels.
For sex to be consensual, partners must heed each others’ requests to slow down, back off, or stop. If you feel that your partner would not honor a direct request to stop doing something to your body, you might consider whether any sex with that person is “safe.” Even when sex is consensual, it is important to be sufficiently sober, sane, communicative, and aware to effectively sense pain or danger and communicate that to a partner. There are a variety of excellent books and techniques available that are designed to help people communicate better about sexual matters, and we urge you to browse your local bookstore for one that suits you.
A barrier is any physical object which allows sex that would otherwise be unsafe to be safer or safe by preventing transmission of body fluids. Barriers discussed in this document include condoms, gloves, and oral barriers.
Positive Benefits of Safer Sex
Can become positively eroticized through association with pleasure * Gives one peace of mind * Can help penile/vaginal intercourse to last longer, if that is desired * Allows greater comfort when penetrating an anus with a hand, and makes the practice of anal eroticism more attractive for some people * Can provide a range of NEW sensations, which some people find highly pleasurable Practical Keeps your sex toys clean Makes sex less “messy”Can provide additional protection against pregnancy for penile/vaginal intercourse Protects one from diseases which are lethal (such as HIV/AIDS), as well as from a range of others that, though non-lethal, are very annoying and very common Social Demonstrates courtesy and respect towards one’s partnerAvoids awkwardness or embarrassment with new partners who practice safer sex exclusively Allows one to “fit in” better into many sex-positive communities, where the safe sex precautions described here are generally required for sex or SM parties Frees one from having to depend exclusively on partner knowing and telling you the truth about their disease status
Women (the Clitoris and G-spot)Many women experience orgasm and/or highly pleasurable sensations through intentional stimulation of the clitoris or G-spot (the G-spot is often located on the forward wall of the vagina, just beyond the pubic bone) more easily than they experience it through ordinary vaginal penetration by a penis or dildo. Ordinary “thrusting” sex, if that is desired, is often MUCH more enjoyable for women after arousal or orgasm. G-spot stimulation is usually easiest to accomplish with a gloved hand, and clitoral stimulation is usually easiest to accomplish with either a gloved hand, a vibrator, or a tongue (through an oral barrier). Many women find that consistent, reliable, protracted clitoral stimulation best assists in achieving clitoral orgasm: as is also the case with G-spot stimulation, listening to the feedback of one’s partner is the key to pleasure.Men (the Prostate Gland)Stimulation of the prostate gland can often cause an increase in the pleasure caused by penile stimulation, or can feel great even without penile stimulation. Prostate stimulation is usually easiest to accomplish with a gloved hand, exerting mild pressure against the forward wall of the anus. The prostate gland is typically more easily palpable than the G-spot, and often feels like a gentle dome. As is the case with the G-spot, one should listen to the feedback of one’s partner when finding the prostate gland, as its location can vary from person to person. Using gloves on both hands, one may stimulate the prostate gland at the same time one is masturbating the penis. In general, most men prefer a firmer touch on their genitals than many women assume would be comfortable, and many enjoy firm tugging on the scrotum.Use of Sufficient LubricantMost penetrative sex or manual stimulation feels better for both parties when sufficient lubricant is used. Lubricants also assist the efficacy rate of barriers. Water-based lubes such as ForPlay, Astroglide, and Liquid Silk are the most versatile.Deep BreathingBreathing rhythmically and deeply before and during sex can increase one’s pleasure. See Annie Sprinkle’s videotape Sluts and Goddesses for a humorous demonstration of this technique. In general, meditation and “focusing” techniques such as this are often used to great effect by Tantric sex practitioners, and by others who may have a purely secular viewpoint. Elements of atmosphere and ritual, such as turning off the telephone, putting good music on the CD player (on repeat play), engaging in rhythmic touching/caressing, keeping protracted eye contact, and lighting candles, are also helpful for many people.PC Muscle ContractionContraction of a special muscle called the PC (Pubococcygeus) muscle can increase sexual pleasure, and is valuable for both women and men. See a text such as The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex for details on how to identify this muscle, exercise it, and utilize it during sex. Briefly, though, the muscle of interest may be located when urinating, by noticing what muscle you contract to stop the flow of urine. This is the PC muscle, and it may be exercised by contracting it repeatedly and rhythmically, or by contracting/inhaling and relaxing/exhaling. It may be used during sex by contracting it when close to orgasm.
