Posted By: Parkridge Employee | March 15, 2021
What do you think of when you read “safe sex?” For most, it might simply be sex that is free of STDs, that doesn’t lead to an unintended pregnancy and that is consensual…
These are certainly some of the things that come to mind when talking about safe sex. But there is more to consider…
Having sex is a choice with both physical and emotional implications. Whether someone is choosing to add sex to an established relationship, or thinking about casual sex (weekend hook-up, friends with benefits, etc) it’s wise to consider facts and feelings.
Sex is both good and powerful. Boundaries are important in order to make informed decisions about sexual health. At Parkridge, we serve those who’ve encountered some possible physical outcomes of having sex--unintended pregnancy and STDs. We provide STD testing & treatment for women in Lubbock. We also serve women who become pregnant unintentionally. The decision to have an abortion or carry a pregnancy isn’t always an easy one to make. Similarly, an STD can--at the least--cause stress and discomfort. These are the physical realities of sexual choices that may cause someone to pause before deciding to have sex.
Sex is also emotional. Neuroscience shows us that intimate encounters drive the release of hormones in our brains and bodies. Dopamine is just one example - it’s in the category of “happy hormones'' linked to mood, sexual arousal, and bonding. Dopamine is value neutral - it causes us to seek things that make us feel good temporarily, but not necessarily things that are good for us long term. In the midst of an intimate moment with a partner - our brain isn’t necessarily at it’s logical best - the brain is doing what it’s doing, and the body is responding. Sex is not a meaningless act we can add in to our life without the expectation of consequences. Having sex is a big decision and big decisions deserve a lot of thought.
Before you find yourself in the heat of the moment, an important question to ask is “What are my boundaries?”
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, co-authors of New York Times Bestseller, “Boundaries” define this term this way: “A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not” (Cloud & Townsend, Boundaries,2001)
Boundaries are key in safe sex decisions!
In order to navigate safe sexual decisions, some people ask:
What am I okay with? What am I not okay with?
These are definitely great questions to think through...but here’s where we really get to the heart of the “more to think about”...
Ask yourself a few more questions:
The boundaries you set for yourself likely come from your values and your self interest - and when it comes to having sex - you should be the one in control. If we don’t have boundaries for ourselves, we will often end up defaulting to someone else’s boundaries or standards - and those aren’t always in our best interest. You want to be the one in control of your body and your boundaries!
The best time to work through boundaries is not in the heat of the moment or right before you need to use them - the best time to set this in place for yourself is far in advance of situations where you need to enforce boundaries. Things can get complicated when trying to make rational decisions in the middle of a wave of “happy hormones”. Boundaries work best when you are clear about them both with yourself and with a potential partner before they ever need to be enforced.
Sometimes our clients share with us that they wish they could go back and set better boundaries. We remind them that it’s never too late to make those changes. Regardless of someone’s current or past sexual choices, it's important to care for their physical and emotional health today plus consider future relationship decisions.
We hope the information included here is helpful, and is received in conjunction with other medical and mental health information. This blog post is not intended to replace information directly received from a medical provider. Parkridge offers limited free counseling on a variety of issues including relationships and sex. All of our services (pregnancy testing, confirmation ultrasound, STD testing and treatment, professional counseling, & post abortion support) are always free of charge, confidential, and delivered by licensed professionals. If you think you may need help, schedule an appointment or call Parkridge today at 806.794.8555.
How Casual Sex Can Affect Our Mental Health. Available at: www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201303/how-casual-sex-can-affect-our-mental-health. Accessed on March 15, 2021.
The Neuroscience of Intimacy. Available at: www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/long-fuse-big-bang/201503/the-neuroscience-intimacy Accessed on March 15, 2021.
How the Love Hormone Works It’s Magic. Available at: www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/news/20131125/how-the-love-hormone-works-its-magic. Accessed on March 15,2021.
48 Hour Afterglow. Available at: www.neurosciencenews.com/sexual-afterglow-bonding-6263/. Accessed on March 15, 2021.
Why is Oxytocin Known as the “Love Hormone.” Available at www.www.healthline.com/health/love-hormone. Accessed on March 15, 2021.
More info on Boundaries: https://www.boundariesbooks.com/