Let's talk about sex(ting), baby! Specifically, this post will address sexting, or sending nude photos over text and social media like Snapchat. People often sext because they're in a long distance relationship or because they find it fun and exciting - plus, there's no risk of spreading STIs or accidental pregnancy. However, that doesn't mean sexting should be taken lightly. Like any other sexual activity, if you decide to try sexting it's important to know how to do it safely, responsibly, and respectfully. Keep in mind that sexting is NEVER 100% safe - once you send out photos, you can't get them back. Planned Parenthood has a great article on some of the risks of sending and receiving nude photos.
Before You Begin
Tips for Saying No to Sexting
There are a lot of misconceptions about the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. Let's tackle a few.
HIV isn't in Lethbridge.
Not true! HIV is present in Lethbridge and Southern Alberta, and it's spreading.
Only gay men get HIV.
This is a huge misconception - anybody can get HIV. It can be spread through unprotected sex, sharing needles, or unsafe tattooing or piercing practices. Bodily fluids like blood and semen can spread the virus. Pregnant mothers can also pass the virus on to their babies. This is one more reason using protection during sex is so important. ARCHES has some info on safe body art here.
HIV and AIDS are the same thing.
HIV and AIDS are actually different. Having the HIV virus does not mean a person will automatically get AIDS, although the virus will eventually cause AIDS if it is left untreated. This is one reason getting tested for HIV is so important - if the virus is caught early, it can be treated more effectively. When you get tested for STIs, ask your doctor for a blood test to detect HIV too. Check out the ARCHES website for more information on HIV/AIDS.
It can be hard to tell if you're in a healthy relationship or not. We sometimes romanticize behaviours that are actually abusive and harmful. Fortunately, there are a ton of excellent resources out there if you want to learn about more about what healthy relationships are, and what they aren't. Here's a few.
What are the different types of dating abuse?
This article walks you through different forms of abuse, including physical, emotional, and digital. It explains what these might look like and also gives you steps to take if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse. Loveisrespect in general has great tips on dating and healthy relationships, including how to communicate well with your partner and how to resolve conflicts. Plus, it's queer inclusive.
This article from Planned Parenthood gives an overview of what abuse looks like, signs of an unhealthy relationship, and what to do if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse.
Interactive Safety Planning
Putting together a safety plan can help you stay safe as you go about your daily life when you are being threatened by a partner or ex-partner. This site makes it easy to build one for yourself, or help someone else.
All About Communication
This article gives tips on talking with your partner in a healthy way.
Having a Healthy Relationship
This Planned Parenthood article outlines what a healthy relationship looks like - one with respect, trust, honesty, equality, and good communication.
There are a lot of misconceptions about sexual assault, what it looks like, and who it happens to. Let's debunk some of these myths.
From Rape Victim Advocates:
Myth: Sexual assault is an act of lust and passion that can’t be controlled.
Fact: Sexual assault is about power and control and is not motivated by sexual gratification.
Myth: If a victim of sexual assault does not fight back, they must have thought the assault was not that bad or they wanted it.
Fact: Many survivors experience tonic immobility or a “freeze response” during an assault where they physically cannot move or speak.
Myth: A lot of victims lie about being raped or give false reports.
Fact: Only 2-8% of rapes are falsely reported, the same percentage as for other felonies.
Myth: A person cannot sexually assault their partner or spouse.
Fact: Nearly 1 in 10 women have experienced rape by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Myth: Sexual assaults most often occur in public or outdoors.
Fact: 55% of rape or sexual assault victimizations occur at or near the victim’s home, and 12% occur at or near the home of a friend, relative, or acquaintance.
Myth: Rape does not happen that often.
Fact: There is an average of 293,066 victims ages 12 or older of rape and sexual assault each year in the U.S. This means 1 sexual assault occurs every 107 seconds.
Myth: People that have been sexually assaulted will be hysterical and crying.
Fact: Everyone responds differently to trauma - some may laugh, some may cry, and others will not show any emotions.
Myth: Men are not victims of sexual violence.
Fact: 1.5% of all men have been raped and 47% of bisexual men have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime.
