Opinion

Safe hunting is like safe sex | Amy Johnson

The other day, as I was meeting with a fellow Hoosier (i.e. we’re both from Indiana) here in Federal Way over warm Starbucks beverages, our conversation turned to guns and sex.

It may be different now, but in our day, it was more likely that kids were taught about gun safety than about safer sex.

I hope even the most avid Second Amendment enthusiasts will agree that if one uses a firearm, it’s important to know gun safety. Take hunting, for example. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Hunter Education website proclaims that by following the 10 hunting safety rules, “virtually every hunting incident could have been prevented.” These rules include common sense advice like “never point at anything you do not want to shoot” and “never use a firearm unless you are familiar with how it works.” Good counsel. I got to thinking how many unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases could be prevented by following safer sex rules.

• Safer Sex Rule No. 1: Let’s talk about sex

Part One: Parents, have many conversations with your children, beginning with proper names for genitalia when they are learning body parts. Let them know about what changes are likely in puberty before it happens. Discuss your values and safer sex practices, which they will need at some point in their lives, unless they remain celibate forever, in which case they will likely have friends in need of the information. Establish that sexuality is a topic worthy of discussion.

Part Two: Partners, whether they are adults in a relationship, or teens in a relationship, need to talk about what they are and aren’t comfortable doing, what their history is, how they plan to prevent pregnancy and disease, and who will be responsible for what. Will you use abstinence? Condoms? Condoms and another method? Many unintended sexual incidents can be prevented by this type of candid conversation.

• Safer Sex Rule No. 2: Cultivate healthy relationships

Unwanted sexual incidents are less likely to occur in a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship is one in which both people agree if they engage in any sexual behavior, there is no power differential between partners, respect is paramount and both people feel safe. Each person needs to feel physically safe from unwanted behavior, unintended pregnancy and disease. Each person also needs to feel emotionally safe — i.e., not manipulated into engaging in behavior for which they are not ready or simply do not want to do. Safety includes use of contraception by partners who are sexually active and do not want to get pregnant.

Safety also includes use of condoms to prevent disease, and regular testing to make sure one has not unknowingly contracted a disease from another partner.

Many sexually transmitted infections do not have obvious symptoms and can be unintentionally shared by engaging in behavior other than intercourse. That’s why it’s important to get tested if you are sexually active.

• Safer Sex Rule No. 3: Use condoms

With over 19 million new cases of STDs each year in the U.S., over half of which occur in ages 15 to 24, it’s no wonder the American Social Health Association has declared February as National Condom Month. Research shows that condom use dramatically decreases the risk of sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, chlamydia and HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. Don’t make safer sex an afterthought. Use a condom every time.

Be smart. Whether you’re dealing with guns or sex, be prepared — and keep the safety on.

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