What does safe sex really mean

What does safe sex really mean? There is no clear cut answer to this, of course. Some might argue that, to have safe sex is to avoid STDs while some might argue that to have safe sex means to avoid unwanted pregnancies. While both arguments hold true, safe sex is actually a combination of both. In any given situation of peno-vaginal sexual activity, a foolproof way of making sure that there is no unwanted exchange of diseases or accidental fertilisation is to make sure that the bodily fluids discharged during the process of intercourse don’t intermingle. It is not always an easy thing to ensure, which is why certain safe sex measures need to be kept in mind before proceeding with sexual activity.


Even though it’s now 2018, there are so many people who are still apprehensive about using condoms. Due to certain patriarchal myths, some men consider the use of condoms emasculating, while women, on the other hand, often prefer birth control over condoms. While birth control can very well be effective in quite a few cases, it’s not a foolproof solution for safe sex. It requires essential backing up with the use of condoms. A condom is what will essentially prevent that germ-containing bodily fluid from mixing with your partner’s and causing a particular STD. It’s what not only prevents the fertilisation of sperm, but also the spread of diseases. Using lube alongwith the condom also makes sex safer.


What a lot of people fail to grasp is that the morning-after pill is vastly different from the more sustained monthly birth control pills. While both reduce ovulation so as to prevent fertilisation, the latter does it in a more holistic sense while controlling your entire menstrual cycle and the former does it more rapidly by preventing the follicles from maturing. However, neither of these pills prevent STDs, so an extra layer of preventive measure is always imperative while having peno-vaginal sex, over and above any birth control pill.

Getting Tested

Getting tested for STDs regularly is also part of safer sex, even if you always use condoms. Most people with STDs don’t have symptoms or know they’re infected, and they can easily pass the infection on to their partners. In such cases, testing is the only way to know for sure whether or not someone has an STD.

Getting tested protects you by letting you know if you do have an STD, and you can subsequently seek out the appropriate treatment for it.

Non Penetrative Activities

Sex doesn’t always have to be penetrative, and hence, one way of avoiding the risks involved in peno-vaginal penetration can definitely to stick to activities beyond it. Outercourse or Mutual Masturbation (masturbating while with each other) is one such excellent way to safely get sexual pleasure and be intimate with another person; and similarly, various other activities can be performed. However, if there is any genital touching or bodily fluids involved, it is best to stick to condoms or barrier.

What if you already have an STD?

Do you have to completely swear off having sex if you find out that you have an STD? Not necessarily. Luckily, many STDs can nowadays be easily cured with medication, so once you get the right kind of treatment, the risks can be averted. But even with STDs that can’t be cured, there are ways to treat the symptoms and help avoid passing on the STD to people you have sex with. Depending on what STD you have, there are things you can do to protect your partners.

  • Remember your condoms and dental dams during oral, anal, and vaginal sex.
  • Don’t have sex at all if you have any symptoms like sores or warts around your genitals, weird discharge from your penis, vagina or anus, or itching, pain, irritation and/or swelling in your penis, vagina, vulva, or anus.
  • If you have a curable STD (like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis), take all of your medication the way your doctor tells you to, even if your symptoms go away sooner. The infection stays in your body until you totally finish the treatment. Your partner(s) should also be treated at the same time. Don’t have sex at all until you both finish your treatment, and until your doctor or nurse gives their go-ahead.
  • If you have an STD that can’t be cured (like HIV or herpes), talk to your doctor about medicines that can help lower your chances of spreading it to a partner. With the right kind of medication and protection, chances are that you can enjoy a healthy sex life without worrying about spreading your disease.

Over and above all this, it’s also important to always tell your sexual partners beforehand if you have an STD, so you can work together to make a safer sex plan and help prevent it from spreading. 

It may sound like a lot is involved in ensuring safe sex, but all it really needs is some awareness, conscientiousness, and a concern for both your and your partner’s health. If you know what you’re doing, and how to protect yourself, having safe sex will actually make the sex much more enjoyable.

About the Author

Rohini Banerjee

Rohini Banerjee is a 23-year old freelance writer who is passionate about issues relating to gender, sex, and sexuality. She's also an advocate for mental health awareness, queer rights, and education, while balancing an abiding love for literature and popular culture.