SEXUAL HEALTH AND STAYING SAFE
Sexual health is about having a healthy sense of your sexuality, having healthy sexual and reproductive organs, and feeling good about your sexuality and sexual experiences. It can be hard to feel you have good sexual health when society doesn’t seem to have a positive and respectful approach to your sexuality and when laws, social norms and/or cultures prevent all of our sexual rights from being respected, protected and fulfilled.
Unfortunately we can’t snap our fingers and change this (though there’s plenty you can do in your community and activism to promote this change). But this makes it even more important for us to maintain our sexual health to the best of our ability. We can do things like getting accurate information, having safe sex and going for regular sexual health checks. Read on for more info about sexual health!
An important part of maintaining your sexual health is having safer sex. Safer sex is using condoms and water-based lubricants as well as a range of other things (e.g. latex dams and gloves) you can do during sex to help reduce the risk of catching or passing on STIs (sexually transmitted infections) or HIV.
Safer sex can help:
Prevent HIV and other BBVs (blood borne viruses)
When it comes to preventing and treating HIV, there have never been more options. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, refers to the use of HIV medication by HIV-negative people to prevent acquiring HIV. PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV transmission. AFAO’s website has more information on PrEP! https://www.afao.org.au/our-work/policy-and-submissions/prep/
Furthermore, it has been found that HIV cannot be transmitted sexually by someone with an undetectable viral load – that is, undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U). Check out the Prevention Access Campaign’s website for more information on this exciting concept! https://www.preventionaccess.org/undetectable
You can visit the Safe Sex No Regrets website (www.safesexnoregrets.com.au) for heaps more great information on keeping you and your sexual partners safe from STIs and BBVs. Also see the Sexual Health Quarters (http://shq.org.au/) website for more info on sexuality and sexual health.
Everyone who’s sexually active needs to have regular sexual health tests. To find out about sexual health testing go to the Sexual Health Quarters Website (http://shq.org.au/) or M Clinic website (http://www.mclinic.org.au/) for info about the WA AIDS Council’s testing services. SHQ and M Clinic are both LGBTIQ friendly services. M Clinic is a sexual health clinic for men who have sex with men – this includes both trans men and trans women who have sex with men. SHQ’s sexual health services are available to anyone.
If you’re in a trusting, monogamous relationship and want to have unprotected sex, make sure you and your partner have been tested and given the ‘all clear’ for STIs.
The following info & resources may also be interesting and useful for you to check out:
Our Sexuality Info Page
The WA AIDS Council’s website (www.waaids.com) for info about their services such as sexual health testing, LGBTIQ friendly counselling, sexual health education & trainings, HIV/AIDS Facts talks, and Peer Support services for men who have sex with men.
Safer sex information for same-gender attracted women http://www.acon.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-Birds-and-the-Birds-WEB2.pdf.pdf, http://girl2girl.info/
Safer sex information for same-gender attracted people http://www.acon.org.au/what-we-are-here-for/sexual-health/
Safer sex information for trans men (18+) http://www.grunt.org.au/
Safer sex information for trans men http://www.catie.ca/en/resources/primed-sex-guide-trans-men-men
Safer sex information for trans women http://www.catie.ca/en/resources/brazen-trans-womens-safer-sex-guide-0
In the context of sexual health, consent means actively agreeing to be sexual or have sex with someone. Sexual consent is an important part of making sure that you and your partner/s are willing, happy and informed. Sexual activity without consent is rape or sexual assault, and it is against the law.
Here are the basics of consent according to Planned Parenthood’s website.
Freely given. Consenting is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Reversible. Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re both naked in bed.
Informed. You can only consent to something if you have the full story. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, there isn’t full consent.
Enthusiastic. When it comes to sex, you should only do stuff you WANT to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.
Specific. Saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom to make out) doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to others (like having sex).
The legal age of consent in Western Australia is 16, regardless of your sexuality or gender identity. Additionally, it’s illegal to have sex with someone under 18 if you’re aged 18 or above and in a position of power over the person – like their teacher or coach.
Check out the Youth Legal Service’s page on consent for more information. http://youthlegalserviceinc.com.au/fact-sheets/age-of-consent-sexual-behaviour/
Relationships come in many different forms, from romantic and/or sexual relationships to friendships and family relationships. Relationships can have a huge impact on us and our lives. They can impact our lives in all different ways; good, bad and confusing.
The best way to make sure you know what you want in a relationship is to get to know yourself first. Spend time thinking about what you want in life (right now and/or in the future) and from the people in your life. It’s important to respect yourself and expect the people you have relationships with to respect you. Respecting and understanding yourself will help you to get respect and understanding in your relationships.
Some people feel that friendship, closeness and love are the most important things they get out of an intimate relationship. Others feel that sex is most important.
Regardless of the type of relationship, it’s best to be open and honest with the people you have relationships with so you know what you want and expect from each other. Open and honest communication is an important part of a relationship. The most important thing is that you all feel comfortable, stay safe and enjoy yourselves!
Talk to each other – just because you have a relationship, it doesn’t mean you automatically communicate well or can read your partners/ friends/ family member’s mind, or that they can read yours. Listen to each other and communicate your needs and wants.
Spend time together – make your relationship a priority and make time for each other.
Work on feeling good about yourself – this will help the way you feel about your relationships.
Everyone is different – accept and value differences in others, including your partners/friends/family member.
Be flexible – let your relationship grow and adapt with you as you change.
Make plans – set goals for your relationship and plan for your future when you are all ready.
Be supportive – try not to judge, criticise or blame each other; we are all human. Support your partners/friends/family member to be their best. Remember, you’re on the same team!
Learn from arguments – accept that arguments will happen and try to resolve them with respect. You’ll usually be able to learn something about each other, yourself and/or your relationship.
Be sexually considerate (in sexual relationships) – accept that individuals have different sex drives and feelings about sex. Remember that sustaining a healthy and happy sex life requires negotiation and compromise.
Be attentive – demonstrate your commitment to the relationship and think of how your partners/friends/family members are feeling.
Enjoy yourself – have fun and celebrate your life together. Spoil each other and show them how you feel about them.
It’s better to talk it out early if you are having difficulties, rather than waiting for the situation to get worse. Sometimes how we feel doesn’t have to make sense, or is contradictory, but we need to get it off our chest and be honest about it anyway.
For more info on relationships go to: