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Molly Longest / Her Campus
Sex + Relationships

Consent, Communication and Condoms

A basic 3 rule guide to a safe and healthy sexual experience

If I were to ask you your thoughts on Sex Education, would the first thing that came to your mind be the highly underrated Netflix show or would it be the uncomfortable memory of a school day you can barely remember? The sex education most of us were provided with involved separating the boys and girls, and three hours of a lot of reproductive talk. While I’m glad I was educated on sex as a means of reproduction, I felt a great disconnect with sex as just, sex for fun. 

It’s hard to navigate oneself in matters of sex in a conservative society and I’ve often felt that while we were given more than enough information about the birds and the bees, we didn’t learn much about what should precede it. I’ve come up with three general rules that should apply to all members of society regardless of gender or sexual preference, so when you find yourself feeling a little confused, you know where to look. 

Rule Number 1: Consent is EVERYTHING. 

Going back to my earlier criticism of the subpar standard of sexual education we received in school, I can’t recall hearing the word ‘consent’ even once. It’s almost funny to imagine that in today’s day and age we’re not discussing the most important part of a sexual encounter. Consent has to be established and re-established through the course of sex and a few good questions to keep asking yourself are “am I being coerced into doing something I’m uncomfortable with?,” “am I coercing my partner into doing something they’re uncomfortable with?,”  and “am I/is my partner sober enough to be giving consent right now?.” If the answer to these questions is anything other than “yes,” then know that you are more than entitled to stop, slow down or redirect the encounter in a way you are comfortable with. You can also talk to some friends about their comfortable experiences as well as their not-so comfortable ones for advice or guidance. During and before a possible sexual interaction, check in with how you’re feeling. 

Rule Number 2: Talk to Each Other.

Once you understand that consent and safety are the most important rules when it comes to having sex, you’ll realize they’re perhaps the only rules as well. No sexual experience is same as the other. There can be a lot of anxiety involved when getting into a new sexual relationship and the only way to ease that is to communicate with your partner or partners. No one person is the same and no one’s sexual likes and dislikes will be the exact same as someone else’s. If you don’t know what your partner likes, find out. 

I’ve often heard people say that they’d rather not verbally ask their partner what they like in bed as it ruins the spontaneity and kills the romance. This is a myth. Communication is sexy and also necessary to facilitate healthy sexual encounters. A huge mistake I have made over the years is assuming that casual sex equates indifferent cold sex. Intimacy accelerates sex, regardless of who it’s with. Be open to new experiences but also never push yourself into anything you aren’t fully onboard with. Your partner isn’t required to be into what you’re into and vice versa, but you’re not going to know until and unless you ask. 

Rule Number 3: Research your Birth Control Options. 

If you’ve ever been to a pharmacy to buy condoms, you’re well-acquainted with the awkwardness involved in trying to avoid eye contact with the pharmacist while whispering “Bhaiya, condom hai kya?” in the most hushed tone possible so that no Aunty or Uncle around you discovers that you, a consenting adult, has sex. Regardless of this embarrassment, you have to ensure that you’re always safe.  

Condoms are a popular form of birth control that also help protect you against STDs and other infections. However, there are other methods of contraception for heterosexual partners such as oral contraceptive pills and no, I’m not talking about iPills. It’s always surprising to hear about how many people use iPills as a form of protection. iPills are emergency contraceptive pills or “morning after pills” which should absolutely not be used as a frequent method of contraception due to the negative hormonal reactions they can cause in one’s body. 

There are several OCPs that can be taken (with a doctor’s recommendation and prescription) on a daily basis that are less harmful to one’s body. Please remember that you’re not a doctor and would only start taking a certain contraceptive pill after consulting a gynecologist and understanding the possible side effects.

More recently, women have also begun to opt for IUDs or intra uterine devices as a long-term method of contraception. Neither pills nor IUDs can protect you from sexual infections or diseases and hence a condom is always a good idea, especially if you or your partner are involved in sexual relationships with more people than just each other. If you’re planning to have sex with your partner without using a condom, never shy away from enquiring about their sexual history and INSIST on both of you getting tested beforehand. It might seem like a hassle, but an STI is definitely a bigger hassle. 

While sexual experiences vary for everyone, nothing tops your comfort.

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