Myth: Wearing revealing clothing, behaving provocatively, or drinking a lot means the victim was “asking for it”.
Fact: The perpetrator selects the victim- the victim’s behaviour or clothing choices do not mean that they are consenting to sexual activity.
Myth: If a parent teaches a child to stay away from strangers they won’t get raped.
Fact: 60% of child sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by someone the child knows outside the family, and 30% are assaulted by family members.
Myth: Being sexually assaulted by someone of the same gender can make a person gay or lesbian.
Fact: The assault is typically not based on the sexual preferences of the victim or rapist, and therefore does not necessarily change the victim’s sexual orientation.
Myth: People with disabilities are at low risk for sexual assault.
Fact: People with disabilities are victims of sexual assault twice as much as people without disabilities.
Myth: Prostitutes cannot be raped because they are selling sex.
Fact: Prostitutes have the right to give and withhold consent to any sexual activity, and therefore, can be raped just like anyone else.
Myth: Getting help is expensive for survivors of assault.
Fact: Services such as counselling and advocacy are offered for free or at a low cost by sexual assault service providers.
Myth: There is nothing we can do to prevent sexual violence.
Fact: There are many ways you can help prevent sexual violence including intervening as a bystander to protect someone who may be at risk.
Content warning: This post will discuss sexual assault, which can be an upsetting or triggering subject.
Sexual assault has been in the news a lot lately, but you may not exactly understand what sexual assault is, what it looks like, or what to do if it happens to you or someone you care about.
Sexual assault happens when any sexual activity (including kissing, touching, oral sex, vaginal sex, and anal sex) happens without someone's consent. The stereotype of rape is that a woman is assaulted by a man she doesn't know, shouts "NO" and fights back during the assault, and then calls 911 and reports to the police immediately after. Sure, sometimes rape does look like that - but not always, or even most often. Sexual assault can also look like coercion (being guilted, threatened, or convinced into having sex again your will). It can look like someone being taken advantage of while extremely drunk or on drugs, and therefore unable to consent. It can look like somebody being afraid to shout no for their own safety, or freezing during an assault instead of fighting back. It can happen between two people who are friends, dating, or even married. People of any gender can commit sexual assault, and people of any gender can be assaulted (although statistically, women tend to be victims and men tend to be perpetrators). And it is never okay.
Sex is only legal if it is consensual. In Canada:
More on consent from the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund:
"The Criminal Code also says there is no consent when:
A person cannot say they mistakenly believed a person was consenting if:
The responsibility for ensuring there is consent is on the person who is initiating or pursuing the sexual activity. When someone has said no to sexual contact, the other person cannot rely on the fact that time has passed or the fact that the individual has not said no again to assume that consent now exists."
Sexual assault is an extremely serious crime in Canada. It has a huge impact on the lives of everyone involved and is not to be taken lightly or treated as a joke.
If you think you have been sexually assaulted, there are resources in place to help you. Reporting to the police is an option, but it's not your only option.
Non-emergency reporting to the Lethbridge Police Service: 403-328-4444
Emergency line: 911
The Amethyst Project is a local organization dedicated to supporting those who have experienced sexual violence. They can go to the hospital with you after an assault and walk you through your options.
For more information: 403-329-0088
YWCA Crisis Line for sexual violence: 403-320-1881
You can also talk to any volunteer or staff member at the MAT if you need someone to listen to point you toward more local resources.
Thinking of trying anal sex with your partner? Here are some important things to keep in mind.
No, really. Just because there isn't a risk of pregnancy doesn't mean that using a barrier like a condom isn't necessary. Anal sex is one way sexually transmitted diseases are easily spread. ALWAYS use a condom unless you and your partner have been tested for STIs and are in an exclusive relationship.
Lube is a great staple in any sexually active person's life. It can make penetrative sex (penis in vagina) easier and more enjoyable, is great for masturbating, and even comes in flavours especially for oral sex. And you are 100% going to need it if you plan on having anal sex. Unlike the vagina, the anus and rectum are not self-lubricating. Using lube prevents tearing, which is painful and can increase your risk of spreading or getting STIs. Plus, it makes everything smoother and more enjoyable for everyone involved. Make sure you buy lube that is condom safe (water based).
