Beyond the condom: 5 must-haves for safe and pleasurable sex

Condoms are great, but not for everyone. For LGBTQ+ folks wishing to have mind-blowing safe sex, here are some essentials to add to your list.

A banana wrapped in a condom with the message
Image: Via - Deon Black,

When we talk protection, the focus is often on condoms. And to give them credit, condoms are pretty effective at their job! But they are also not exactly for everyone and besides, there’s so much more we need to learn when it comes to having mindblowing sex that’s also safe.

So if you’re looking for some sex education, you’ve come to the right place. Here is a list of must-haves when it comes to safe sex.

Oral Dams
Not familiar with the term? Oral dams or dental dams are thin sheets of latex that can be used to cover the vulva or anus to engage in safe oral sex, rimming and fingering. They provide a barrier, stopping the transmission of bacterial infections for an equally enjoyable but safe experience.

Flavoured condoms
While flavoured condoms are often seen as a novelty or gag gift with no really useful application, the truth is that STIs can be passed through oral sex. Flavoured condoms are designed to be a more pleasing way to have protected oral sex. However, they should not be used for penetrative sex, as the flavouring and glycerin base can tear or break under the heavier force of penetrative sex and may prove irritant to the anus or vaginal passage.

Finger Cots
Finger cots are a thin latex sheath to cover your finger, which can be used to reduce bacterial transfer. They are disposable and easy to use and can be a way to hygienically reduce STI transmission.

Hormonal contraceptives
If you have a vulva and are planning to have sex with someone who has a penis, you need to be aware of the risk of pregnancy and act accordingly. In very positive news, hormonal contraception will be free for people aged 17 to 30 living in Ireland starting from September 2023 through participating GPs and pharmacists.

It really seems like lube has a stigma to it, as people are not using it nearly enough. However, sex can be so much more enjoyable – and safe! – with the help of a bit of lube. While vulvas can be self-lubricating, it doesn’t mean that lubrication will be reliable or consistent throughout the sexual act. So just add a bit of lube to ensure there’s no… friction and things run smoothly!

For any anal play, a water-based lubricant is recommended, and you can never have too much! The only thing it’ll ruin is the bed sheets, so remember to use a towel to avoid laundry. Water-based lubricants are recommended, as oil-based lubes have the potential to break down condoms or dams, and any sort of baby/massage oil presents a threat to internal irritation.

When talking about penises, lubrication is often a second thought. Circumcised or ‘cut’ penises will more often need a level of lubrication in masturbation, but a penis with foreskin may also benefit from a little extra slide and glide!

Whatever the kind of sexual activity you wish to engage in, you must remember the magic words: ‘Body Safe’.
Toys, lubricants or anything else entering the body must be fit for purpose. That means it is recommended to have a flared base on your toys. Never using fragile or glass household items in the body as there is a risk of breakage. While you will find glass sex toys on the market, these are safety tested and use a special form of glass. Buying toys from reputable stores can ensure that you don’t get stuck with cheap, poor-quality toys that are not fit for internal use.

The information contained in this article was provided by Sexual Health West, and more can be found in the West of Ireland Sexuality Education Resource (WISER).

© 2023 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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