What makes sex safe?

When you think about delivering RSE – a session about safe sex would be high on most people’s lists. But what do we mean by ‘making sex safe’?

For the majority – they will be thinking condom demos and a talk through the different forms of contraception. Which makes perfect sense – however, there are a whole host of other risks that often get completely ignore – I am talking about the emotional risks…

Condoms are wonderful little things that will prevent unwanted pregnancy and the transmission of STIs – but they won’t ensure that you are treated with respect by your partner – they won’t make them fall in love with you or even call you the next day – a condom won’t prevent your partner from telling their mates about you or posting picture on Facebook – and they will do absolutely nothing for your self esteem… Condoms will not stop you from feeling used, rejected or disappointed – and for that matter neither will any other form of contraception currently available on the NHS.

The truth is making sex emotionally safe is very rarely discussed in class – most likely because we are still far too focused on the mechanics of reproduction to bother considering the cognitive and emotional processes of why people have sex.

As discussed in the section Attitudes to sexa great place to start is with the question “what is sex, why do we do it and what does it mean’. Follow the link above to read the discussion in full.

But in short if we can understand the many reasons why people may choose to have sex we can unpick keeping them emotionally safe too.

One of the main emotional risks involved in sex – is falling in to the trap of having sex because we feel we should rather than because we (honestly) are ready and really want to. So often, we have sex because we feel it might be expected of us – to keep a partner, because we feel everyone else is doing it, because of coercion and emotional blackmail from our partner or because it is easier than saying no….

All too often sex is a choice made to fill an emotional gap – I am feeling low or unloved – having sex is often mistaken for being in love…

Regardless of whether you happen to be in a long term relationship or are merely having a one night stand – there can be positive or negative motivations to having sex. Often it comes down to consent; remember, in order to truly consent you need to have capacity, choice and freedom… click here to find out more…

Sex is only ever feels good or fulfilling if we are doing it through free choice not because we are forced to or feel like we should…

So, how do we make sex emotionally safe? The biggest protective factor to having healthy – emotionally safe sex is having someone you can talk to.

As will all aspects of emotional health – having someone you can talk to openly and honestly, without fear of judgement can be a massive support. Not only are you able to specifically talk through and unpick your motivations – but also you have a sounding board to talk through your experiences – to share your anxieties and tell your stories to…

It is important to not only have that ear to ask questions and talk about the scary stuff – but also someone to laugh with at the ridiculous funny stuff that happens during sex…. the time you got cramp or farted… the time when you bent in to give your partner a kiss and ended up head butting them and giving them concussion…

The important thing is that they need to be someone you can trust and will be able to point you in the right direction should you need extra support. Ideally, it helps when you are a young person if you can have a parent or an older sibling, an aunt or uncle that you can talk to… they will hopefully have a bit more experience and be better placed to support a young person – however, there are obvious reasons why a young person may avoid talking to member of their own family about being sexually active… most families still haven’t managed to get over that final taboo…

To think about relationships and support networks more click here

Now, back to the practice stuff:

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