Unfortunately, in this day and age safer
sex is a necessity.
Some series are set in times when safer
sex is not necessary. Pros, for example, is set before the onset
of AIDS, while Star Trek is far in a future where medicine has
presumably found a cure. Writing in these worlds one doesn't
have to worry about making the characters use proper precautions.
For series such as Sentinel or X-Files,
set in the current time, each writer has to make the choice of
whether or not to follow safe sex guidelines. Since we are writing
fiction, the author can choose not to include the HIV virus in
their universe. I have no problem with stories that do not feature
the use of condoms. But if you are going to stick to safe sex,
please get it right.
What is safer sex anyway? We use the word
safer because all sex can have consequences -- from emotional
consequences to diseases and pregnancy.
The basic rule is: Come on me, not in me.
The single most effective thing you can
do to stay healthy while being sexually active is to use latex
condoms for any intercourse (whether vaginal or anal). All condoms
are not made alike; men should experiment with different brands
until they find the one they like best (many men prefer Kimono
MicroThins, which also taste fine for fellatio if you get them
without Nonoxynol-9). When you put on a condom, pinch its tip
as you unroll it (all the way down!) to prevent an air bubble
from forming in the reservoir tip. For intercourse, you should
then put some water-based lube (such as I-D, ForPlay, Wet, Probe,
or Astroglide) on the outside of the condom for comfort, mutual
pleasure, and to keep the condom from tearing during sex (some
men find that more sensation is transmitted to them if they put
a small amount of water-based or silicone-based lube INSIDE the
tip of their condom before putting it on). It's very important
for men to hold onto the base of their condom as they withdraw
(after becoming soft) so it doesn't slip off.
For a while, health experts were recommending
that people choose safer sex products with Nonoxynol-9 to protect
against HIV transmission; current evidence suggests that Nonoxynol-9
isn't nearly as effective at HIV prevention as it is at contraception,
and if you have a sensitivity or allergy to this substance (as
many people do) regular exposure to it might actually decrease
your level of protection against HIV by irritating delicate vaginal
or (especially) anal tissues.
If a condom fails during vaginal or anal
intercourse, the receptive partner shouldn't douche; if any Nonoxynol-9
contraceptive foam is handy it might help for him or her to insert
it and leave it in for about 15 minutes, and it would certainly
help to immediately remove the condom from inside the vagina
or anus if it was left there. Men can give themselves a little
extra protection after potentially being exposed to an STD by
immediately visiting the restroom, urinating, and then possibly
washing their genitals with an anti-bacterial soap. If unwanted
pregnancy is a possible outcome of the condom failure, you should
call 1-888-NOT-2-LATE to find out about emergency contraception
in your area.
It should be obvious that a new condom
needs to be used for each new partner, and that condoms should
not be reused. If you're going to switch from anal intercourse
to vaginal intercourse, you should put on a new condom to avoid
causing vaginal infections.
Opinions differ on the use of safer-sex
barriers for oral sex. It's clear that herpes can be transmitted
from genitals to mouth or mouth to genitals during unprotected
oral sex, but some people feel the risk is acceptably low outside
of the most infectious period (which starts with the tingling
"prodrome" sensations that precede an outbreak and
continues to two weeks after the sores go away). You can on rare
occasion pick up some types of bacterial infections of the throat
by going down on someone who currently has a bacterial STD, but
these can be easily cured with antibiotics once identified (at
the time we wrote this guide a few strains of gonorrhea had just
appeared that were resistant to the usual antibiotics, but these
could still be eliminated by switching to a different set of
antibiotics). Hepatitis B can be transmitted via unprotected
oral sex, but if you're worried about this disease you could
just get vaccinated against it.
At the time this guide was written there
were no clear cases of anyone becoming infected with HIV through
RECEIVING unprotected oral sex. There ARE recorded cases of people
becoming infected with HIV through GIVING unprotected oral sex,
but the risk of transmission via this route is apparently quite
low if your gums (and lips, mouth, and throat) are healthy, if
you don't let men come in your mouth, and if you don't perform
cunnilingus on a woman while she is menstruating.
Some sex educators recommend NOT flossing
or brushing your teeth for two hours before giving unprotected
oral sex (use Listerine or some other anti-bacterial mouthwash
if you're concerned about bad breath or just want to freshen
up), and others recommend quickly looking over the genitals you're
about to go down on for signs of contagious STDs (including genital
warts, which can on rare occasions be transmitted from genitals
to mouth). If your policy for performing unprotected fellatio
is to not let your partner come in your mouth and he does so
anyway, it's better to immediately spit than to either wait or
swallow, and it may help (especially for bacterial STDs) to then
go use an anti-bacterial or peroxide mouthwash. Pre-cum can contain
HIV, and although not letting men come in your mouth SIGNIFICANTLY
reduces your already low risk to even lower (theoretical?) levels,
if you are concerned about becoming infected via pre-cum while
performing fellatio you have two risk-reduction options: not
taking the head of his penis in your mouth and using barriers
for oral sex.
If you decide that your personal standards
include using barriers for oral sex, this means using latex condoms
(without Nonoxynol-9, in this case) for fellatio; one interesting
trick for those who are only concerned about infected semen and
pre-cum is to apply the condom inside-out so that it only covers
the head of the penis. Using barriers for oral sex also means
using either Saran wrap or one of those "Glyde" or
"Lixx" oral sex barriers for cunnilingus; in this case,
put a little water-based lube on your partner's side of the barrier
to increase the sensation transmitted to her. The same barrier
techniques used for cunnilingus can be used for analingus, where
they should be considered essential if the person doing the licking
isn't immunized against hepatitis A.
Gay men have had a decade to get used to
safe sex. We've had to each make our own choices about which
behaviors we will still indulge in, and which we will modify.
Oral sex without a condom is seen as being an acceptable risk
by most men. Anal sex without a condom is not (although "barebacking"
is becoming more common because basically people are stupid).
Frottage (also known as "The Princeton Rub"), mutual
masturbation, and other forms of non-penetrative sex are also
Some people believe that all stories should
include safe sex, so as to not set a bad example for the readers.
There is some validity to this view, but since the people reading
our stories are supposed to be over the age of consent anyway,
they should already know about safe sex.
For more about safe sex, check out one
of these sites.
Whatever decision you make about your own
behavior, make it an informed one.