Christmas is nearly here! Mistletoe is being readied, nights out are being planned and parties organised.
It’s a great time of the year to spend with friends, family and meeting new people.
However, it can also leave a headache which lasts beyond new year, if you pick up an STI, experience an unexpected pregnancy or are a victim of unwanted sexual advances.
So, here’s some advice on staying safe and having a Christmas to remember for all the right reasons:
It goes without saying that STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) love Christmas too!
Due to increased mingling, the incidences of common STIs like chlamydia or gonorrhoea – and even more harmful infections like HIV and Hepatitis B – often increase over the festive period.
Like any time of the year, the best defence is a condom. Male and female condoms help reduce direct contact between genitals and the spread of infections – infections which many people do not even know they are carrying!
For both vaginal and anal sex, lubricant not only increases the pleasure but also reduces the (small) risk of the condom splitting.
For oral sex, a dental dam is a thin piece of latex (clear plastic) which prevents infections passing from genitals to mouth.
This Christmas, being prepared is the best preparation – so put a condom or dam in your pocket, purse or wallet before heading out to that Christmas do!
Know your limits
Making good decisions isn’t always easy when we’ve had a few Christmas drinks and sung ‘I wish it could be Christmas’ for the fourth time that evening!
Lots of people enjoy alcohol during the festive period – some also use recreational drugs like cannabis or ecstasy – all of which can impair your judgement or memory.
If you’re likely to be in a social situation where sex could be on the (Christmas) cards its wise to know your limits. Pace yourself and consider drinking a glass of water between alcoholic drinks to limit the effects and remain hydrated.
That way, when you pull your perfect ‘Christmas Cracker’, it will be much easier to reach for a condom or dental dam before unwrapping your present!
Don’t feel the pressure
Particularly if you’re young – or recently left a long relationship – you can feel pressure to have sex during the festive period.
Sex is entirely voluntary and consensual. What seems like a big deal now may soon be forgotten – so if you’re not ready to have sex, wait.
Though New Year’s Eve may be the time you choose to have sex with your partner for the first time, it’s no more appropriate than any other time. So, don’t feel the pressure.
There should also be no stigma around being a virgin – at Christmas or any other time of the year. Everyone is a virgin at first – and many young people who claim they aren’t may be exaggerating!
Christmas parties can sometime result in unwanted attention from others – particularly if they’ve had one-too-many glasses of Christmas cheer!
If someone makes unwanted advances, tell them you’re uncomfortable and/or distance yourself from them. If you feel unsafe, stick with friends or in a public space. If you feel threatened, contact the police.
Sex must be consensual.
Consent occurs when anyone involved in any form of sexual activity agrees to freely take part by choice – understanding everything which is going to happen.
At Christmas time, many sexual relationships can be unexpected or spontaneous. However, consent is still critical.
It’s up to everyone involved to check their partner (or partners) consent. Whilst the easiest way is to ask, there are also some signals to look out for.
Your partner should be relaxed and engaged. If they show any nervousness or reluctance, pause and ask them. If you’re asked, don’t be afraid to say no or define what you are comfortable with.
Consent has limits. If the sexual activity you’re enjoying together changes or goes further than anticipated, it’s best to check your partner still consents.
If in doubt, stop.
From 16, people of any gender or sexuality can legally take part in sexual activity with any other partner over 16. Younger people of similar age can also explore sex but not (legally) with anyone over 18. No one under 13 can ever consent to sexual activity.
Sex without consent is illegal and constitutes sexual violence.
Avoid unwanted news
Finding out you or your partner are pregnant can be the very best Christmas present – but it can also be a New Year’s gift you’d rather not accept!
Pregnancy is almost always best when it is planned.
Choosing to start a family is a wonderful decision we all have the right to make. However, it is also life-changing and comes with a lot of responsibility.
For women who have sex with men, contraception is one of the best ways to protect yourself against unexpected pregnancy. The contraceptive pill, implant, injection or IUD (coil) are just some of the methods you can choose.
For men who have sex with women, the condom is equally effective. It creates a barrier which stops sperm entering your partner and fertilizing their egg.
Men and women who are older – and may have already had children – could also choose to have a vasectomy (for men) or female sterilisation.
However, these contraception methods cannot protect you against STIs.
A condom (male or female) is both one of the best ways to avoid unwanted pregnancy and the best way to avoid unwanted infections!
Contact us if you need help finding the right contraception for you – and pop a condom in your purse, pocket or wallet to avoid an unexpected pregnancy.
Stay cool this yule!
This Christmas, we want everyone in Essex and beyond to have fabulous festive fun!
Sex can be an exciting part of the season and taking a few precautions can ensure it stays fun for everyone.
Think about contraception, check your partner fully consents and reach for a condom to make sure you’re both protected.
And if it doesn’t feel right, STOP. No one should feel under pressure to have sex this Christmas.
Have fun, stay safe and see you in 2023!