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Yes, sexy safer sex is a real thing that is totally possible, and there are plenty of ways to keep things hot while you’re staying safe. Seriously!

We all know why using safer sex barriers — like condoms, internal condoms, and dams — is so important: they prevent contact with sexual fluids and skin that can spread STDs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. And condoms and internal condoms help prevent pregnancy too. In fact, condoms are the only methods of birth control that also protect you from STDs — the true GOAT of sexual health.

But let’s get right to the good stuff: how can we ACTUALLY make using safer sex barriers hot? Here are some tried-and-true tips from sex educators:

  • USE THEM. Use them all the time, so your brain learns to associate barriers with good sex. Think about it: if you bust out a dental dam or roll a condom on EVERY time you hook up, they become a natural part of sex — like other foreplay stuff such as kissing — and can start to seem pretty hot. The more you have safer sex, the more normal and sexy it seems. Sex may even start to feel a little weird or stressful without them (kinda like that feeling of riding a bike without a helmet — yikes!).
  • Be creative! If you’re worried that using a barrier will bring things to a screeching halt, come up with ways to fold it into your routine and keep the sexual fire going — condoms can be part of the action instead of stopping the action. You can talk dirty and touch each other while you’re getting it ready and putting it on. Partners can put condoms on for each other, either rolling a condom on the other person’s penis or putting an internal condom inside their vagina or anus. You can also rub some lube on each other’s genitals before and after. And making sure you have the barrier close by and ready to go before you start getting down can help keep the transition seamless and sexy.
  • Speaking of lube: adding extra water-based or silicone lubricant is a surefire way to make any safer sex barrier feel better (and — bonus points! — lube also helps keep condoms from breaking). Putting a few drops of lube inside the condom before you roll it on and on the outside of the condom after it’s on the penis can feel great for both partners. You can add extra lube to the inside of an internal condom after you put it in, and lube on the outside may make it easier to insert. A little lube on the vulva or anus side of a dental dam can increase sensation, and flavored lube on the opposite side can be a tasty treat for the person giving oral.
  • Obviously using condoms and dental dams feels slightly different than not using anything at all — but different doesn’t necessarily mean “worse.” Barriers can create a variety of new sensations that may actually feel pretty good. Condoms come in different shapes and textures that can add a little something extra to the feeling of sex, and some even have special lubricants on them to help increase sensation or make sex last longer. You may like the feeling of having your genitals stimulated through latex, like with a dental dam, especially if you’re really sensitive and direct contact feels too intense. The changes in sensation with condoms can also help delay ejaculation if you and your partner want to keep going. So be open-minded and try experimenting with different things, like a fun, sexy science project.
  • Remember that nothing’s a bigger mood-killer than stressing about an infection or unintended pregnancy. So condoms can actually make sex more spontaneous and adventurous because you’re able to focus on each other and feelin’ good. Condoms are particularly important for both your health and your peace of mind if you have multiple partners or casual sex.
  • Stay positive. When you see a condom or dam, stop thinking “ughhhh, I have to use this thing,” and start thinking “hell yeah, I’m gonna have sexxxx. SCORE!” Barriers mean you’re getting sweet, sweet action — worry-free.

Attitude is everything here, friends. Condoms and dams only kill the mood if you let them. If you and your partner are into each other, having a great time, and keeping things spicy and positive, a little piece of latex or plastic doesn’t have to be the kryptonite that takes your sexy party down. And knowing that you’re protecting yourself and your partner(s) can feel extra intimate and really, really hot.

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