Back to (sex) school

So you know all about safe sex? Are you sure? Might be time to check if your knowledge is up to scratch using our sex-ed checklist…

By Kate Spies

Ok, so we’re going to get all PDHPE high school teacher on you. Ladies, do you really know if you’re having safe sex? And we’re not just talking about being on the pill or using a condom, we’re talk protecting yourself from STIs, UTIs and other sex-related nasties.

To make sure that you really are worded up on the best way to stay safe during nookie, we’ve put together these reminders for you. Commit them to memory chicks…

Did you really get tested for *everything*?

One STI scan tests for everything, right? Wrong! Doctors generally only test for STIs based on risk, so they don’t automatically check for everything. “You can’t assume that because you and he have been ‘tested’ you are both in the clear. Some things like genital herpes are really hard to test for,” says Vanessa Thompson, a sexologist from NSW Sexology Services. In fact, no single STI test can check for everything and your GP won’t routinely test you for sexual infection, you need to request it. Also, loads of women assume that a Pap Smear investigates for sexual diseases, I doesn’t.

So how often should you get tested? “The number of times you are checked for STIs depends on your sexual experiences. As a general rule if you are having unprotected sex with new or multiple partners it is a good idea to get tested annually,” explains Vanessa. “If a partner tells you they may have exposed you to something or if you are worried get tested straight away.”

You need to make sure he has been tested…

So we know it might be majorly awks to ask a new guy if he has had an STI test lately, but your health too important not to, and if he is a dude worth keeping he will be similarly concerned with making sure you’re both protected.

We get that it might not be the first thing you want to ask him so make sure you wear a condom until you’re comfortable enough to broach the subject, and always remember that the pill does nothing to guard you against STIs.

If he says he hasn’t been checked, let him know that it’s important to you that he gets this done, and any guy worth your time will respect this.

He can give you HPV even if he is a virgin.

“Even if you don't have sex with a guy, and even if he's a virgin, he can still pass on HPV - the virus which can give you genital warts and cervical cancer,” says Lauren Streicher, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Northwestern University in the US. If he has rubbed his penis against another woman’s naked vagina (and not actually had sex), he could pass on the virus to you in the same way. And guys can’t be tested for HPV.

Getting the Gardasil shot won’t necessarily stop you from getting HPV.

Gardasil helps prevent HPV, but it only stops certain strains and doesn’t treat someone who is already infected (although it can protect against strains that they don’t already have). “It is recommended that women under 26 consider being vaccinated but it is thought that because HPV is so common that a vast majority of people who have engaged in unprotected sexual activity (not just sex) will have been exposed to the virus so the shot is not recommended as it would usually be too late,” explains Vanessa.

So does this mean that you shouldn’t have it at all? No. It completely depends on your sexual history, your exposure and your age: work with your doctor on a course of action that suits you. Mostly importantly, even when you have had the shot, regular pap smears are a must.

You can help prevent UTIs…

How uncomfortable are urinary tract infections? They just suck… so you will be happy to know that doing a wee after sex and drinking plenty of water can help ward them off. Intercourse can irritate your bladder and cause infection, going to the toilet can get rid of bacteria that may accumulate in your urethra. Vanessa also suggests that, “If you are prone to UTIs avoid using products that contain spermicide (contraceptive substance that destroys sperm).”

Keep an Eye on Your IUD.

In rare cases, an IUD (a small contraception device that is inserted into the womb) could slip out while you're going to the toilet, without you even knowing. Although it’s fairly unlikely, it’s just worth keeping an eye out.

Don’t forget one day of the pill.

“Most pills are only 98-99 percent effective when taken correctly so missing a pill does increase the risk of falling pregnant,” says Vanessa.

Wear one (not two) condom, always.

Double bagging Does. Not. Work. “Besides not being very comfortable if you use two condoms you run the risk of them rubbing together and having both come off leaving you with no protection at all,” says Vanessa.

Also, don’t think that because you can’t get pregnant from anal sex, you don’t have to wear a condom – anal is a very risky activity in terms of the spread of STIs. And remember to always use a new condom if you’re going to switch from anal to vaginal sex.

Never, ever, attempt to use the withdrawal method, there is sperm in pre-ejaculation and this can definitely get you pregnant.