This week, Chiamaka Ejindu takes a look at some of the different sexual protective barriers and carefully highlights their importance.
Protective barriers are often a befuddling topic. People are either extremely nonchalant about them or they use them but have little knowledge as to their actual benefits. Dissenting opinions mean that there will generally be never-ending conversations about whether barrier methods are practical to maintain and continue being useful in the long term. Unfortunately, oftentimes, the people who have more to lose during sexual interactions are also vulnerable to being coerced to exempt barrier methods in deference for the pleasure of their partners. Adding this to the conversation about barrier methods is extremely important when looking at the context of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies and rates of sexual infection.
The month of December brings forth a notorious period, one fondly referred to as ‘detty’. It is in this period that people often take vacations, younger ones return home from schools and there are events or house parties ablaze. A congregation of young consenting adults means that there will be opportunities for sexual interactions to take place. Pretending that this does not occur or preaching abstinence only leads to severe ignorance on the part of people who are hell-bent on exploring otherwise. This means that they are vulnerable to being taken advantage of and will most likely face repercussions head-on which they are mostly nowhere prepared to deal with. It is important to introduce protective methods to the conversation in the first place, and in this case, non-invasive protective methods such as condoms.
People engaging in sexual interaction where one of them has a penis and the other a vagina, believe that the need for condoms dissipates once the ‘vagina-owner’ is on birth control. This is completely false as condoms are not solely for the prevention of pregnancy. They are also for protection against sexual infections and in the long-term, sexual diseases. The majority of condoms are usually ninety to ninety-eight percent effective at preventing sexual infections and pregnancies. Of course, this means that there are emergency situations where condoms might break. In this case, emergency oral contraceptives such as Postinor 2 would be required. However, these medicines are strictly for emergency situations and are not to serve as regular contraceptives or protection methods as they usually have lasting effects on the users’ bodies.
There are male condoms and female condoms, although the latter is scarcely found in Nigeria due to limits on production and condom production companies majorly catering to male bodies. When applying the male condom, the wearer is to first pinch the tip and then roll the bottom edge down towards their penis. It is very paramount to pinch the tip as that is where the seminal fluid will go in after ejaculation. This step is often ignored, especially when the condom is worn in a rush.
A condom being uncomfortable for one’s penis does not mean that condom use should be forgone indefinitely. It means that the wearer must keep trying different ones till they find one that works. The female condom on the other hand requires a different direction of insertion as it goes internally. In this case, the bottom of the condom is pinched and goes inside the vaginal canal first. Then after successful insertion, the wearer takes two fingers, places them into the opening of the condom to ensure it sits firmly inside of the canal. The opening is then spread out for the entrance of the penis.
An even lesser-known barrier is the dental dam. The dental dam is majorly used by queer people, as it is an oral protection method for cunnilingus and rimming. In this case, the wearer takes the dental dam, which is about a strip of latex. It can be fit around the mouth and also torn to cover the top to bottom of the gums and teeth. Then, the wearer is able to comfortably give pleasure to their partner without worries of infections. Thankfully, infections through the mouth are less-likely than vaginal or penile infections, because of oral acids and depending on the oral hygiene of the person.
Unfortunately, socio-economic status and access to protective methods depending on living area present a long-term obstacle to condom use. It is important that healthcare centers that provide cost-free or discounted medical services to low-income communities are supported by the government, as this will ultimately reduce the rate of sexual infections, teen childbirths and unplanned pregnancies.
All in all, barrier methods are a really important feature for people who are sexually active, whether or not with multiple partners. There is a harmful stereotype that frequent use of condoms means that a person is sexually promiscuous or plans on having widespread sexual interaction with a number of people. This is especially damning for women, as we are more likely to be slut-shamed as a result of society’s ‘Madonna-Whore’ complex. Women can be sexual beings and we deserve to have as safe as possible, enjoyable sexual interactions when we please. A person being knowledgeable about their sexual health, barrier methods and getting frequent testing does not equate to anything other than a person who would like to have a stress-free, sexual history.