Ins and Outs of Safer Sex

Most of us can barely remember receiving a sex education at all. I have blurry memories of a banana, condom and blushing tweens tittering with nervous laughter. That’s about it. A lot of us ended up learning the hard way – from unwanted pregnancies to surprise STI diagnoses. In the spirit of being respectful, aware adults – let’s step into the ‘classroom’ again and have ourselves a little refresher in safer sex education.

Safer sex methods

Mutual Masturbation

That’s right! Unfortunately, this option is often overlooked. Yet, mutual masturbation is oh-so-la-la HOT for so many reasons…one being it’s 100% safe if all hands, mouths, fingers, toes, etc. are kept to their owners. Plus, mutual masturbation serves an intimate education in sharing how both parties like to be touched, teased and tingled. You can learn a lot from watching how someone turns themself on. Sharing self-pleasure invites intimacy and can be a sexy way to tune in and turn on. Say you’re dating someone and still getting to know them…explore mutual masturbation as a main event for several rounds of play.


Condoms are an effective barrier method that can reduce the risk of STIs and HIV transmission during all sexual activities. For those with a penis, externally worn condoms come in any size, texture, flavor and color! Regardless of whether I’m actively having sex or not, in the ‘mood’ or not – I ALWAYS carry one in my fanny (bum) bag. One never knows when the mood can strike…

For those peeps with a vulva or for anyone receiving anal penetration, internal condoms are also an option. The key to condoms – use them consistently and correctly!

How to use a condom

Start with checking the expiration date! Apply the external condom when the penis is erect for a snug fit. Pinch the tip of the condom to leave space for semen and roll it down the length of the penis or object. After ejaculation, hold the base of the condom to prevent slippage and carefully remove it. Remember to use a new condom for each sexual act to avoid the risk of STI transmission. And NO double dipping into vaginal and anal play, as this can also spread bacteria to the vagina.

When used consistently and correctly, condoms are highly effective in preventing STIs, including HIV. According to a comprehensive study published in The Lancet, consistent condom use can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by approximately 80% among penis owners who have sex with other penis owners and heterosexual couples. Additionally, condoms also provide effective protection against other common STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PREP) and HIV Prevention

I have many friends who benefit from PREP – a medication regimen that significantly reduces the risk of acquiring HIV. PREP is suitable for individuals who are at high risk of HIV transmission, including those in relationships where one partner is HIV-positive or engaging in unprotected sex. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that daily use of PREP can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by over 90%.

HPV and Vaccination

Full disclosure – I was diagnosed 2 years ago! It’s since gone away, but I ended up having the high-risk version with a resulting procedure where cells were removed from my cervix. For those with vulvas, please get regular PAP smears to check for any signs of HPV infection. It could save your life.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection that can affect ALL individuals. HPV is primarily transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It can cause various health issues, including genital warts and certain types of cancers. While most HPV infections clear on their own without causing symptoms or health problems, persistent infections with high-risk HPV types can lead to the development of cervical, anal, penile, vaginal, vulvar, and throat cancers.

After my procedure, I received the HPV vaccine. They’re typically administered during adolescence to provide protection before exposure to the virus occurs. However! Like me, even if individuals have engaged in sexual activity or have already been diagnosed with an HPV infection, vaccination can still provide benefits. The vaccines protect against certain HPV types not yet acquired, reducing the risk of future infections and related health issues.

Additional HPV Resources and Support:

(ECDC) European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

(CDC) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

(WHO) World Health Organization

Planned Parenthood

Regular STI/STD Checks

Regular STI screenings are vital! Depending on my current risk factors and sexual activity, I get checked up to twice a year. In Berlin, Checkpoint BLN is a queer-friendly free testing site (for those experiencing financial hardship) with a compassionate, super educated staff. Outside of Berlin, here are some additional resources to the ones listed above:

Australian Government Department of Health

ACON is a New South Wales-based organization focused on LGBTQ+ health and well-being.

Thorne Harbour Health is an organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ health promotion.

Public Health Agency of Canada

Terrence Higgins Trust is a LGBTQ+ friendly, leading HIV and sexual health charity in the UK.

(ASRC) African Sexuality Resource Centre is an online platform that provides resources and information on sexual health, rights, and advocacy across various African countries.

HEIROL – Health Education Information and Research Organization is a LGBTQ+ friendly Kenyan organization that provides comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education and services.

S.H.E. – Social, Health and Empowerment Feminist Collective of Transgender Women of Africa is an organization based in South Africa that works to empower transgender women across the African continent.

Forms of birth control

Hormonal Birth Control

Hormonal birth control methods, such as oral contraceptive pills, patches, injections, and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), are commonly used by people of all gender identities. These methods contain hormones that prevent ovulation, thin the uterine lining, and thicken cervical mucus, reducing the chances of pregnancy.

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods, such as condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and contraceptive sponges, create a physical barrier to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. These methods are suitable for individuals assigned female at birth and offer an alternative for pregnancy prevention.

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

Intrauterine devices, both hormonal and non-hormonal, are small T-shaped devices inserted into the uterus by healthcare professionals. They provide long-term contraception and are highly effective in preventing pregnancy. It is important to note that while IUDs are an effective form of birth control, they do not protect against STIs.

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception, also known as the “morning-after pill,” is available over-the-counter and can be used after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure to prevent pregnancy. It is essential to take emergency contraception as soon as possible after intercourse for maximum effectiveness.

Non-Hormonal Methods

Non-hormonal birth control methods, such as copper IUDs and fertility awareness methods, offer alternatives for individuals who prefer to avoid hormonal interventions. Copper IUDs release copper ions that immobilize sperm, preventing fertilization.

Resources for Further Information

Organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the American Sexual Health Association and Bedsider offer inclusive sexual health resources and information about birth control options.

Whew! That was a lot. But there’s really no such things as too much education or too many resources, right?

Be well and take good care of yourself and others.

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Originally from the wilds of Oregon, Alexis Smiley Smith moved to Berlin to sow her wild writer oats. Sex tech and pleasure exploration knocked, she answered and the rest is her-story. Turn on tastes include 90's electro, terrace gardening and 'almost too ripe' peaches.