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What is Sexual Risk?

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Updated November 06, 2005

Few people would try to drive a car for the first time without getting some sort of instruction. Most of us know that before we can make a great soufflé we need to learn a bit about baking, and practice cracking eggs. Yet when it comes to sex, we are far too ready to rush into a decision without enough background information.

The first thing to understand about safer sex is that, like any sort of behavior in life, all sexual behavior carries some risk. Here are some examples of how sex can be risky:

  1. You could be masturbating in your bed, fall off the bed and break your arm.
  2. You are cautious about having sex with a new person, but decide to take the plunge. The sex is awkward, and the next day they break up with you in a really mean way.
  3. You have unprotected oral sex with your partner and get a sexually transmitted disease.
  4. You have what you think is a one night stand with someone who wants to move in with you the very next day.

There is risk in getting out of bed, in going to work or school, and in engaging in sexual behaviors both by yourself and with others.

So the goal is not to have “risk-free” sex, because it doesn’t exist. The goal is for you to understand the risks you are taking, to choose what risks to take and not to take, and to make these decisions on your own, without too much influence from:

  • Parents
  • Partners
  • Social pressure
  • Drugs or alcohol
  • A host of other external factors

Understanding sexual risk is all about taking the time to make choices, rather than diving into a situation without thinking.

Because most of us don’t get the chance to learn a lot about sex, and we aren’t really allowed to talk about it much, we tend to make decisions without the kind of information we need to make good decisions.

Ultimately sexual risks are the potential negative consequences from sexual behavior and activities. The most obvious examples of this are sexually transmitted diseases. So when you think about having safer sex, of course think about the ways you can protect yourself and your partner(s) from sexually transmitted diseases, but also consider more broadly the way you make sexual choices without thinking, and the ways you can bring more thoughtfulness to your sexual decision making.

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  4. Safer Sex
  5. What is Sexual Risk – Making Choices About Risky Sexual Behaviors

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