Safer sex: a broad

Speaking as a woman, I’ve certainly had my fair share of offers while traveling; from a tentative kiss on the rooftop of a hostel to a proposal of marriage by a frightfully earnest Moroccan waiter.  Some of them were from people I quite liked, and I’ve fallen in love on the road as well (note previous post on “saying goodbye”)…so how do you make sure that any relationships you start on the road remain safe, sane, and consensual?

Wikipedia has an interesting entry about female sex tourism, which is discrete from male sex tourism in that women rarely use the organized sex industry but rather look for “romance tourism”, or flings with locals and other travelers.  Even if you’re not looking for anyone, the best thing you can do for yourself is BRING SOME CONDOMS.  Make sure they are still in their packages, and check the expiration date; it’s better to buy and bring condoms from home than rely on buying them in a country that might be hostile to birth control, have expired or damaged boxes, or risk the classic problem of “But we want to do it now, do we really want to run out to the drug store for condoms?  We don’t need them THAT much, right?”

Never store condoms in the same compartment as sunscreen or other oil-based products that can break down their latex.  Keep them as cool, dry, and unpunctured as possible; remember, condoms are your best defense not just against pregnancy, but against STIs.  If your condoms get put through the wringer, buy some new ones, but always make sure you have at least two.  My friend Colleen has a small leather change purse that comfortably fits two condoms in a dry, safe interior.

While pregnancy may be a concern — particularly if you are in a country that has little resources for women’s sexual health — STIs are a bigger one.  Make sure to ask your partners about their sexual history (the Lonely Planet language books, with their sections on love and dating, are actually pretty helpful with this).  If anything seems sketchy, keep it to heavy petting.  Most STIs are treatable with a simple dose of antibiotics, so even if you do get something itchy, don’t panic and see a drop-in clinic or local pharmacy ASAP.  REMEMBER: AIDS is rampant in some countries and that is one STI that has no cure, and will kill you.  Better safe than sorry.

If you are on birth control medication, it DOES NOT prevent STIs.  You should carry several packs with you from your home pharmacy to avoid the hassle of trying to refill on the road.  Plan ahead; is there any chance your trip might get extended?  Leave the pharmacy stickers on each pack to prove to grumpy border guards that they are in fact your prescription.  Time zone changes can make taking the pill at the same time every day (the only way to guarantee its touted 98% effectiveness) difficult, so make sure you follow a strict routine, at least as far as that’s concerned.  Missing one pill can negate the whole pack, depending on the type, so read the package insert.

To avoid ending up in situations that are uncomfortable or dangerous, make sure you have friends around if you’re planning to engage in any substances — including alcohol.  It’s always a good idea to party with a buddy who can act as help or hindrance; forgetting what happened the night before is not a recipe for a fun trip.  Remember that some countries encourage aggressive flirting so be prepared to fend off would-be Lotharios with a firm, well-placed “NO.”

Above all, traveling fosters an attitude of trust towards the others you meet on the road: you band together in a camaraderie that may seem naive to outsiders, but is remarkably understandable in reality.  However, this might lead to leaping without looking, so if your instincts are telling you something, go with them, no matter how trustworthy your potential partner might seem.

Posted by | Comments (4)  | November 10, 2008
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

4 Responses to “Safer sex: a broad”

  1. Martin S Says:

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