Making Sex Safer

Let’s discuss safer sex strategies. Then we’ll run through the items you might need for your own safer sex stash.

“Safer sex” means different things to different people. Broadly speaking, in this guide, safer sex means minimizing the potential of getting or transmitting STIs, while maximizing our pleasure!

Sometimes we don’t have safer sex
In real life, we don’t always have sex that meets our personal definitions of “safer sex.”  

This can be for many reasons. For example:  

  • we’re emotionally unprepared (e.g., we’re feeling vulnerable or, on the other hand, invulnerable).  
  • we’re under the influence (e.g., drunk or high). 
  • we lack the information to make properly informed decisions (e.g., about safely fucking after bottom surgery). 
  • we choose to settle for the sex we think we can get, rather than insisting on the sex we want. 
  • we want to have sex in certain ways, but don’t know how to communicate this clearly to our partners or even ourselves. 

If you have regrets about any such times, it’s okay to forgive yourself for your past choices. All of us are on an ongoing journey of learning to care for ourselves.

Safer Sex Strategies

“Safer sex” is a broad term. So, it makes sense that safer sex strategies can span many kinds of strategies—from building your knowledge and communication skills, to using barriers.

Some strategies to consider:

Learn more about sex and your body.
For example, you can read articles on trans health. You can also connect with trans and non-binary peers. To get started, see Resources.

Start some pillow talk.
What does safer sex mean to you and what does it look like in practice? As well as thinking about this with yourself, you could talk with any sexual partners. It’s good to talk during times when you and any partners are thinking more clearly and are better able to make decisions (e.g., before sex or during foreplay). Leaving safer sex items out for any partners to see can also help kickstart these conversations.

Set and learn boundaries.
We may be open to dialogue and sexual experimentation, but we all have limits. It’s worth informing any sexual partner about what you will and won’t do sexually, and learning their limits too (see Consent and Sex).

You and any sexual partner could create a written agreement that sets out the boundaries and understandings you both have about sex within your relationship and (if relevant) outside it. For example, you may decide to have condomless sex with each other but use condoms outside of your relationship. Check in with each other to discuss if the agreement’s working for both of you and if you need change it.

Know your STI status.
When everyone in a relationship knows their status, they can make more informed safer sex choices (see Get tested regularly).

Use barriers and other safer sex stuff.
You can have a stash of safer sex stuff to use and keep it in an accessible place.

Stocking Your Safer Sex Stash

External condoms
External condoms can be put on any insertable that’s being used for sex: flesh cocks, strap-on cocks, and sex toys (especially if they’re made of wood, leather, rubber, or silicone that can’t be sterilized).

Internal or insertive condoms
Insertive condoms go inside an asshole, front hole, or vagina. (Note: These condoms are sometimes marketed as “female condoms” or “femidoms.”)

Dams
During oral sex, these thin sheets create a safer sex barrier between the mouth and the asshole, front hole, or vagina. They’re especially useful if the receiving partner has their period. 

Gloves and finger cots
We use gloves to keep fingers or hands from touching body fluids that can carry STIs. They’re particularly great if we have breaks in our skin, like cuts, recent tattoos, hangnails, and eczema.

In medical contexts, finger cots are worn over fingers (e.g., to keep wounds dry). But for safer sex, they can be stretched not only over fingers, but other sexy and suitably-sized things—toys and, for some of us, over our post-op cocks.

Lube
The friction that happens during sex can cause tiny tears in skin or safer sex barriers. These tears might allow STIs to get into your body. Lube lessens that friction, keeping things slick.

  • In general, the more lube, the better: This especially applies to anal sex, since the hole doesn’t self-lubricate.
  • Avoid sharing tubs of lube between people: This can stop you from spreading blood-borne infections.
  • Testosterone can cause front-hole dryness, but lube can help: If you like, you can also use estrogen creams designed for the front hole. These creams don’t interfere with T’s masculinizing effects.
  • Some lubes work better for certain activities: For example, for a fisting lube tip, check out Finger Fucking and Fisting. It’s also good to ensure your lube is compatible with any barriers you’re using.
PrEP and PEP

PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) are pills that can stop HIV from establishing itself in your body. PrEP may also be available in injectable form in the future.

PrEP

When to take it: Before being exposed to HIV.
How long you’ll need to take it: You should take PrEP at least 20 days before having front-hole sex and 7 days before having anal sex. You should then ideally continue taking PrEP every day. However, other dosage options may be available (including a cheaper option called 2-1-1 dosage), so ask your PrEP provider what’s best for you.
Where to get it: To learn where to get PrEP, contact your local HIV/AIDS organization or healthcare provider.

PEP

When to take it: As soon as possible after potentially being exposed to HIV (within 72 hours).
How long you’ll need to take it: For 28 days after any possible exposure to HIV.
Where to get it: At hospital emergency departments. Tell the intake nurse that you’re concerned that you’ve been exposed to HIV from having sex. If you need ongoing access to PEP, learn about PIP below.

Get help to cover the costs
In some cases, you can get the costs of PrEP/PEP partially or fully covered (e.g., through some PrEP access programs like PrEPStart, certain private insurers, and—for First Nations and Inuit people—the Non-Insured Health Benefits program). You can also ask your provider if they will waive the costs on compassionate grounds. For details, see the PrEP/PEP Providers section of the Resources page.

Need ready access to PEP?
If you’re not on PrEP but think you might be exposed to HIV, say, once or twice a year, you can ask your doctor or a sexual health clinic about PEP in Pocket (PIP). PIP is a prescription on hand for PEP. You use PIP to access PEP without having to be assessed at a hospital emergency department.

Help is available to educate your doctor
If your doctor doesn’t know much about PrEP/PEP, you can ask that they connect with PrEP/PEP advocacy groups and pharmacies that specialize in PrEP/PEP (check out the PrEP/PEP Providers section of the Resources page).

PrEP and PEP don’t protect you from other STIs
To prevent other STIs, it’s worth using barriers and practicing other safer sex strategies.