Getting your groove on safe and solo

Newsflash: you cannot wear two condoms during sex. This type of “double bagging” has none of the preventative effects you find in the grocery store version (If one “bag” – or condom – breaks, you have a backup), and, in fact, is a bad idea, since the friction between two layers of latex will inevitably cause both to tear. The same holds true for using a female and a male condom at once — no go! It’s great that people are interested in safe sex. And it’s great that we live in a day and age where we are harmoniously provided us with a plethora of contraceptive items, ranging from condoms and pills to diaphragms, patches, injections and caps. But even “safe sex” is only so “safe.”

On paper, the “safest” form of protection (referring to STDs, STIs, and pregnancy) for heterosexual intercourse is probably the Pill/condom combo, which is theoretically 99.9 percent effective. This level of effectiveness refers to situations in which the contraceptives are used correctly each and every time — the Pill is taken at the same time every day and the condom is properly applied before any contact takes place and without breakage. Achieving this ideal is nearly impossible, however, which is why these contraceptive methods also have a “real” effectiveness that is always much lower. So what is “the safest sex,” if you’re a person who wants to be absolutely, positively sure that you or your partner don’t get pregnant or contract anything icky? No sex whatsoever.

If you’re of the opinion that this is an absolutely impossible idea, if you get frisky, or if you’re in the type of relationship where abstinence really just doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, there is one other alternative if you haven’t had the idea already. Here’s another newsflash: Masturbation is OK. It may be a subject that we talk about even less than intercourse, but there’s no denying that it’s important or that people are doing it. The Guide to Getting It On (despite the silly title, a must-have for the well-informed adventurer) averages several national statistics to conclude that between 80 and 95 percent of guys are “walking their dog,” and between 50 and 80 percent of women are doing the same. Notably, men seem to have much less trouble talking about self-gratification than women.

There are many great things about masturbation, the first being that it’s completely on your own terms. Whether it’s your hand, the shower head, a well-placed pillow, or any of dozens of increasingly complex mechanisms you can find at adult novelty stores, you are free to think about whatever you want, make whatever funny sounds you like and pretty much indulge your own mind and body. It can be a very liberating experience for those who have never tried it before. On the subject of safe sex, of course, it’s pretty much the only green light you have.

If you crave contact, you can masturbate with a partner, either helping each other out or just watching. On one hand (no pun intended), mutual masturbation can be very exciting, but both partners must be careful of each other’s fluids. Alternately, watching your partner stimulate him or herself is potentially very titillating and also educational, as you get a better idea of what pleases him or her.

This works for men and women, gay, straight or in-between, as long as you’re comfortable with it and are having fun; because when we open our minds to sexual practices that are interesting and safe, we have made ourselves more responsible and independent sexual beings. And that really is the greatest love of all.