Sex –Safe Sex Rules
The silly season includes lots of fun and games — including the sexual kind. Here’s how to make sure you don’t live to regret your choices
Safe sex education is often assumed to be reserved for teens and young adults. Young women already know everything they need to know about their bodies, sexual health and reproduction, right? The reality, however, is very different. “You’d be surprised at how little knowledge women have about their sexual health,” says Pamela Makhetha, a health practitioner who works at a sexual health clinic in Johannesburg. “I deal with women, daily, who don’t fully understand that they have the right to make decisions that affect their sexual health. It is probably one of the last social taboos; nobody is talking about it but everybody who is sexually active is affected by it,” she says.
Let’s all agree on one thing: the person who is responsible for your sexual health, is you. Couples counsellor Sizakele Zondi says, “Women often give up power when it comes to their sexuality and health. I want every woman to understand that you cannot trust anyone with your sexual health, even if he’s your husband and a man of God. So you must always think of yourself and your well-being first, and make decisions based on that.”
To help you make the best decisions for your sexual health, we compiled basic safe sex rules to observe:
INSIST ON MANDATORY TESTING
Mandatory means that it’s not negotiable, even when you’ve been dating for a while, and he doesn’t want to use condoms anymore. It’s not enough for your partner, however lovely he or she is, to assure you their sexual health is in order. Get tested together, so your relationship is transparent and you both get information from a professional. Make sure the tests include screening for STIs.
“The operative word is ‘before’ you engage in unprotected sex. The moment you succumb to passion or pressure and have unprotected sex with someone you haven’t tested with, you’ve definitely put your health at risk,” Makhetha says.
TAKE A STAND ON PREGNANCY
Falling pregnant “by mistake” is one of society’s most common life mistakes. Young people, in particular, often believe “it won’t happen to me.” The good news is that it doesn’t have to. “Falling pregnant and keeping the baby is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life. So, make sure it’s a decision and not a fate that’s thrust on you by poor decision-making,” Makhetha warns.
“If you don’t want to be pregnant, make sure you’ve made a plan for that. Whether that means using condoms every single time or being on contraception and having sex with a partner you’ve tested with, you have to make a decision. I often deal with women that have unplanned pregnancies and surprise STIs at the same time. It is stressful and completely unnecessary, and you have the power to avoid that,” she adds.
Keep in mind that the pull-out method is not a smart plan for staying on the right side of your goals; it’s a roll of the dice and if it really worked, at least a third of the population wouldn’t exist.
OWN YOUR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
If you are having sex, a visit to a gynaecologist needs to be a priority. “Sexual health isn’t just about the actual act of sex, it’s also about making sure you are in good health,” Makhetha says. Annual gynae visits can help detect cancer, inflammation and infection of your reproductive organs — some conditions and complications are not easy to detect. “Your doctor will do a pap smear but also help you with any other complications or conditions you might have,” Makhetha adds. If anything feels ‘off’ down there, get an expert to check it out – the sooner, the better.
DON’T ADD ANY EXTRAS
It’s not uncommon for women to swap sexual tips on pleasing their partners. That’s not a bad thing, in itself, but sometimes some of the advice is just plain dodgy. “Do not put things into your vagina in an effort to better please your partner,” Makhetha advises.
“Women put things like snuff, tree bark, herbs and other weird objects into their vaginas, all in an effort to be ‘mnandi’. Your vagina already has everything it needs to make sex pleasurable. No amount of eating cinnamon and yoghurt is going to change how you feel to your partner. So stop trying so hard. If he complains, there is a big chance that he’s the problem, and you need to move on to a partner who’ll appreciate you,” she says.
BE MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY READY
As much as sex is seen as a physical act, there are many other aspects at play in our sexual relationships. “When you have sex
that you are not ready for, you make a decision against yourself, because you’re trying to please someone else. I strongly advise against it.
“Your feelings around your sexual relationships are important and, again, the onus is on you to make sure you are taken care of. That can lead to uncomfortable conversations, but that’s better than compromising yourself. Sex is meant to be pleasurable. And that state includes your mind, body and soul, so always ensure that you don’t take that part of your health for granted,” Zondi says.
SCREEN YOUR LOVERS
No one has the right to tell you how to pick your lovers. The responsibility is yours alone, and it is one you have to take seriously. “The person you choose to have sexual interactions with has to be picked with a lot of consideration. These are people you are vulnerable with and should your contraception fail, that’s someone who might be in your life for good,” Zondi says.
She concludes: “Lovers can also wreak havoc with your self-esteem, so make sure you choose partners that affirm who you are, and not those who cause harm. I often tell my clients that being fussy is good when it comes to this. If you are choosing decent partners, sex will be healthy for your mental health, but when you choose the wrong ones, the damage to your mental and emotional state can be very harmful.”