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Why Doesn't Everyone Practice Safe Sex?

Why Gay Teens Take Risks


Jar of condoms, (Close-up)
Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images

Think that everyone around you is practicing safe sex? Think again. Here are some pretty intense facts:

  • The American Social Health Association estimates that there are at least 15 million new cases of STDs every year.
  • According to the 2005 Durex Sex Survey, 51% of American adults have had unprotected sex without knowing their partner's sexual history!
  • Half of the new HIV infections in the U.S occur in people between the ages of 13-24.

So what's the deal? Are all these people living under the assumption that it just can't happen to them?

Haven't they heard of AIDS, not to mention any of the countless other STDs that one in two of us will get by the time we're twenty-five?

The answers are different in every situation. Below are some common reasons gay teens don't always practice safe sex

I Don't Want to Hurt His / Her Feelings

People often say things like, "Asking someone to use a condom is like saying you think they have a disease."

Others worry that breaking out the condoms will make their own infection status seem suspicious.

Teens may think that unless they have sex the way a partner wants, (namely, condom free), they will lose that person.

But do you really want to be with someone who would put you at risk?

It Doesn't Feel As Good

Condoms definitely get a bad rap. Common complaints are that they interrupt the mood, are less intimate and just don't feel as good.

Maybe so, but most people would agree that condoms feel a lot better than contracting an infection.

Many people don't realize that their problems with condoms are actually mechanical and that a condom wouldn't seem as annoying if they took a few minutes to make sure they were getting the most out of the prophylactic experience.

First of all, a condom has to fit properly. Because they come in all different shapes and sizes, it is worth trying out a few brands to see which are the most comfortable for you. Though most standard sized condoms fit most penises, some guys just won't find these as comfortable. Using a snugger fit or larger size condom can enhance comfort and sensation.

So can lube. It is a good idea to put a drop of water-based lubricant in the tip of the condom. This can reduce uncomfortable friction.

Some people who think condoms are uncomfortable may actually be having a reaction to the condoms itself. Spermicide and an allergy yo latex can irritate the sensitive skin of the genitals causing pain and discomfort.

It's really easy to get spermicide-free condoms. And people can use non-allergenic plastic (polyurethane) condoms.

I Don't Believe in Casual Sex, So I Don't Need to Get Condoms

Many people aren't into casual sex. However, despite their personal and moral beliefs, these same people sometimes find themselves having sex they hadn't planned on -- often without protection.

Why is this? There are a few reasons.

How we feel about having sex can play a part. Studies have found that people who feel guilty about having sex are among those least likely to use condoms! Some people can only justify sex that happens in the heat of the moment and feel that any kind of preparation would make it seem like they had planned the event.

No Other Lesbians I Know Use Protection…

A lot of people assume that women who sleep with women are protected from many of the risks associated with sex. Pregnancy isn't a possibility and many people believe that sexually transmitted infections aren't either.

As a result, lesbians don't always practice safer sex.

For bisexual women who have sex with both genders, having sex with another woman can seem like a welcome break after dealing with protection with guys.

But certain infections (especially those that as passed through skin-to-skin contact like herpes or HPV), can easily be transmitted between women.

The CDC states that female-to-female transmission of HIV appears to be an extremely rare occurrence.

However, in 2003 the journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases, reported that a case of female-to-female HIV transmission was likely to have occurred through sharing sex toys.

This is the only documented incident of female-to-female HIV transmission, so it is not surprising that lesbians and other women who have sex with women seldom see using protection as a necessity.

I Know Gay Guys Are Always Supposed to Use Condoms, & I Usually Do...

For guys who sleep with guys, the situation is different than it is for girls who sleep with girls.

Pretty much anything that can be passed through vaginal sex can be passed through anal sex, and most things can also be transmitted during oral sex performed on a penis.

The advent of AIDS drugs (which are often advertised showing happy, healthy people climbing mountains and roller blading) has made a lot of people believe that AIDS is not the life threatening illness it once was.

However, at this time, there is still no vaccine for HIV. While treatments have helped many people lived longer healthier lives, they come with their own complications, and are by no means a cure.

Another issue is barebacking, or having unprotected anal sex. Many people are confused by the fact that gay men would consider having unprotected sex when not too long ago the gay community was devastated by the effects of AIDS.

But gay guys have unprotected sex for many of the same reasons that straight folks and lesbians do. It feels better, it promotes intimacy, it is more spontaneous and, of course, sex can be safe if both neither partner has an infection. Still some people have suggested that issues of low self-esteem and the desire to feel part of a community also play a role. And for teens who did not live through the early AIDS crisis, safety might not seem as pressing.

What It Comes Down To

Some people get a thrill out of taking a chance. Others simply feel that unprotected sex is pleasurable enough to be worth the possible consequences.

But really, the most common reason that gay teens don't practice safe sex is that many feel shame and guilt.

If you are sexually active and are taking risks, remind yourself that you are worth taking care of. And if you have a partner who is pressuring you to go latex free, think about whether or not this is really someone worth putting your health at risk for.

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