Let’s Talk About Sex

The World Health Organization defines sexual health as the physical, emotional and social well-being as it relates to sexuality, not merely the absence of disease. It involves a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

Communication is Key

Although it might feel awkward or even embarrassing to have a conversation with your partner about sex, it is very important to be open, honest and responsible BEFORE you’re in the heat of the moment. Discussing issues such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), contraception, or what you like and don’t like, let’s both of you share your thoughts, expectations, personal values and boundaries. Remember, you have a right to protect yourself and your health and communicating about sex is an essential step toward that protection. 

Tips for Safer Sex

  • 15-24 year olds account for half of all new STI infections in the United States so if you’re going to have sex it’s best to reduce your risk of infection by correctly using a barrier method every time you have sex. Unsure what supplies are best to keep you safe? Check out this flow chart
  • It is best to get tested before you and your partner become sexually active.
  • Abstaining from sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, and consistently and correctly using condoms are all effective STI prevention strategies.
  • Vaccinations are available to prevent hepatitis and some types of HPV that cause disease and cancer.
  • STI screening and prompt treatment (if infected) are critical to protect a person’s health and prevent transmission to others.
  • If you’ve tested positive for an STI it can be tough to tell current and past partner(s), but it’s the right thing to do. For guidance and tips about talking to your partner(s), and letting them know they too should be tested, visit stdcheck.com.

Tips for Contraception

  • If you are having sex and your partner is of the opposite sex, it is important to use contraception (birth control) to prevent pregnancy.
  • Condoms are the ONLY birth control that reduces your risk of both pregnancy and most STIs, including HIV.
  • Even if you or your partner uses hormonal contraception (i.e. birth control pills, IUD, vaginal ring, patch, implant or injection), it is still important to use a condom every time you have sex to reduce the risk of infection.

Condom Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO plan ahead if you think you might want to have sex and carry condoms with you. Don’t rely on your partner to have them.
  • DO keep condoms in a cool, dry place.
  • DO put the condom on an erect (hard) penis before there is any oral or genital contact.
  • DO use plenty of lubricant. This reduces friction and helps prevent the condom from tearing.
  • DO squeeze the air out of the tip of the condom when rolling it over the erect penis. This allows room for the semen.
  • DO hold the condom in place at the base of the penis before withdrawing (pulling out) after sex.
  • DO throw the condom away after it's been used.
  • DO watch this video from Planned Parenthood for a tutorial on proper condom usage
  • DO order FREE condoms from Safer Sex Express program.


  • DON'T use expired condoms. Old condoms can be dry, brittle or weak and can break.
  • DON'T unroll the condom before putting it on the erect penis.
  • DON'T leave condoms in hot places like in your wallet or in your car.
  • DON'T use oil-based products, like baby oil, cooking oil, hand lotion or petroleum jelly as lubricants with latex condoms. These quickly weaken latex and can cause condoms to break.
  • DON'T use your fingernails or teeth when opening a condom wrapper is these may cause the condom to tear. If you do tear a condom while opening the wrapper, throw that condom away and get a new one.
  • DON'T reuse a condom. Always use a new condom for each kind of sex you have.
  • DON'T regularly use lubricants with spermicide called nonoxynol-9 ("N-9") as they may cause skin irritation or tiny abrasions that make the genital skin more susceptible to STDs.
  • DON’T use an internal and an external condom at the same time. The condoms are made out of different material and should not be used together.

Looking for more information about Sexual Health?

Centers for Disease Control

Planned Parenthood

Onondaga County Health Department

American Sexual Health Association