If earlier reports are anything to go by, it seems a lot of you need this article a lot more than I thought you did…
Two Cs are essential (or sexsential…do-…do you get it?) to having a great, safe sex life: consent and contraception. And despite how important we all know they are, sometimes (as evident by that survey we covered in the news section) forgotten about or ignored.
Consent is mandatory – it doesn’t matter if you’re having a one-night stand or if ye’ve been going out for decades, consent is a must. Remember that before you do anything, even a kiss or just a touch, you should double check that your partner is comfortable. If you’re worried about it ruining the mood, one: grow up, and two: you can incorporate checking for consent into your foreplay. For example, you can ask your partner how they’re feeling, or ask them if they like what you’re doing. While we’re on consent, if you feel like you’ve been subjected to unwanted or nonconsensual sexual acts, the Sexual Violence Centre Cork are there to help. Their details can be found on the previous page.
Contraception is key to preventing two things: unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The former is really down to your own personal choices, so we won’t be talking about that, instead we’re going to focus on the latter. You absolutely do not want to contract an STI, they are not fun. You should know the signs to spot (as well as knowing what you’re in for if you’re not careful), so here are some common STIs, and some of their common symptoms:
- Herpes: Cracked, raw or red areas around the genitals (without pain, tingling or itching); itching or tingling around your genital & anal area; small blisters that can break open, causing painful sores; headaches; flu-like symptoms.
- Gonorrhea: Discharge from the penis, vagina or rectum; burning or itching during urination; sore throat; can cause PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) in women, which can cause infertility; can cause epididymitis in men, which can cause infertility; gonorrhea is also frequently asymptomatic. Gonorrhea can spread to the blood, which could make you more susceptible to contracting HIV
- Syphilis: a skin rash with reddish-brown sores; sores in your mouth, genitals or anus; a fever; swollen glands; weight & hair loss; headache; fatigue; muscle aches. If totally untreated it could lead to: neurological problems; stroke; infection & inflammation of the spinal cord; numbness; deafness; visual problems/blindness; dementia and aneurysms.
There are many other diseases that, while not specifically STIs, you should be mindful of, namely HIV and AIDS. The Student Health Centre operates an STI clinic on Friday mornings, and the Sexual Health Centre Cork (Peters Street, call 021 427 6676) are open from 9-5, Monday-Friday.
There are a lot of different different contraceptives that specifically deal with preventing pregnancy (women: a diaphragm, a vaginal ring, a transdermal patch, an IUD, a hormonal injection, an implant/the bar. Men: spermicide), but the most common one that also help prevent STIs are condoms. Below we show you how to turn a condom into a dental dam, a ‘prophylactic’ designed to stop STIs from spreading when performing oral sex on a woman.