Sex can be complicated. Navigating your sexuality, gender expression and sexual experiences in general can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. And more importantly, you’re likely not alone in your experiences. After a hiatus of a few years, we are bringing an important column back to our paper: Tuum Sex (formerly known as Positively Sex). This is a space to talk about a number of sex- and relationship- related topics with no shame.
Hopefully this column will help to answer some of your questions, entice you to spice up your sex life or just push you to think of things in a different light. Like I said, there is no shame — especially no shame in not knowing — but maybe this will save you from some awkward googling in the middle of your first date with the sexy kin student you’ve had a crush on all year.
So let’s start with the basics and talk about safety.
Sexual safety goes so much further than simply preventing STIs and pregnancies. Yes, those are incredibly important, but people often overlook the connection between safety and pleasure. Having safe sex also has to do with communicating needs and comfort levels. It has to do with exploring things in a way that won’t harm you or your partner. It is also about knowing about options that work for you.
I could go on and on about a number of different aspects of safe sex and safe sexual exploration. But, for the purpose of keeping this column short and sweet, today I’ll focus on the world of condoms.
You might be asking yourself, “But Lua, didn’t you just say that safe sex is more than just preventing STIs and pregnancies? Aren’t condoms a bit basic?” Yes, they are a bit Sex 101, but at the same time, they just aren’t talked about enough. So, on to the very diverse world of condoms.
You’re probably familiar with external condoms, but there are also internal condoms, dental dams and even latex panties. Internal condoms can be used both in the vagina or anus. For vaginal use, they are safe to be put in several hours before intercourse so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing in the heat of the moment (though putting a condom on as part of foreplay is recommended!). Just make sure you don’t double up as the friction caused by two condoms can cause them to tear, and then you’re back to square zero.
However, not all sex is penetrative — even if mainstream media might make you believe it is. Unfortunately, there are still risks associated with non-penetrative sex, but very few conversations around the protection of people with vulvas.
Oral sex with an external condom for the penis is safe for the condom-wearer, but those can’t really be used on vulvas. It’s not the most flattering name, but dental dams are a thin piece of latex used to cover the vulva or anal region to prevent direct exchange of fluids during oral sex. One can be easily made from a regular external condom by cutting the base, the tip and along the length.
I’ll be honest and say they aren’t the sexiest thing in the world, but thankfully we are in a day and age where other options are available. Certain companies have created latex panties (and non-latex options) that can be worn during oral sex and serve the same purpose as dental dam, offering great external protection with a much sexier flair.
Latex is the most common material for condoms, but it's not the only one. Non-latex condoms are great alternatives for people with latex allergies or sensitivities. They are also an opportunity for experimentation with different types of lubrication — non-latex condoms are compatible with oil-based lubes that cannot be used with latex condoms. Just make sure you know what material your condom is made off and use the appropriate lubrication for it.
Size and shape
Regular sized condoms will fit most penises. They should feel tight without preventing blood circulation — that’s what cock rings are for. Yet, condoms can vary significantly in shape for different sexual experiences. Ribbed, studded or textured condoms have raised patterns that can increase sensation — or at the very least, change the type of sensation felt. Many people with vaginas enjoy the extra texture on their inner soft tissue, and the same applies to people with penises (though externally). Using textured condoms can be a very low-effort way to start experimenting with different sensations during your sexual encounters.
Lubrication and coating
Proper lubrication is one of the most important factors for an enjoyable sexual experience. Most condoms already come with some form of lubricant, but don’t be scared of adding more. There are three main types of lube: water-based, silicon-based and oil-based. Each type of lube comes with its advantages, but regardless, proper lubrication is the difference between mediocre, painful sex and an incredibly pleasurable experience.
Condoms can also come with different types of coating such as spermicide, ‘hot-n-cold’ or some form of increased sensitivity lubricant. A lot of condom brands market those heavily, but they can have mixed effects and success in actually creating a positive sexual encounter. Don’t be scared to try things out, but don’t worry too much if something just isn’t for you.
This is in no way a comprehensive list, but hopefully an intro into your own exploration. Now go forth with your newly acquired confidence, Google what you think you need, and have no fear of ever looking lost in the condom section of the university Shoppers again.
If you have any questions, or something you’d like us to discuss next, send us an email at email@example.com!