Good CommunicationThere isn’t a substitute for being able to tell your partner during sex when something doesn’t feel good, or when it does. There isn’t a substitute for actually asking for what you want, and for learning over time what your partner likes. Higher levels of communication on sexual matters will tend to increase both the pleasure and the safety of all involved. Furthermore, knowledge of your partner’s fantasies will allow one to construct verbal/theatrical fantasies and hot talk for them during sex to heighten their pleasure. Many people find that it is easier for them to reveal their fantasies to someone else while they are being sexually stimulated. “Tell me your deepest fantasy or I’ll stop moving my hand” works wonders with many folks.
Introduction to Safer Sex SuppliesGeneral Use GuidelinesTo be most effective, barriers must be used from start to finish, correctly, every time you have sex. Use a new barrier with every partner, check the barrier periodically during sex, and discard used barriers immediately. One may also wish to set out before having sex all the barriers one might use and place them within easy reach: this can save one from fumbling later.Also, there are occasions where one would wish to change barriers with the same partner: typically, this is done when changing to a new orifice or contact region, to avoid transferring bacteria from one region to another. The classic example of this is having a fresh glove or condom when you switch from the anus to the vagina: transferring bacteria found in the anus to the vagina can often cause vaginitis.
Sometimes barriers (gloves, generally) are lightly powdered. If this is the case and either you or your partner find the feel or taste of the powder unappealing, you may rinse off the powder with running water. In the case of gloves, you may also purchase them in powder-free styles.
One general comment with barriers is that you should be careful removing them after use if possibly infected materials are present on them. If they cannot be removed without you coming into contact with possibly infected materials, at the least remove them with some sort of tissue paper or towelette between you and the barrier (this is especially effective for condoms), or have the partner who came into contact with the outside of that barrier remove it for you. It is best to turn gloves inside out as you remove them: after one glove is turned inside out, you may optionally drop any used condoms and/or oral barriers inside it before placing it in the other gloved hand and turning the other glove inside out around it and discarding.
Used latex materials should not be flushed down the toilet (as they tend to cause clogging), but rather should be discarded in a trash receptacle, preferably one with a disposable plactic liner. Condoms may be left in the tissue paper or towelette they were removed with.
Making Barriers More PleasurableThe use of any barrier can become more pleasant over time, as it becomes associated with pleasurable stimuli and one becomes more skilled with its use. Also, some people have eroticized barriers by wearing them: this may be part of the popularity of latex fetish apparel.Things that Make Your Barrier Taste BetterWhen people complain about barriers tasting bad, it is usually because the barriers have been coated with something unpleasant. Plain latex, nitrile, polyurethane, etc. have no taste of their own. Common coating taste offenders are Nonoxynol-9 (HORRIBLE taste!) and the powder which is present on some non-lubed condoms and pre-powdered gloves (though note that you can rinse the powder off the outside of gloves with running water). The taste of pre-lubed condoms without N-9 depends on the type of lube used: Kimono MicroThin condoms, for example, taste fine.Using flavored barriers (ala Sheik or Lifestyles mint condoms or Glyde “Lollyes”), using a flavored water-based lube on the barrier, or dipping the material in something more tasty (and fat free, in the case of latex barriers…) are also options.
Specific Barrier MaterialsLambskin, etc.Barriers made of lambskin and similar materials are too porous to prevent transmission of viruses such as HIV, which are smaller than sperm cells or bacteria.The only safer sex purpose that comes to mind for a lambskin condom (which is the only type of barrier this material is made into) would be if a man was allergic to latex, and so he wore a latex condom over a lambskin one, or if his partner was allergic to latex, and so he wore a lambskin condom over a latex one. However, one could also use a polyurethane condom in this case and hence avoid having to wear any condom but that one (assuming that polyurethane condoms fit him properly). Although a lambskin condom is better than nothing, most people will have no need to purchase them.
