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sexual health activities

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Is it just me, or as people get older and remain single, do they think that best sexual health practices just no longer apply to them? I recall being very concerned about STDs when I was in college and during my early twenties. All of my friends were.

But as I entered my thirties, and as many of my friends entered their forties, I noticed this concern for sexual safety just seemed to… fall off. A friend will say, quite casually, with no shame, “Eh, we didn’t use a condom. It’s fine.” It is not fine!

What’s the deal? Do people think that STDs just can’t find a home in the body of someone over the age of 30? Do we assume that anyone who is still single at a certain age has already made their way through all the STDs and become immune to them? Do we think we’ve gained the power to just know when someone does or doesn’t have STDs? Because, none of that is true. At all.

And if I may say so, getting an STD in your older years is, to be honest, just more embarrassing than in your younger years. We should know better by now. Many of my friends picked up something or other that required antibiotics in their college years. We were all idiots.

But, full-grown adults with Roth IRAs and mortgage payments and kids – what are you doing? So this whole meditation on the topic got me thinking, which sexual health habits are people in their older years are they still following with no shame and with no deep reflection into the repercussions of their actions. Do you know anyone guilty of these bad habits when it comes to overall sexual health?

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Failing to clean toys

Clean your toys after each and every use. Don’t just clean it after using it with a new partner and don’t just clean it after using with with someone else as opposed to just on yourself.

If body fluids get on a sex toy, it’s time to clean that bad boy, or that bacteria can fester. Just because a dildo isn’t alive doesn’t mean it can’t transfer a virus from one person to another.

When it comes to cleaning your sex toys, please follow the instructions that came with the packaging, If you can’t find those instructions, check out this useful resource for guidance.

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Not having condoms at home

If you’re a single person who brings people home to have sex, you should have condoms. It’s that simple. All other forms of birth control only protect against unwanted pregnancy, but not STDs.

And let’s face it, you’re too old to feel awkward buying condoms. Make sure you add it to next week’s shopping list. Or better yet, proudly buy them in bulk at Costco.

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Not packing condoms when you go out

If you think there’s a chance that you may have a sexual encounter on your next night out – or maybe you’re hoping to end up a someone else’s place by the end of the night – then you should have condoms on your person when you leave the house.

This also applies to when you’re traveling. To say, “I won’t need any” is to set yourself up to fail. It’s one of those times Murphy’s law comes into play: when you don’t pack condoms, you find someone you want to have sex with. You know it’s true.

A quick note about how to properly store condoms when preparing for a night out on the town. Don’t keep condoms in your wallet or pocket. It’s a cliche and a bad one at that because it subjects the condom packaging to two bad elements: friction and extreme temperatures. While friction may compromise the integrity of the condom packaging, the extreme heat – caused by it being pressed closed against your body temperature – makes the latex weaker, increasing the risk for breakage.

When you consider that women have far better options to store condoms – such as in a separate compartment in your handbag – you owe it to yourself to keep a few in your purse at all times.

For men and everyone else who prefer to limit the personal effects they are willing to carry when they head out the door to keys, wallet, and smartphone, there are brands that package condoms in more robust containers. You can even consider repurposing an empty breath mint case or purchasing an actual condom carrying case like this example.

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Not using condoms…!

While we’re still on the subject of condoms (and let’s face it, we’ll be continuing to revisit condoms throughout this article), not using condoms with a new partner – that’s not okay. It doesn’t matter if they look “clean.” Or even if you happen to know who else they’ve slept with, and you believe those people are clean. This is all pseudoscience. It’s less than pseudoscience. It’s nothing.

You have no certainty of safety, no matter what you think you know.

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Not getting tested for new partners

If you start sleeping with a new partner regularly, you may reach a point when you no longer want to use condoms. You’re not sleeping with anybody else and neither is your sex partner. So what’s the big deal, right?

Fine, then make a point to both get tested for all sexually transmitted diseases. You don’t know if this person has something lingering from an old partner or something that doesn’t go away. You’re partner may not even know that they may have contracted something from their last partner. Doubt leads to unnecessary anxiety. It’s simply not worth it.

Locating free, fast, and confidential testing near you has never been easier. So what are you waiting for?

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Not asking to see the results

Some people do this as some weird, dumb form of showing trust: they ask a partner to get tested, and so long as the partner does that, they don’t ask to see the results.

For goodness sake, why did you go through this song and dance if you’re not going to look at the results? If your partner would get mad at you for asking to see them, well, there’s probably something bad going on there.

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Not waiting for the results

Some couples don’t wait to see the results. It makes no sense. They go and get tested, and feel that that’s some badge of honor that gives them the right to now have unprotected sex before the results come in. Getting tested is not the same as getting cleared of all STDs.

You should be proud of yourself for getting tested, but not so proud you think you can just have unprotected sex now, without seeing the results.

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Thinking old results count

Maybe you are smart enough to ask a new partner to show you test results, before you start having unprotected sex. There’s just one little problem: those test results are from nine months ago. He says he hasn’t slept with anyone else since then. Or he has, but that person was clean – allegedly. None of this is helpful.

You need recent results, preferably within the period you started getting to know your new or soon-to-be sex partner.

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Not asking simple questions

In addition to asking about the last time your sex partner got tested, there are other very basic, very simple questions that all adults should feel comfortable asking the person who they let inside of them (or who they enter – whichever end of the equation you are). One of those questions is: “Are you sleeping with anybody else?” It’s such a simple thing to ask someone before you stop using condoms with that partner. And yet, so many people refuse to ask it.

Other questions to consider include: “Are you planning to have sex with anyone else?, or “Do you want to try …?” Because consent is always important at any stage of your adult life.

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Hoping symptoms go away

If symptoms show up like itchiness, burning, little red bumps, severe abdominal pain, or other uncomfortable ailments, do not just hope that those will go away.

Come on. This isn’t a runny nose or a sore throat. You know that pain in your va-jay-jay isn’t normal and should be looked into.

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Failing to get Gardasil

As a woman, we have access to this wonderful vaccine that can greatly reduce our chances of getting human papillomavirus – particularly the strains that cause warts and cervical cancer. My mom was smart enough to have me get it when I was 17. But as a grown woman, you have control over your medical life now. So get the vaccine.

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Not telling partners about an STD

Maybe you have one that doesn’t go away, like herpes. But, you barely ever have breakouts. You haven’t had one in years. So you don’t feel the need to tell a new partner who is about to go down on you, with no protection, that you have herpes.

EH. WRONG ANSWER. He can still contract it, even if you aren’t showing symptoms. Also, that’s just messed up.

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Using condoms at first…then not

I have friends who do this and it makes me so upset. They’ll use condoms the first few times they sleep with a guy and then just…stop. As if, anything he had, would have somehow magically cleared up in the few weeks they’d been together. As if they can assume they’re monogamous after five dates. What are you talking about?

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Using the same condom, front to back

You know you need to switch condoms if you’re going from anal to vaginal. I know: it can kill the vibe to ask your partner to pause, take off his condom, and get a new one. But you know what kills the vibe of life? Getting a terrible bacterial infection because you failed to do this.

Yeah. Telling your partner that is way less sexy than simply asking him to switch condoms.

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Treating oral like a “safe alternative”

It shocks me that some adults still have the teenage mentality of, “Well, we don’t have any condoms, so let’s just perform oral on each other.” Riiiight. Because genital-to-mouth contact can’t spread anything. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly why herpes is so incredibly rampant.

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