Dental Dams Help Spread Intimacy, Not STDs

It’s that time of the year when people focus on intimacy and romance. Most people think jewelry and roses are good gifts to give for Valentine’s Day. They’re nice, but you know what’s even better? Dental dams.

What’s a dental dam, you ask? Like condoms, dental dams are a way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by covering the vagina or anus during oral sex. Dental dams are usually made of latex, and some are made from polyurethane. Since they’re used for oral sex, dental dams often come in different flavors, and they’re flexible enough to fit in your purse.

Dental dams are an essential component of protecting your sexual health.

Dental dams are particularly useful for lesbian partners, since oral sex is a common form of sexual activity, but anyone who engages in cunnilingus (the oral stimulation of female genitals) can use them. Dental dams are also beneficial for consenting partners who enjoy anal play (aka “rimming”). Dental dams serve as a barrier against most STDs, since many sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis, human papillomavirus (HPV), and herpes, can be passed simply by skin-to-skin contact. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and hepatitis A and B viruses can also be spread through oral sex. HIV can be transmitted through oral sex if blood is present.

Unfortunately, dental dams aren’t distributed as widely as condoms are. You’re not likely to find a dental dam dispenser in a public restroom, and many community organizations provide dental dams on a request-only basis because they’re more expensive than condoms. And most drug stores don’t carry dental dams in the same aisle as condoms and lube because dental dams were originally created to be used during dental procedures. (Get it — dental dams.) Continue reading

Valentine’s Day: The Perfect Day to Talk About Sex, Safe Sex

All_You_Need_is_Love_and_CondomsEditor’s Note: The following guest post was brought to us by Jessica, a senior at Arizona State University studying public relations. She is a communications and marketing intern at Planned Parenthood Arizona, championing for women’s health. 

Valentine’s Day is synonymous with many things — candy, hearts, roses, to name a few. What it’s not heavily associated with is National Condom Week, but it should be. Created in the ’70s by college students devoted to spreading the message of safe sex, National Condom Week has made tremendous strides in the last few decades to encourage young adults to take charge of their sexual health.

Society’s aversion to open discussions about sex and birth control methods is counterproductive. It has long been proven that abstinence-only education simply does not work, and yet 26 states are currently disillusioned by thinking that focusing on abstinence is the best solution to sex education in schools. As a result, the United States has the highest teen pregnancy and teen STD rates of any industrialized country, with teen pregnancy being the highest in states where abstinence-only policies are practiced.

It is time to embrace the integral role that condoms play in maintaining sexual health and preventing unwanted pregnancies. It shouldn’t be taboo to advocate for safe sex. It is a disservice to teens and young adults to bypass education on all of the birth control options that are readily available. The idea that doing so somehow promotes promiscuity is nothing more than a cop-out, and an overused one at that.

Schools are not solely responsible for this much-needed conversation, though. Sex education only goes so far. Fostering a safe environment where questions regarding condoms and other birth control methods are not discouraged is crucial. A 12-year-old will have significantly different questions about sex than a 17-year-old. The “sex talk” isn’t one talk at all — it’s an ongoing conversation and the heart of it will change over time. National Condom Week presents the opportunity to discuss birth control openly and honestly — whether it is between a parent and her child or a man and his partner.

Valentine’s Day might be the perfect day to talk about sex … Show the person you love that you care about his or her health.

Condoms are available in Planned Parenthood health centers, as well as from some community health centers, drugstores, supermarkets, and vending machines. Learn more about National Condom Week — and how to get your hands on free condoms in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson — here!

Celebrating Valentine’s Day – The Safe Way

The following guest post comes to us via Morganne Rosenhaus, community engagement coordinator for Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Valentine’s Day might be filled with red roses, chocolate hearts, and candlelight dinners, but there is one thing this celebration of love often forgets to include … the mention of safe sex!

It is no coincidence that Valentine’s Day and National Condom Awareness Week happen around the same time each year. In fact, it’s planned … no pun intended!

According to a statistic from Lifestyles Condoms (released last year), there are, on average, 87 condoms used every second during Valentine’s Day. That’s more than 125,000 condoms on Valentine’s Day alone.

So the question isn’t, Are people having sex on Valentine’s Day? The question is, Are people having safe and healthy sex on Valentine’s Day?

As a trusted health care provider, Planned Parenthood Arizona knows firsthand the important role education plays in helping people make healthy decisions when it comes to sex. So here is your safe sex “lesson” for Valentine’s Day:

The first priority for being sexually healthy is using protection. Condoms are a popular method of contraception and can be anywhere from 82 to 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. And, when used correctly, condoms also offer added protection from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV, chlamydia, HPV, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

But, before getting too carried away with all the benefits of condoms, let’s take a moment and talk about “correct condom use,” because if you aren’t using the condom correctly, you aren’t getting all of its benefits. Continue reading