Staying Clear – Safe Sex Isn’t Quick Sex

You see him at the club. He sees you. You smile. He smiles. And then he comes on over to you. You dance. You drink. Your hands are all over each other – feeling, devouring each other’s bodies. Staring into each other’s eyes. Lips. Kissing. Tongues flickering. You can both feel the lust rising between you – the heat between your legs as you want him. And he wants you. He reaches towards your pants and feels you – you know what he wants as he smirks and you lean in closer, your lips brushing against his ears as your alcohol filled breath makes the hands on his neck stand up and he leans forward hungrily. You open your mouth, closer . . .

“I’ve had my sexual health test recently. What about you?”

It’s a question that we don’t ask often enough and it’s more prevalent than ever. The introduction of PrEP has arguably lulled the gay community into a false sense of security and it’s certainly something that we need to shore up. PrEP is an acronym that stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s an antiretroviral drug that an individual would take daily to protect from, and prevent HIV infection. However, whilst Individuals on PrEP might be protected from the dangers of HIV, it certainly doesn’t make them immune to other sexually transmitted illnesses such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia, herpes and genital warts, and a range of other easily transmitted illnesses.

PrEP pill
Image: PrEP

One would easily be mistaken in the idea that the older generations would see less sexually transmitted diseases – however, statistics have indicated a worrying trend indicating sexually transmitted illnesses in the 50-70 category has risen by more than a third in the past decade. So what do the gay community and the older sexually active community have in common?

Many people in this category are under the false belief that they don’t need to use condoms anymore and it’s a recent concern that’s coming up within the queer community with the approval of PrEP on the PBS scheme. There is a concern among some parts of the medical community that argue that PrEP should not be replacing condoms. Yes, it dramatically minimises the risk of HIV, but all the other STI’s shouldn’t be forgotten either.

A French study in 2016 that went alongside the PrEP study found that individuals who knew they were on PrEP (not a placebo) had a significant decrease of condom use by up to 20% of the levels of condom use they had before being on PrEP.  A South African academic study published in 2017 on female sex workers indicated reductions in condom use on people using PrEP. The article noted that efforts to promote condom use among female sex workers on PrEP would be critical in raising the effectiveness of a decrease in STI and HIV transmissions. Closer to home, an Australian study in 2017 noted a 23% decrease in HIV infection rates during the PrEP trial, but a marked increase in STI’s. Gonorrhoea is particularly troubling as drug-resistant strains are starting to pop up around the world – though it has not yet been reported within Australian shores. This research indicates that it is critical to check your sexual partner’s health before engaging in sex.

It’s often considered a boner-killing conversation, but sexual health should come before all sexual desires and whilst it has this loathsome reputation of being a heat killer – it doesn’t have to be. I write this with the knowledge of a true story around a young questioning male who decided to engage in sexual relations with an older man. This was his first male-to-male sexual encounter and he heartbreakingly contracted HIV as a result. This young male – exploring his sexuality – had now contracted an illness that was going to be with him for the rest of his life as a result of having unprotected sex. I’m not here to argue the morality of this case or advocate for mandatory safe sex, and whilst I acknowledge that this isn’t a common situation – it demonstrates how the decisions of multiple people have led to such an event and it highlights the importance of checking in with your sexual partner. One could argue that neither of them knew, one could also argue that they should have worn protection – but as you’d know reading this, in the heat of the moment these questions come second to the driving factor of sexual arousal and desire.

Safe sex isn’t quick sex. It’s not about lust, it’s not about the heat of the moment.  You shouldn’t be asking the question in the club whilst you’re dancing, and you certainly shouldn’t be asking in the toilet when you’re on your knees with his dick in your mouth – so when is a good time?

Ideally, you shouldn’t have the conversation when you’re aroused. Though I recognise the difficulty for some people in this especially when it comes to situational sex that arises through partying, clubbing and other events. It can simply be a quick statement and question of ‘I’ve had my last sexual health check recently – when was yours?’ If they can’t remember, or won’t disclose, then you might want to reconsider your chosen playmate for the night and it might just be time to head home. In such situational sex circumstances, it would be best to ALWAYS wear a condom.

In an ideal situation, you’d want to be having the conversation once you realise that there’s an attraction. Where you can both sit down without interruptions and ask a similarly phrased question. You need to remember that talking about one’s sexual health involves the disclosure of their last sexual health check, whether they’ve had an STI and whether they’ve been treated for it – it doesn’t involve sexual partner history or any form of judgement on previous choices made. There’s no right A-B-C to having the conversation – but keeping it free from accusations and judgement will certainly make it go a lot easier – remembering that it’s about ensuring each other’s safety, and not a personal inquisition. If you have concerns, politely and gently, bring them up or suggest that you go and get checked together. I assure you, knowing that you’re both sexually clear will allow you to have stress-free check and will eliminate the need to awkwardly visit the doctor later on for questions or an urgent check for that night where you just didn’t put it on.

Author: Stephen Smith – BA Of Social Sciences, M.Ed

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