Sexplained: The Basics of Sex & Contraceptives

Growing up Catholic in a small town with an LDS majority didn’t exactly foster the type of relationship with my own body to feel comfortable asking questions that may have been seen as wild or even vulgar. In an extremely conservative town, asking questions about sex and contraception was both difficult and, in the eyes of many, unnecessary. Why would you need to know anything about sex or contraception? The assumption of both abstinence and a lack of desire was then translated into an extreme lack of sex education. There was a girl in my class that didn’t even know what a condom was until we were 17. No, I’m not joking. 

With abstinence assumed, learning about sex and contraception in a formal educational setting became impossible. It simply was not going to happen. I know I’m not the only one. Regardless of personal upbringing, it’s no secret that sex education in public schools in the United States is a joke. We’re being sent into sex with no education, tips, or even advice to prevent unplanned pregnancy or the spreading of STDs

Whether you know a lot about your body and were lucky enough to be provided with comprehensive sex education, or you don’t have a clue about anything, this series is for you. Within this article and the following two that I will be writing, I will be talking about the basics of sex, STDs, and contraceptive methods. So, grab a cup of tea, sit down, and consider me your big sister and this series my form of getting information to you that you may not have had before. Or just a refresher. 

Sex, for a long time, was seen portrayed and viewed as that cookie-cutter bullshit you see in movies when you’re 13 and at a sleepover. It’s typical that most of us were taught that sex is one thing and one thing only: the heterosexual intercourse involving penetration of the vagina by a penis. My job here is to inform you that that, while part of the definition, isn’t the complete picture nor is it the only form of sex. Different types of sex include: vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex, fingering/hand jobs, dry humping/genital rubbing, and masturbation. 

Whatever form of sex you’re partaking in, it’s important to remember that sexuality comes with responsibility. Think about what you feel comfortable doing, what the other person feels comfortable doing, and the risks involved. This is where STDs and pregnancy come in. You need to know how to prevent both obtaining an STD and becoming pregnant when you’re not planning on it. 

STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases, are infections that are passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal, and oral sex. They are carried in bodily fluids like semen, precum, vaginal fluids, and blood. Others can be passed simply from genital skin-to-skin contact. While the only way to prevent most STDs, aside from HIV & AIDS, is to never have sexual contact with another person, it’s generally not going to happen. The solution? Safer sex!

Condoms, no matter what anybody tells you, are the only methods of birth control that also prevent the spread of STDs. Even if you are already using a different form of birth control as a contraceptive, it’s important to use condoms to protect both yourself and your partner from STDs. They’re 85% effective, cheap, and convenient. You can pick them up at really any store, community health centers, Planned Parenthood, online, and sometimes even for free or extremely cheap on your college campus! If you’re at the University of Utah and can’t afford other condoms, the Center for Student Wellness in ESLC 2100 will give you 20 condoms for $2! 

A contraceptive, by definition, is an agent that diminishes the likelihood of or the prevention of conception (the onset of pregnancy). It’s completely normal, nothing to be ashamed of, and actually helps in dropping rates of abortion and unplanned pregnancy. (Deschner and Cohen). 

The biggest thing to know about birth control is that contraceptives are not just for female or male usage. Safe, healthy sex is a responsibility that falls into the hands of both people involved in a relationship. This is regardless of the type of relationship you may find yourself in: heterosexual, homosexual, or even if just for casual sex and not inclusive of any type of romance. 

Like mentioned above, condoms are the most well-known form of contraception. However, they are not the best in terms of effectiveness and ease. Contraceptives are more than just condoms. There are many hormonal and non-hormonal forms of birth control that are very effective in preventing unplanned pregnancies. Today, I will be mentioning a couple forms of contraception, that for whatever reason, are not the best and most reliable form. 

Abstinence and outercourse are the only form of birth control that are effective 100% of the time. This is because abstinence is when abstain from having sex. Abstinence comes with different definitions depending on the person which you ask. To some, abstinence is not doing ANY form of sexual activity (including vaginal, oral, and anal sex). It works because it keeps semen away from the vagina. No sperms cells coming into contact with an egg equals no pregnancy. 

Outercourse is different because it is inclusive of sexual activities and excludes only vaginal sex. It works exactly like abstinence in that it keeps the sperm cells away from the eggs. No contact between the two leaves for no possibility of pregnancy. It differs from abstinence because it only excludes vaginal sex. This still leaves the possibility of kissing, massaging, masturbating, dry humping, oral, and anal sex. 

While oral sex will not lead pregnancy, there is the possibility of the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases, or STD’s. In order to help prevent this, use a condom. The same goes with anal sex. While you most likely won’t get pregnant—unless semen spills out into the vagina—there is still the possibility of STD’s. Once again, wear a condom. 

There are obvious benefits to abstinence and outercourse. They’re both simple, free, and work incredibly well to prevent pregnancy. These are great because they also allow you to focus on things outside of sex. Additionally, it’s proven that those who hold off on having sex throughout their teenage years and has fewer sexual partners in their lifetime are less likely to obtain an STD. 

However, there is a downside to abstinence and outercourse. While they are super effective, it is difficult to avoid sex for some people. It’s important to remember that if you plan on being abstinent but later have sex, you can get pregnant if you don’t use birth control. If you continue having sex and not using birth control, it’ll just be a matter of time before you get pregnant. Plan ahead and be safe. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the heat of the moment and have unprotected sex. That can lead to pregnancy and an STD. 

Internal condoms, or female condoms, are alternative to regular condoms. Instead of going on the penis, these condoms go inside your vagina and create a barrier to stop the sperm from reaching an egg. They also help prevent STIs and STDs! Additionally, they’re cheap and also fairly easy to obtain. 

One of the most famous forms of birth control, which is really the lack thereof, is the withdrawal method. In other words, pulling out. For withdrawal to work as well as possible, which is only effective 78% of time, you have to do it right every single time, without fail. It’s important to remember that accidents do happen and if you’re using this as your birth control, keep the morning-after pill in your medicine cabinet. This can prevent pregnancy for up to five days after unprotected sex. 

Note: Pulling out does not protect you against STDs. Some STDs, like genital warts and herpes, are easily spread through genital skin-to-skin contact. If there is no barrier, it’s a lot easier to obtain these. Chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhea can be carried in precum. Use condoms! 

While there are a ton of different other contraceptives, we will be going over those next time. Stay safe and always use condoms, no matter what! 

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