Guide to Safe Sex by Ann Summers

It never hurts to brush up on the basics...

Guide to safe sex


It never hurts to brush up on the basics... here's our top tips for making sure you're staying safe, no matter what you're getting up to...

Safe sex 101 – condoms. They don't just protect against pregnancy – they're essential for preventing STIs. There are plenty of different kinds, but the most important thing is ensuring that they're the right fit.

Boys, you might like to think you're endowed enough to carry an XL around in your wallet, but let's be real. If they don't fit nice and snugly, you're putting you and your partner at risk.

Condoms come in a range of different thicknesses, but it doesn't mean they're more likely to break if you're using an Extra Thin brand. Again, the most important thing is to make sure it's on correctly.

A step-by-step condom guide

  1. Open the foil packaging nice and carefully, and be careful not to rip the condom.
  2. Hold the tip between your thumb and index finger to squeeze out any air. Make sure it's the right way round – the rolled up bit should be on the outside.
  3. Place the condom over the tip of the penis and, while still squeezing the top, roll it down the whole length nice and slow.
  4. If it doesn't unroll, it might be inside out – so chuck it away and start with a new one. Same goes for if it rips. Always start fresh.

For an in-depth look at condoms visit this handy NHS guide

Don't double up

No, really. Doubling up and using two condoms isn't actually safer. The logic is that if the outside rips, the inside will be fine – but it's just not true.

The friction between the two means that it's far more likely that they'll rip than if you were using one – and if one rips, the other probably will too.

If you're tempted to double wrap so you can last longer, there are other ways – try a thicker type, or an Extended Pleasure variety, which contains a really mild numbing lube on the inside to help you slow down a little.


Keeping clean might be the furthest thing from your mind when you're getting down and dirty, but trust us – you don't want to neglect hygiene.

Our number one top tip in this area? If someone isn't keeping themselves clean, keep them away from you. Awful smells? Get away. At least until they've had a shower.

Cold sores? No. Maybe as many as two-thirds of people in the UK have herpes of some sort already. Seriously. It's way more than you might think.

Keep yourself clean, too. But don't go too far – we're not a fan of vaginal douches. The scents are weird, and they're just as likely to scrub out good, natural bacteria as prevent anything bad, which will make things far worse in the long run.

Clean your toys

Even if you only bring out the toys when you're on your own, it's really important to make sure you keep them clean.

Silicone, glass and metal toys can generally be cleaned with a bit of warm water and mild soap or, better yet, cleaning wipes. Make sure you only use wipes designed for toys, as using regular wet wipes could actually damage your toys.

This goes double for any plastic or rubber toys that aren't made of silicone. The surfaces of these materials are porous (there's tiny holes in it), which means fluids can soak in and provide an environment for bacteria to grow. Use wipes for these toys, or better yet, use them with a condom.

Don't just shove toys in your drawer – keep them in a case or bag to make sure they stay clean.

If you're going to share toys with a partner, it's even more important to keep them clean, as it's a great way to spread bacteria around.

The anal question

Anal sex is no less hygienic than any other kind – provided you do it right. You can read our anal sex guide for more info, but here's a quick crash course on the safety basics:

  1. Make sure you stay clean. A normal bowel movement and thorough cleaning is usually enough, but you can use a douche if you're worried.
  2. Wear a condom. There's a real risk of STIs, as well as other bacteria.
  3. Don't mix it up without cleaning up. Switching from anal to oral or vaginal sex without changing condoms is just about the riskiest thing you can do.


Avoid UTIs

Women are about ten times more likely than men to get a urinary tract infection (UTI). Sex is one of the most common causes of UTIs – a really unpleasant side-effect, if you ask us.

Fortunately, keeping the risks to a minimum is fairly simple – using a condom, and cleaning your genitals before and after sex, for example. Pretty basic stuff.

But the most important thing is to get up and pee straight after sex. Resist the urge to lay there and bask – the pain's not worth it. You can bask later.

Get checked out

If you feel any discomfort after sex, notice any STI symptoms, or notice any bleeding or bruising, go to a doctor.

Don't put it off, pretend it's probably fine, or sit around worrying – just find your nearest sexual health clinic on the NHS website, and pay them a visit.

We guarantee you won't be showing them anything they've not seen before, so don't be embarrassed. Leave it unchecked, and it'll get worse. So take care of yourself.


Lube up

Our advice for just about everything. Lube up – it doesn't just make sex feel amazing, it also reduces friction, which reduces the risk of any tearing. Using plenty of lube means you can go harder, for longer, with way less discomfort than a dry run.

But you need to make sure you're using the right kind. If you're using latex-based condoms, make sure you only use water-based or silicone-based lubes. Oil-based lubes, or more DIY solutions like baby oil or coconut oil, can degrade the latex and cause breakages.

If you're using lube with toys, make sure you're using a type that matches the material. Water-based lube is fine with most toys, but if you're using a silicone toy, make sure you don't use silicone-based lube, as this can degrade the material in the toy, which means it's more likely that bacteria will be able to develop.

For in-depth advice on how to use lube - read our guide!

Safe words

Safe words are basically just a word to use when you want to stop. They're a big part of bondage, spanking and BDSM play, where pretending to put up a fight is all part of the fun, and you can't necessarily count on a cry of 'stop' to mean what it says.

Read our introduction to BDSM to learn more about safe words – but they're not just for the kinkier side of things. Having one big, noticeable word or signal that brings everything to a complete stop no matter what can be useful whatever you're doing. If you're feeling uncomfortable, don't be afraid to break it out.

Stock up

Nightmare scenario – it's date night for you and your partner, or you've brought someone new home for the first time, and you've run out of condoms and lube. Remember to stock up on our sex essentials, so you're never caught out. You're welcome.

Time to play...

Hopefully you're now feeling educated & excited. We recommend browsing our sex essentials categories to find something that really hits the spot.

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