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5 Tips for Safe Online Dating

Highlights

  • Online dating is increasingly socially acceptable; a full 30 percent of Americans have used online dating sites and apps.

  • Whether you’re looking for a hookup or a relationship, always practice safer sex, including use of condoms and other barrier methods.

  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at least once a year.

  • Talking about safer sex with a new partner is important and gets easier with time.

  • If you contract an STI, get treatment as soon as possible.


Online dating is here to stay and more popular than ever. Whether you’re looking for a one-night stand or a serious relationship, online dating can help you get there faster. But there are precautions you should take to protect your sexual health while you enjoy dating in the digital age.

Online Dating Is On the Rise

Mobile dating apps have been around since 2009, and Tinder, one of the biggest players on the market, became available in 2012. With their ease of use and advanced search functions, dating apps have changed the way we seek sexual and life partners.

Thirty percent of U.S. adults say they have used an online dating site or app. Experts predict the popularity of virtual dating to grow even more in the years to come.

Online sites and apps make it easier than ever to have sex with new people. But before you set out to have some fun in the real world, take a moment to think about your sexual health.

Here are 5 things you should keep in mind to safely navigate the world of online dating and hookups.

1. Check your (s)expectations

Before you take your virtual date into a real-life setting, think about your hopes and expectations. Are you interested in a one-night stand? Are you looking for a long-term relationship? Or are you open to whatever comes your way?

Regardless of your intentions, always consider that a date may end in bed. Even if you’re looking for a life partner and promise yourself to wait before getting intimate, it’s better to be realistic and to be prepared. There’s nothing worse than ending up at someone’s place, all hot and ready, only to realize you don’t have a condom!

Some men worry that having protection ready will make a bad impression. They think that a person they like will assume they are in it only for the sex. That’s not necessarily true; taking care of sexual health is a sign that you have a mature approach to intimacy.

Besides, if things have gotten to the point where condoms are an issue, you’re not the only one in the room who’s ready to get it on!

2. Get Tested Regularly

Even if you’re using condoms every time you have sex — the best way to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — you should get tested at least once a year.

Here’s why:

Condoms Sometimes Fail

We’re all human, and we make mistakes. Condom use is no exception here. Incorrect use increases the risk of getting or transmitting an STI.

Condoms Don’t Guarantee Full Protection

For example, consistent use of condoms is only 80 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission through heterosexual contacts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), condoms reduce the risk of other infections, such as genital herpes or syphilis, but only partially. Since a condom does not cover the whole genital area, it is possible to get infected through touch or oral stimulation.

You Can Transmit an STI Without Symptoms

Another thing to keep in mind is that some sexually transmitted infections can be passed even without visible symptoms. This is true for genital herpes. Before the illness shows up as blisters, a person can shed the virus and transmit it to their partner.

3. Practice Safer Sex (Hint: It’s more than condoms)

OK, so you got a date, bought a pack of condoms, and are ready to go. That’s a great start, but if you want to be on the safe side, consider using other barrier methods as well. The idea is simple — using latex or similar materials to cover those parts of the body that are most susceptible to an infection.

Depending on the type of sex you like, here are your options:

  • Male condoms. They protect the vagina, penis and/or anus during intercourse or oral sex.
  • Female condoms. They provide extra coverage for parts of the vulva or outer anal area. Despite their name, they can also be used for male-to-male contact.
  • Dental dams and latex sheets. These can reduce the risk of catching an STI during oral sex.
  • Finger cots and gloves. They protect your hands when giving hand jobs. Always use them when you have an open wound on your fingers or palms.

While this may sound like a bit too much, every intimate contact with a person whose current sexual health history you don’t know carries a risk of catching an STI, including HIV. It’s better to be safe now than sorry later.

4. Learn How to Talk About Safer Sex

When I ask people why they don’t discuss sexual health before erotic play, they say they don’t want to spoil the mood. When we dig deeper, they realize they don’t know how to talk about safer sex practices with a partner. They feel ashamed or awkward.

Yes, intimate communication is hard at first, but it gets easier with practice. Here are a few suggestions to help you feel more comfortable:

Learn the Language

Don’t let the lack of sexual vocabulary stop you from talking about your needs in bed. Write down all the words to describe sexual body parts and erotic activities. Now, try saying them out loud. The more you get used to saying things like “vagina” or “penis” out loud, the easier it will be with another person.

Admit to Feeling Awkward

You don’t need to have a PhD in sexual communication to talk about safer sex. Admitting to feeling shy, weird, or awkward will help you feel more relaxed. We’re all human. Just explain what you want, as best as you can. Your partner will understand.

Discuss Safety Early

Negotiating the use of barrier methods when you’re both naked and horny can be a mood killer. Better do it before you go to someone’s place, and certainly before you begin the erotic part of your date.

5. Take Care of Your Sexual Health

If you get an STI, don’t despair. It’s not the end of the world — or even of a pleasurable sex life — if you treat it right away. Most infections can be treated with medication. For others, such as HIV, it is possible to manage the condition and keep viral levels undetectable.

The sooner you take STI medication, the better your chances of avoiding sexual health complications, such as infertility, or spreading the infection to others. See your doctor or visit a sexual health clinic as early as possible.

For More Information

Want to learn more about safe sex? Follow the our blog to educate yourself about sexual health. Looking for treatment for herpes or other STI? We can help. Check out the medications we offer, then call 1-800-467-5146 to arrange a medical consultation with a U.S.-licensed physician.

We’ll issue your prescription and deliver your medication straight to your door. At eDrugstore, virtual health visits and shipping are always free.

 

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