6 Ways to Protect Yourself & Your Partner on Valentine’s Day (or Any Day)

Contributed by Tyler Achilles, B.A.

Couple kissing and enjoying dinner on Valentine's Day

Ahhh, Valentine’s Day. By now you’ve seen countless articles, advice columns, and feature stories highlighting the perfect gift for your girlfriend or boyfriend, the best things to do with your friends if you don’t have a significant other, or the downright absurdity that commercialization brings to the holiday. But so far I haven’t seen anyone talking about that “special time” that’s sure to be on the rise during V-Day. SEX. Yup, I said it. I haven’t seen or read one thing about sex leading up to today, and I think it’s important to share a few pointers about being savvy and safer when it comes to sex, especially for you crazy college kids.

While these next few tips will keep you safer when sexually active, please note that being safer starts with taking responsibility for your own protection (as Steve Lux points out in the comments section). Never rely solely on someone else to take all the necessary precautions before engaging in sex. Now on to the goods …

Have “the talk” with your partner. Having “the talk” about safe sex with your partner can be as awkward as having it with your parents, and the anxiety it can bring doesn’t make it easy. But it’s so important for your physical health and your relationship to set expectations before you’re rolling around in the sheets. Even if you haven’t been together long or it’s just a casual encounter, you should definitely try to size up the situation. Everyone likes to pretend that sexually transmitted infections (STI) magically appear out of nowhere, but the truth is you could be getting a lot more from hooking up than you thought. Talking with your partner is the first step to being safer. Check out more tips below.

Condoms, condoms, condoms. Using a condom the right way each and every time you have sex is the best way to prevent STIs. Keep them handy at all times. Having them readily available makes it more likely you’ll use them, and that means avoiding awkward and disruptive trips to ask your roommate or to the pharmacy around the corner. Total buzzkill.

Get tested with your partner on a regular basis. Some STIs don’t have any symptoms, so getting tested is the best way to find out if you need treatment and to make sure you’re not passing something on to someone else without even knowing it. Most campus health centers conduct STI testing for free or a small fee. If you can’t afford the fee (hey, you’re a student after all), then check out local free clinics. It’s as simple as making an appointment and showing up.

Think ahead. Do you know what to do if the condom breaks or you get really drunk and have unprotected sex? Using condoms with another method, finding out how to get emergency contraception before you need it, and knowing where to go for other resources can help you avoid a scary situation down the line. Moreover …

Don’t do it drunk. That’s not to say that you can’t have a few drinks – hey, it may help you loosen up and may even make sex more enjoyable. But don’t go crazy. The likelihood that you’ll have unprotected sex will increase with the more drinks you have, especially for women. Setting limits on booze will help keep you safer (and help you get the most out of getting it on). Finally …

Stay healthy in general. Eating right and getting enough sleep will help you fight off diseases, including the ones that hit down below.

Do you have any other tips to share? Write a comment in the section below. Click here for more Sexy & Savvy posts.

3 thoughts on “6 Ways to Protect Yourself & Your Partner on Valentine’s Day (or Any Day)

  1. Good points! I would encourage you to refrain from using the term “safe” and use the term “safer” instead. In reality every sexual contact comes with some amount of risk for STIs. So there is no safe only safer or less safe and more safe.

    2nd point – “Most college kids end up having unprotected sex when they are less than sober.” – This is a false statement. I challenge you to back this up with research. It’s use borders on scare tactics and is inappropriate to use with this population. I also think that it is a mistake when encouraging young people to, “don’t do it drunk” – which is sound advice, without at least acknowledging the positive role that alcohol plays for some people as a “social lubricant.” In moderate doses, as everyone knows, alcohol can enhance sex. I believe that to not acknowledge that fact runs the risk of young people ignoring many of the good things in the article.

    Lastly, the recommendation of talking to your partner needs to be paired with stronger encouragement to take charge and responsibility for your own protection. My fear is that many young people (if they are together enough to have “the talk”) may either be ignorant of important things like the asymptomatic nature of many STIs, especially for women or be too trusting when research has shown that as many as 1/3 of young men and women are willing to lie to a current partner about things done with a previous partner.

    Good luck in your future endeavors!

    • Thanks, Steve. Those are all great points. You’re right, we should be using the terms less safe or more safe when talking about sex.

      As for your second point about an increase in unprotected sex when drinking, I’ll admit that it should not read “most college kids”. However, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found “for women there was a positive association between number of drinks and a greater likelihood of unprotected sex with casual partners.” Perhaps, I shouldn’t have generalized it as much in this post.

      I agree with you that there needs to be more in the “don’t do it drunk” section. I was trying to promote moderate use of alcohol by using the word drunk instead of saying “don’t drink at all”.

      To your last point, I completely agree. Everyone needs to take responsibility for protecting themselves.

      • I liked the comment made by Steve Lux about how couples find it harder to be completely honest with one another about past sexual encounters once they have had sex. Many studies have been done on this, and it has been found that this is a common phenomenon. Once sex is part of the picture it has been shown through study that it is harder to get out of a bad relationship as well.

        So many young people, and I have found this more of a problem, with the male student tend to believe that casual sex does not cause problems for them. I ask them why it is that so many men have problems looking at a young woman the next day once they had “casual sex” with her. I have noticed men that could, and believe that these men were able to have a healthy casual sexual relationship with a woman. However, I have found this to be a rare occurence. I also encourage students to let their sexual partners know if they are only interested in sex, or maybe would be interested in a relationship one day.

        Studies show that sex as a whole means different things to different genders. For men it is more about the conquest, “planting the seed” (as I have often heard said, and that is about all unless they are interested in a real relationship.

        Studies show that sex is more of an emotional act for women. Men actually “woo” the female gender much the way that pheasants and turkeys do. I have watched this over the years, and I was even on the receiving end of it a few times in my youth.

        These same studies showed that many people that have sex with “friends with fringe benefits” that eventually do get in a relationship do hide things about their past sexual encounters; however, if they can go a period of time where sex is completely off limits, even if the length of time is only 2 weeks, the couple learns to communicate better about their feelings,past sexual encounters, and often things that are bothering them at the time.

        I will give you one last thing: There is a phenomenon that seems to happen in committed relationships where one partner is stepping out on the relationship. My stepson calls this “gnawing in the gut.” This feeling/gnawing is much like when a person does something tht makes them feel come clean about something they have done wrong. However, the person stepping isn’t the one I am referring to, it is the partner they are stepping out on. I have never found any research on this, but my husband tells me that a woman that had been married 4 times, and stepped out on all four of them told him that it is becaus it takes the attention off the partner being stepped out on, and places it elsewhere. This makes sense.

        I actually can atest to the fact that the gnawing happens due to having this happen to me. I always tell students to pay attention to that feeling, ask their partner, and if they continue to feel this way do some research since there are only so many STI’s that can be prevented by condoms.

        If you have more info. I would be happy to have it. I am going to see if the nursing students on our campus would like to have a sex info. day before Spring Break.

        Thanks

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