LatexThis is the most popular material for barriers. Latex condoms, gloves, and oral barriers have been shown to protect against the transmission of HIV and other STD’s. Latex barriers are inexpensive and commonly available in a wide variety of different styles.Any barrier made out of latex should not be exposed to anything with oil in it as oils will cause the latex to disintegrate. Thus, water based lubes should be used exclusively. Latex can also be damaged by excessive exposure to air, sunlight, heat, or cold. The simplest storage solution is to keep latex condoms out of wallets/glove compartments and in their packages, and to keep latex oral barriers and latex gloves either in their boxes or in a plastic bag within one’s toy bag. If latex appears sticky, marbled, discolored, brittle, or damaged, don’t use it.
PolyurethanePolyurethane does not degrade when it comes into contact with oil, and it may transmit sensation better then latex. It may also be valuable for people with latex allergies.According to lab tests, polyurethane should provide protection against transmission of HIV and other STD’s. However, the only two barriers this substance has been formed into, the Avanti male condom and the Reality female condom, do not suit everybody in terms of construction and shape.
NitrileNitrile does not degrade when it comes into contact with oil, and it may transmit sensation better than latex. According to lab tests, it provides protection against transmission of HIV and other STD’s. Also, nitrile can be valuable in cases of latex allergy.Currently, the only barrier this substance is formed into is nitrile gloves. Some people find the texture of these gloves to be unpleasant, while others prefer their texture to latex. Nitrile is more puncture-resistant than latex, but tears in it spread more rapidly. Note that many consider this to be a benefit: if the glove is torn, it is torn regardless of the size of the tear, and it is better that the tear be noticeable so you can know to change the glove.
Saran WrapSaran Wrap doesn’t degrade in the presence of oil, and may transmit sensation better than latex. Lab tests indicate it can prevent transmission of Herpes, which is smaller than HIV. There is no reason to believe that “Microwaveable” Saran Wrap provides any less protection than regular Saran Wrap. Saran Wrap’s STD prevention use is limited almost exclusively to forming a barrier for cunnilingus and analingus.VinylOften, one finds gloves in medical or veterinary supply stores made of a substance called vinyl. Vinyl has not been tested as thoroughly as latex for its efficacy as an STD barrier, and most people find the feel of it to be less pleasant than latex. The use of vinyl gloves is not recommended.Purpose and Use of LubricantsThe use of lubricants can protect barriers against friction that might otherwise tear them: the use of sufficient lubricant thus increases the efficiency of many barriers, especially condoms and gloves. The use of sufficient lube on the outside of a condom can help prevent any chance of condom slippage, as long as it is reapplied when necessary.The use of lubricants can make pleasurable and comfortable anally or vaginally penetrative sex and masturbation. Most experts recommend the use of lubricants for anal sex universally to avoid anal fissures, and almost everyone reports that vaginal sex and masturbation feel better when it is being used. The liberal use of lube is generally considered a basic principle of maximally pleasurable sex.
As most lubricants transmit thermal energy well, they can increase the sensation transmitted through a barrier. Lubricants can also cause the barrier to move in a stimulating way against the skin. These are the rationales behind putting a small drop of lube inside a condom at the tip, on the genital/anal side of an oral barrier, or on one’s fingertips before putting on a glove. The hope is that it will increase sensitivity and pleasure. Lubes are available with and without Nonoxynol-9: however, see the portion of this document which discusses Nonoxynol-9 for information that will help you decide whether to use it or not.
One technique which experts at anal play sometimes use is to connect the syringe applicator that is packaged with the yeast infection product Miconazole to a tube of KY lube. One may then fill the syringe from the KY tube and inject it into the anus: this tends to release just the right amount, in just the right place. The same applicator should not be used with more than one person and should not be used for anal play purposes if it has already been used with Miconazole for medicinal purposes (similarly, one should not generally share the nozzles from enema equipment).
Common Lubricant MaterialsOil-Based LubesNo lube with oil in it should be used with a latex barriers. Oil causes latex to degrade and ultimately tear: many of the reported failures of latex condoms occur because an oil-based lube was used as a lubricant. Also, oil-based lubes used in the vagina may increase the probability of vaginitis. Note that many products such as hand and body lotions contain oils.Since most barriers available are latex based (nitrile and polyurethane are rare), you should assume that a barrier is latex, and hence shouldn’t come into contact with anything bearing oil, unless you KNOW otherwise.
