What are barriers I can use to practice safe sex with?
There are many different kinds of barriers you can use to help you and your partner or partners when you practice safe sex! These can include lube, internal and external condoms, gloves, and dental dams.
Lube (short for lubricant) is the ketchup of the barrier world: Fries are great, but fries and ketchup?! Even better. Not only does lube help make any kind of insertive (putting things into the body) sex easier, it reduces friction for all kinds of sexual contact. In the context of barriers, lube can help reduce the risk of microtears and abrasions that can make sexually transmitted infections (STI) more likely.
Does the type of lube I use matter?
There are a few different kinds of lube. The most common and generally the safest to use is water-based lubricant, which can dry out faster than oil or silicone based lubes but also washes off easier and is less likely to stain. Oil and silicone based lubes last longer than water-based, but can degrade silicone toys, and some people might have allergic reactions to it. Always check to make sure lube is marked ‘latex safe’ to be sure that it will not degrade any barriers that you’re using (like condoms).
Do not use oil based lubes with latex barriers!
Oil based lubes will break down latex barriers!
Condoms are the most commonly known barriers, and can be either internal or external. They provide a physical barrier that can greatly reduce the risk of STIs, pregnancy, or the transmission of bacteria. They are most commonly made of latex, but non-latex versions also exist for those with allergies. Internal condoms are useful for anal or vaginal sex, and can be put into the body hours before sex. Always change condoms if you are switching where you’re putting a toy/penis! If a toy or a penis is going to be in contact with a new part of the body (or another person’s body), it’s important to take the old condom off and put a new one on in order to lower the risk of spreading bacteria or STIs.
Gloves are easy to find and can usually be found in pharmacies or first-aid kits. They are useful for hand-to-genital sex or hand-to-anal sex, as well as simply being useful for lowering the spread of bacteria. Be sure to use lube with them!
Dental Dams are a single sheet of latex or plastic that can be used to prevent direct skin-to-skin contact. They are very useful for oral sex on a vulva or anus. You can DIY a dental dam by cutting the four fingers off of a glove and slitting the outside edge (pinky side) OR cutting a condom in half (the long way) OR by using a sheet of non-microwaveable plastic wrap.
Where can I find supplies for safe sex?
Convenience stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, and larger stores like Wal-Mart tend to have a selection of external condoms and lube in the wellness section. Gloves and plastic wrap are also easily found there. Depending on your school, the nurse’s office might offer external condoms. Many universities will have free supplies in the medical center on campus. In the community, Spectrum and Planned Parenthood offer free safer sex supplies. Finally, Outright’s Youth Drop In Space has lube, gloves, dental dams, and both internal and external condoms that are free for youth to take!