Work your way up to being penetrated by a penis or dildo. It may take you or your partner some time to adjust to anal play, and that is totally normal. Don't put pressure on yourself or your partner to go all the way the first time you try anal. Working your way up to the "main event" can be just as fun and exciting!
Anal sex can be a fun addition to your sex life - but it also doesn't have to be. If you or your partner are uncomfortable, not ready, or don't enjoy anal, that is totally okay too. Experimenting can be fun and exciting, but respecting your partner's feelings and boundaries is the most important thing in a healthy relationship. Always get consent for sex, and respect when others say "no".
You and your partner have taken all the steps to have safe sex, including using a condom to prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. Things are going awesome... until the condom breaks. What now???
Step 1: Are you or your partner at risk of getting pregnant?
This is step one because it needs to be dealt with the most quickly. If you or your partner are also using another form of birth control, like the Pill or an IUD, there's a much lower chance of accidental pregnancy. If not, there are a few different methods of emergency contraception (birth control) available. These help prevent pregnancy, even after unprotected sex has already happened.
Step 2: Are you or your partner at risk of getting an STI?
If you or your partner haven't been tested recently, or you're not in an exclusive relationship, go get tested. It never hurts - many STIs can be easily treated as long as they're caught early enough. Make a doctor's appointment or phone the Sexual Health Centre (403-320-0110).
Step 3: How do you and your partner prevent this from happening again?
Make a plan! This might mean pairing condom use with another form of birth control, like the Pill or an IUD. It might mean getting tested more regularly. It might mean keeping Plan B on hand just in case. It might also mean using condom-safe (water-based) lube to help prevent future condoms from breaking. Accidents can happen - in the future, you'll feel better knowing you're prepared just in case one does.
These Planned Parenthood videos use cats to teach about vulvas! Learn about anatomy, sex and masturbation, and care and cleanliness with the help of some cute kitties.
From Planned Parenthood
There's a common misconception that having safe sex only matters when there's a penis going in a vagina. That's not true though!
Is there really a risk?
Actually, yes. STIs can totally be spread through oral contact - just because there isn't a risk of you or your partner getting pregnant doesn't mean you don't need to use some kind of barrier (like a condom).
What does safe oral sex look like?
First, remember that if you're sexually active it's always a good idea to get tested. That way, if something does crop up, you can get treatment without putting others at risk. As far as specific sex acts go, flavoured condoms and dental dams are great ways to prevent the spread of disease while also potentially making oral sex more enjoyable! They come in a variety of flavours like mint, vanilla, strawberry, cola, chocolate, and even banana (haha). Flavoured condoms work just like regular condoms - they go over a penis before sex, and get thrown out after. Dental dams are sheets of latex, the same thing condoms are made out of. You place them over your partner's vulva to create a barrier between their genitals and your mouth. Dental dams should also be thrown out after use - don't reuse them! They come in lots of flavours. Dental dams are also great for oral-anal contact, like rimming. You can even make a dental dam from a condom: check out a picture guide here.
Looking specifically for resources catered to queer folks? Here's a few:
Queer Poetics: How to Make Love to a Trans Person
A beautiful poem about sex and intimacy with a trans partner.
Figuring Out How to be a Lesbian Safer Sexpert
From Scarleteen: "It’s a horrible misconception that safer sex is somehow less intimate or real than unprotected sex. And for queers, where the sex we have is already always under attack for not being “real,” adding unfamiliar safer sex practices can be uniquely daunting. But we are very real. Our bodies are real, the sex we have is real, and the risks inherent in our sexual activities are real. So, please, let’s protect each other."
This site is run by the same people who run Planned Parenthood, but is specifically catered to queer folks! "Queer sex ed is a guide to both a healthy sexual life and to a healthy emotional one. It’s tips to a healthy relationship with significant others and with yourself. It’s providing queer youth with a roadmap— not prescribing one for them, but providing the tools to use and guides to live and to have wholeness as awesome, sexually healthy people within the vast array of contexts that they navigate daily. We’re queers, after all. We don’t fit into a nice, clear cut-box and follow one, singular roadmap. And that rules."