If oil-based lubes are going to be used (and again, they should only be used with barriers made out of substances other than latex, such as nitrile or polyurethane), it is preferable from a health standpoint to select a vegetable-based product, such as sunflower oil or Crisco, instead of a petroleum based product, such as Vaseline.
Water-Soluble LubesThese are different from “water-based” lubes. Water-based lubes are safe to use with latex, whereas water-soluble lubes are not.Silicone-Based LubesThese are safe to use with latex, as well as with polyurethane and nitrile.Water-Based LubesThese are safe to used with latex and any other type of barrier. Water-based lubes should form the bulk, if not the sum-total, of your lube supply.Water-based lubes tend to dry out during prolonged use. One may either reapply them, or spray the area with water from a spray bottle to reconstitute the lube. It should be reapplied or reconstituted as necessary to yield the ordinary benefits of lube.
If you find that irritations such as vaginitis are a persistent problem (assuming you have eliminated the possibilities of being allergic to any spermicide being used and of being allergic to the barrier material itself), try switching to a lube which does not contain sugars, such as Liquid Silk. Liquid Silk also has the property of behaving very consistently during use, and is a favorite with some people.
Nonoxynol-9 As a ContraceptiveNonoxynol-9 (N-9) is a substance which is commonly used as a spermicide: when placed in the vagina, and used in conjunction with another form of birth control such as condoms, it is a very effective contraceptive.As an STD PreventativeThere is plenty of evidence that N-9 is an effective contraceptive. However, there is less evidence from the field (as opposed to the laboratory) that it helps in STD prevention. N-9 can be chemically harsh to the sensitive linings of the vagina, anus, and penile urethra, and in some cases it may cause microtears that could INCREASE the probability of pathogen transmission. If you are allergic to N-9 (evidenced by itching, burning, etc.) or experience ANY discomfort while using it which you do not experience when using comparable products without spermicides, then don’t expose yourself to products containing N-9. Even mild discomfort may be a sign that any STD-preventative capabilities are being lost due to the mechanism described above. In addition, the fact that safer sex is being made uncomfortable for you will make you more likely to use safer sex precautions inconsistently: this is much worse than any theoretical benefit the N-9 could have provided.If one is allergic or sensitive specifically to Nonoxynol-9, an alternative might be using products with Nonoxynol-15 or Octoxinol. As barriers, spermicides, and lubricants with these alternative spermicides are not nearly as commonly available as those with Nonoxynol-9, they will not be mentioned specifically in this document: however, you may always substitute them for Nonoxynol-9 products, if necessary. None of these spermicidal products should be used in the mouth.
Dropping Safer Sex PrecautionsSome people elect not to use barriers with their primary partner(s), once they are convinced that they are all disease free and none of these people whom they will be having unprotected sex with are going to acquire any diseases during the course of their relationship. They then use the most conservative safer sex precautions with all other partners, but not among themselves. This is sometimes called “latex monogamy.” This arrangement is only safe if all the primary partners do not fail in their commitment to completely safe sex outside the primary group.A common arrangement is to form “latex monogamy” with one’s spouse. One may also choose, once the procedures below are completed, not to have any sort of sex with people other than one’s spouse: this is termed “traditional monogamy.” Abstinence is a choice for many, while for other people multi-partner or open relationships are preferred. The point is that one can have a healthy, love-filled life with no sexual partners, one sexual partner, two sexual partners, or many sexual partners. For a discussion of the challenges and joys of non-traditional relationship arrangements, read Love Without Limits by Dr. Deborah Anapol. The number of sexual partners you choose to have, and the number of intimate friends you choose to have, is entirely your decision. However, for those who wish to practice polyamory WITHOUT forming “latex monogamy” groups, it should be pointed out that, according to a recent analysis, “Consistent and careful condom use is a far more effective method of reducing HIV infection than is reducing the number of sexual partners” [Reiss and Leik, 1989]. Of course, even when safer sex precautions may be dropped because STD’s are no longer a concern, there are some practices that one may wish to retain for other reasons. For example, it is sometimes advisable to continue to use condoms for penile/anal intercourse, even if neither partner is infected with any STD, because bacteria in the anus can (occasionally) cause an infection in the urethra of the penis.
