If you’re on a tight budget, you can try collecting various condoms and lube packets from pregnancy and STD testing clinics, health departments, your doctor’s office, school-based health clinics, or other local non-profit organizations. While we’re on the subject of clinics, you can even make a date with your partner to get tested for STDs together. Some clinics provide testing for free or low cost.
If you’re feeling shy, live too far away from shops and clinics, or don’t like going to stores, you can shop online.
At home, in the tree-house or your grandma’s den – whereever! Stash your new goodies (condoms, dams, lube, toys etc.) where you’re most likely to need them, so they’re on-hand whenever you’re in the mood for lovin’.
If you live with roommates or family, you can designate a special box or compartment for them. This requires a little organizing, but it’s worth it. Fumbling around in the dark, or needing to hunt down your safer sex goodies while things are getting hot, can interrupt the flow and passionate mood.
Being ready helps make it a fun and positive memory!
Oh, and speaking of which… for hetero couples, you can insert a female condom in the vagina up to a couple hours before having sex, so that it feels more spontaneous. For all couples, you can roll a male condom on with the first erection for a similar reason – it’ll already be on his penis when you’re in the heat of the moment and want to start.
Read: 9 Things You Didn't Know About Putting on a Condom
Cars, wallets, pockets and purses are not a good place to store condoms for longer than an hour or so, because extreme temperatures and/or friction will ruin latex without noticeable signs.
Lubrication reduces friction, and that can make a world of difference as far as safety and enjoyment goes!
Even though most condoms are pre-lubricated, latex rubbers can dry out or get tacky and cause irritation after a while, especially during marathon sessions. FYI, keeping a condom lubricated lowers the chance of it breaking.
Try different water or silicone-based lubes to figure out which texture and brand works best and doesn’t bother your skin. Small packets of lube are cheap and you may be able to get free samples sent from the company.
Caution: Using oils, lotions, or Vaseline may cause your latex barriers to break!
Lubes can be very slippery and long lasting, cushiony, tasty, or more natural in texture. Anal sex lubes are designed for that purpose and are usually thicker. Natural and organic brands with few or no synthetic chemicals are available too.
Putting a drop of lube inside the tip of a male condom makes the condom roll around on the head of the penis, which is more pleasurable. You can also add lube to the inside of a female condom, or on the side of a dental dam which goes up against your partner’s vagina or anus for increased sensitivity and pleasure.
Spice It Up
With age comes responsibilities, and with that comes routines to use time as efficiently as possible. This affects our personal relationships, and for most couples, it means that over time, they’ll have to work on changing up their routines for intimacy. Boredom, and its cousin disinterest, make it hard for any couple to enjoy their sex life, let alone safer sex. Therefore, being playful and creative is even more essential!
Having oral sex or using just your hands and toys for the final encore sometimes, in place of intercourse, is one way to inject variety and enjoy safer sex. You could even learn how to roll a condom on with your mouth! Whatever you do to make sex safer, it’s much more fun to make that a part of foreplay rather than a separate act. You can pour or slap some lube onto your partner’s genitals or you can stroke it on.
Easy Does It
Remember to start out gently, and gradually work your way towards more challenging goals, such as a jumbo dildo or an acrobatic position.
Some couples really enjoy rougher sex play, which is considered riskier for getting or passing STDs due to greater friction and micro-tears. Those very tiny tears on your delicate bits are essentially openings that bacteria and viruses easily pass through. Besides, serious chafing is not fun for most folks.
Find your favorite lube, begin with simpler goals, and don’t be shy about checking in with your partner during sex to ask if everything’s feeling good.
Talk, Talk, Talk
Talking about your expectations to use protection and/or getting tested will improve the overall relationship experience, because those conversations can prevent disappointment and disagreements later-on.
Many adults have never had sexual health education and are basically in the dark. You may have to be patient with your partner if they need to process what you’re saying.
It may be apparent, but your sex life truly does not need to be modeled after what you’ve seen in movies in order to be enjoyable and fulfilling. After all, screen sex is almost never so "real" that it portrays those moments when sex is embarrassing, laughable, awkward, or uncomfortable anyway.
Figure out what appeals to you, use your imagination, and talk with your partner about your hopes, needs and expectations.
Lastly, if you’ve decided to wait on having any type of sex (anal, oral, or vaginal), until you reach a certain point in the relationship, such as getting tested, agreeing on a protection method or having some degree of commitment, you can still have loads of intimate and pleasurable experiences with your partner in the meantime! You can enjoy cuddling, making out, strip-teases, massage, erotic media/shows, petting, masturbation, bathing together, dry humping, and so much more without exchanging fluids, which can accidentally lead to a pregnancy or an STD.
(Note: If one or both of you have a cold sore blister, there’s always a risk of passing a herpes virus, so it’s best to wait on kissing until the blister heals completely. And some infections can be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, so be aware of your risks in advance.)
I’m not going to sugar-coat this and say that if you simply follow these tips for enjoying safer sex, it will always work out smoothly. A person’s attitude toward and approach to using protection and talking with partners and getting tested plays a big role.
Each person has his/her own relationship to their body and with sex. A good share of that comes from an individual’s upbringing and culture. Some people aren’t accustomed to safer sex practices, and it will take them time to adjust to the differences.
If you are able to talk honestly and openly in the relationship, stay open to new possibilities and you respect each other, there’s a good chance you’ll make it happen!
This article originally appeared on The STD Project. It has been reprinted her with permission.