The 4 C’s of safe sex | Play Safe
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When people hear ‘safe sex’ they usually think about protecting themselves and partners from unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmissible infections (STIs). But we reckon that safe sex means much more than that – it’s not just about whether you’re being safe, it’s about whether you feel safe too.

Here are our 4 C’s of safe sex – Consent, Condoms, Contraception, and Communication. Follow these four golden rules and you’ll have safe – and great – sex, every time.


CONSENT

Without consent, sex can’t happen. It’s as simple as that. But what exactly is consent?

In a recent article with Consent Labs we asked them that question, and here’s what they had to say:

Consent looks enthusiastic. When your partner is excited, engaged and their body language, tone of voice and what they’re saying all adds up to: I’m 100% in!

Sounds simple? That’s because it is. Here are a few other things to remember when it comes to consent.

  • Consent is a rolling concept. You, or your partner, can change their mind at any time
  • Consent is more than just words, it’s non-verbal communication too (more on that below)
  • It’s not a yes unless it’s a HELL YES!. Remember, coercing someone into having sex isn’t consent  – it’s pressure and it’s not acceptable under any circumstances

CONDOMS

Condoms, condoms, condoms. Here at Play Safe, we can’t get enough of them. But it’s easy to see why. Condoms are the only form of contraception that protects against both STIs and unplanned pregnancies.

They’re easy to find (sometimes even free), easy to use (see here for how to use a condom), and are 98% effective when used correctly.

When it comes to safe sex, nothing beats the humble condom.

Do I still need an STI test if we’re using condoms?

The quick answer is yes, you do. Getting regularly tested for STIs is a normal part of a healthy sex life and is recommended every 6-12 months as standard practice, or if you change partners, have unprotected sex, or experience any symptoms. The reason you still need an STI test even if you’re using condoms is that condoms – even though the best form of contraception – are still not 100% reliable. Condoms + regular STI testing = all the fun and none of the worry.

CONTRACEPTION

Condoms are the only way to prevent both STIs and pregnancy, but some people may use an additional contraceptive method as well.
Options include:

  • The Pill, which is a small tablet taken every day. It’s a very common form of contraception that stops the ovaries from releasing an egg, therefore protecting against unwanted pregnancy as there is no egg for the sperm to fertilise
  • The IUD (also known as the coil) is a small device inserted by a doctor into the uterus (womb). Mirena and Kyleena are the hormonal IUDs and can be left in place for up to 5 years.  The copper IUD works without any hormone and can stay in up to 10 years
  • The implant, which is a small, flexible rod implanted under the skin (usually on the arm). It stays there for up to three years and releases a hormone called etonogestrel which helps prevent pregnancy
  • The injection (also known as Depo), which contains progestogen and prevents pregnancy for 12 weeks by stopping ovulation

If your partner is taking a contraceptive like the ones above, make sure you show support. Ways to do this include offering to go with them to their doctor’s appointments, to share costs, and remind them of when they need to get a replacement implant/IUD/pill.

Also, be there to listen and talk through options with them and the reliability and pros and cons of each. Even if you’re not taking the contraceptive it impacts you too; an unwanted pregnancy is a shared responsibility and understanding the effectiveness of a contraception is important for both parties.

Can we stop using condoms if we’re using one of these contraceptives?

The question of if and when to stop using condoms with a partner is a complex one with lots to consider. It’s important to remember that contraceptives like the Pill and the IUD do not prevent the transmission of STIs, and they are also not 100% reliable. Sex will always be safer with the combination of condoms, contraceptive, and regular STI testing.

COMMUNICATION

The 4th C is perhaps the most important of them all, as, without it, conversations around consent, condoms and contraceptives can’t happen.

Whether you’re having a one night stand, having fun with a friend with benefits, enjoying a quick fling, or are in a long-term relationship, communication is everything.

  • Before: Before sex is when all the important conversations around condoms, contraception and consent should be happening (although remember consent can be withdrawn at any time). It’s also the perfect time to set boundaries and expectations
  • During: Check in with your partner, are they enjoying themselves? Do they like what you’re doing? If you want to try something new, ask them and make sure they’re comfortable. Communication during sex isn’t all verbal, it’s non-verbal too. Focus on eye contact, sighs and moans, and physical cues which show if the other person is enjoying themselves
  • After: Asking your partner if they’re okay after sex shows care and concern and also helps you know what’s right for next time. Ever heard of pillow talk? Telling someone how great they were in bed and how amazing it was will build confidence and help make you even more comfortable with each other


Do you have a question about safe sex?

If you’d like more advice or guidance on how to have safe sex, why not ask a question on the Play Safe forum? Our Mod Squad is always ready to help.

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