The point should also be made strongly that, in general, test results are NOT a substitute for using barrier methods. Even if someone shows you an official negative test result, all that tells you is that they weren’t infected at some time BEFORE the test. They could have become infected after the test was taken, and they could have become infected too soon before the test for the test to properly discern infection (this “window period” is six months in the case of HIV). Many committed partners choose to continue to use safer sex precautions with each other: the decision to follow the steps below is entirely a personal one.
Steps Involved in Dropping Safer Sex PrecautionsNote: “Primary Partners” are the group of people who wish to drop safer sex procedures with each other. They must all follow the steps below.Use full barriers with everybody, including all primary partner(s), for over six months. Do not do anything even mildly risky during this time.After six months (or more) have passed, everyone in the primary partners group gets a full battery of STD tests. They share the results with each other.If everyone has turned up negative, the primary partners may now drop barriers with each other, but must remain careful from then on to use the most conservative safe sex procedures with everyone else, or possibly just not be sexually intimate with anyone else.From this point forward, if even one of the primary partners forming this group is dishonest about his or her practices, or incompetent at safer sex with outside partners, it jeopardizes everybody’s health in the group.The Complete Safer Sex Safety ChartHand Mouth Anus Vulva PenisHand None None Glove Glove Glove or CondomMouth None None Oral Barrier Oral Barrier CondomAnus Glove Oral Barrier NA NA CondomVulva Glove Oral Barrier NA Oral Barrier CondomPenis Glove or Condom Condom Condom Condom Condom
There is definitely a hierarchy of risk. When barriers are NOT being used, current evidence suggests that penile/anal intercourse is riskiest, followed (in decreasing order of estimated risk) by penile/vaginal intercourse, fellatio/cunnilingus/analingus, and finally manual anal/vulval/penile manipulation/penetration. Menstruation, ejaculation, and the presence of small cuts in the skin can further increase risk for some activities. It should be noted that, if the skin is unbroken and healthy and no cum or pre-cum is present, that manual/oral contact with the shaft of the penis (avoiding the head and urethra) is no different from manual/oral contact with any other area of unbroken and healthy skin. Most experts agree that urinating on unbroken skin (keeping the urine away from the eyes) poses little or no health risk.Sex toys which are applied to the head of the penis or to the vulva, or which are used to penetrate the vagina or anus, should be protected with some sort of barrier as well, so they may be kept clean and used easily and safely with a variety of people. Condoms work well for anal and vaginal dildos as well as cylindrical vibrators. For small butt plugs, the condom may be stretched so that it fits over the base of the plug. Gloves work well for larger (Hitachi-type) vibrators. Please see the portion of this document concerning SM gear for further reference on some toy-related issues.
The Use of BarriersSelecting CondomsTry a variety of condoms to find the brand that works for you. Often, some brands provide a better fit than others, and a good fit is important to the optimal operation of the condom.Keep in mind the following:
For vaginally and anally penetrative sex, you should be adding lube from your bottle to the outside of the condom. Thus, whether the condom is pre-lubed is not important if you have lube of your own.Uncircumcised men may find contoured condoms more comfortable, and circumcised men may find form-fit condoms more comfortable.For use on penises, select a condom with a reservoir tip. For use on dildos or cylindrical vibrators, you may select a condom with a plain (non-reservoir) tip if you wish.Lambskin condoms are ineffective in preventing HIV transmission, and should be avoided.For fellatio, be sure you are using a condom without N-9. You don’t need to add lube outside of the condom, obviously, but feel free to put some inside – perhaps a little more than usual. Also, see the portion of this document titled “Things That Make Your Barrier Taste Better” for more information.Many people like Kimono MicroThin condoms. If you have no idea what brand of condom to buy, this brand might be a good starting point. They have no taste, and are fine for fellatio.