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Safer SexLook, we all understand that sex is good, right?  It makes us feel good, brings us closer to people, it relieves stress, gives us a reason to get in shape, it feels good, provides pleasure, and is tactilely enjoyable (yes, I know the last three are the same thing, but that's the MAIN reason we like it, right?).  And we all understand that we should be safe about sex, right?  I won't go listing all the good reasons for safe sex, because they aren't nearly as fun to think about.  Safer Sex is like recycling, in that we pretend we don't mind the extra effort, and a lot of us pretend that we practice is more than we do, and practice it less than we know we should.

I'm going to assume you've heard the advice about using more lube, about putting on condoms with your mouth, and about ridiculous things like "abstinence."  I'm going to assume that you've tried some of those "spice up your safe sex life" tips, and tried them, and found that they made barrier sex suck way less than before, but still left you wanting in the "fun" and "hot" departments.  Well, as someone with rather strict rules in my open relationship, I have more than a half-decade's experience with creating a whole lot of fun without a whole lot of danger.  What follows are some tips and tricks I've learned along the way, but before I get to the complicated advice, here's something really important I learned:  If you learn to have great safer sex, you're going to have amazing unprotected sex when you're ready.  It's like Luke and the Blast Shield Helmet.

You Can't Just Force it In.

Not your dick, you dick.  You can't just force safer sex into any sex situation and assume everything is going to go as well as it could.  This is true physically (if it feels like you need some more lubricant for latex/skin rubbing, it's because you do) and mentally (if it feels like the mood has dampened over the last two minutes of condom fumbling, it's because it has).  You have to acknowledge that the sex you want to be having is going to be different in some key ways than the sex you're actually going to have (unless you have a latex fetish, in which case, good for you).

However rarely we may fantasize about rolling a condom down someone's toy or dick, or the gentle caress of our tongue against a sheet of latex against someone's skin, safer sex is the sex that we need to have.  Get used to it, get over it, and work with what you've got.  No, you're not going to get to have penetrative sex without a barrier, and you don't need to take it completely off the menu, but it may be time to feature some other dishes.  Spank your partner, touch yourself, use toys, cameras, construction equipment.  Play dress-up, play cops and robbers, play with your feet, their legs, everyone's hair.  Be submissive, be dominant, be ticklish, be adventurous.  

Order off the menu

This may take some rethinking about what your goals are for any sexual experience.  For some reason, and most especially in hetero sex, some silly hierarchy has been established about sex acts that come first, second, third, and only when everyone's a little drunk.  This hierarchy creates a sort of game where the point of each level is to get enough points to reach the next level, and winning the sex game means you've reached the final level (penetrative sex) and beaten the level boss.  Orgasm.  Game over.

Now, I like video games as much as the next guy (obviously), but if you remove the level system from how you think about sex, you will find that a whole lot of fun can be had with lips, hands, nipples, hair, teeth, tongues and fingertips that is well within the safety comfort range of you and your partner.  Good sex becomes great sex when you don't start worrying as soon as you get off.  Of course, in order to get to that point, you need to get to the orgasms.  Chances are, just "sticking it in" hasn't been working too well for you in that department anyway unless you were doing something extra (oral, manual, vibratory, pinchy) to get your partner off.  Penises don't make orgasms, and neither do vaginas.  Orgasms are made in an explosion of mental and physical stimulation.  There isn't a step by step guide to getting someone off that's going to work for everyone, but there's one step so helpful, it deserves its own section:

Don't watch porn, watch your partner.

Put down the Cosmo's and the How-To's, and punch anyone in the face who tells you that watching porn is a good way to get "new ideas" for sex.  If there's one thing that's true about good sex, it's that there's nothing true about good sex.  One person's agony in a bad way is another person's agony in a good way.

Have you ever constructed a piece of furniture from bad directions?  Do you keep trying to fit the 8" piece in the 6" opening, eventually pounding the end with a hammer screaming "this is supposed to work!"  Well, step back, look at the pieces you've got, and it may just make sense  to do something not in the directions.  Less frustration, more success.  Now, replace "building furniture" with "getting your partner off" and you're on your way.  

Don't just read the directions and stick with the things that are supposed to feel good, or that worked with the last person.  Look for cues on how they breath, talk, move, moan, or nod off during sex, and adjust accordingly.  If you pay attention to your partner's path to orgasm, over time you'll start to recognize the physical (and verbal) signs that you're on the right track.  Listen for sharp intakes of breath, for moans more animal than theatrical.  Watch their hands to see if something is relaxing, obnoxious, or can't-help-but-grab-something-hard awesome.  In order for sex to be decent, you've really got to be there.

There's no such thing as brain herpes.  Is there?

Of course, "being there" doesn't necessarily mean that you need to be there and be you.  The real reason sex is so sexy to so many of us is the context of it.  Making sex better doesn't mean making it faster or bigger or deeper (well, okay, sometimes it does), it means making the context of the sex hotter.  For this, we must use our brains.  The great thing about the mind fuck is that there's a 0% chance of pregnancy and STI's, and still a whole lot of fun to be had.

Getting bored with pretending that condoms feel good?  Well, stop wasting your brain energy on something so stupid.  Pretend you're in charge, or your partner is.  Pretend you're about to get caught, or about to get punished.  Pretend you're Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan.  Pretend SOMETHING.  Get into each other's brains and play with power or character or situation.

Go forth and be dirty.

You can be as dirty as you want when you let all the dirty stuff happen in your heads so it doesn't spill all over the sheets.  When you can change the way you think about sex, and focus on the parts of safer sex that really turn you on, you can get yourself to a place where safer sex isn't just the best possible sex minus full sensation.  You should always play safe, of course, but you and your partners can still have plenty of fun while keeping the sex separate from fluid transfers.  After all, you only need a rain coat if you're going to get wet.

Write the Author: John Stark

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Kidder Kaper

Kidder has been theorizing and writing about human sexuality since 1993, when he began work on his primary goal: "Teaching the world to be unafraid to enjoy sex."


Laura Rad

Laura Rad has been educating herself and others about sexuality for over seven years. You can find Laura every week chatting with the crew of the Sex is Fun Podcast.


Gay Rick

Gay Rick is an HIV Educator and Co-Host on the Sex is Fun podcast. He is also a certified Hepatitis C Educator.



The in-house audio engineer.


John Stark

John writes a blog titled We Sleep Together. He is in his twenties, and has been in an open relationship for six and some years.



The Walrus is an avid SIF listener, married, and recently became a proud father. He spends his days working in IT, but has always been interested in pushing the boundaries of traditional and conservative thoughts sexually.


Cooper Beckett

Cooper Beckett's life isn't like other people's. When he's not writing or podcasting at Life on the Swingset, he's living it up with his wife Marilyn as evangelical swingers, spreading the good word that "sharing is caring."


Beth Swings

Beth is an English rose, happily married and happily swinging in the UK and abroad. She has a full-time vanilla career which she loves. Beth counts sex and naturism among her many extra-curricular passions in life.


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Mari Rose and her family live in Colorado, love life and do their best to maintain balance and sanity and in this crazy, sexy, beautiful world.



Lorax runs everything behind the scenes at Sex is Fun. If she's not maintaining the website, gathering articles, or directing art you can find her wakeboarding or snowboarding with her husband.