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Will New Tech Make It Easier To Talk About Safer Sex?

I get a lot of people asking about how to have the “safer sex talk.” It’s a challenging conversation for a lot of people to have, for a lot of reasons. Even when both people test negative for sexually transmitted infections, it’s not always easy to have that chat. Some folks tell me that they don’t want to break the mood. Others are worried about their partner’s reaction. Or maybe they’re scared that even bringing the topic up will lead to a fight. A lot of women have said that simply talking about safer sex and their sexual history can end in slut-shaming. And if you have (or have had) and STI, a lot of people will think that that mean’s that you’re “dirty,” even though we don’t generally jump to that conclusion for other infections. It’s important to remember that STIs don’t make you dirty.

For the most part, I’m in favor of anything that helps people have those talks. I recently wrote about a new service that sends a text message to any phone you designate, detailing which STI tests you’ve had and your results. And now, there’s a new phone app that lets you bump with another user to trade contact info and STI status..

The idea behind MedXSafe is pretty simple. After you get your STI test results, you have your doctor verify them on the app (which is HIPAA-compliant). When you want to share your info with another user, you just bump phones. It seems pretty straightforward, though of course, some people are concerned that it promotes a false sense of safety or will encourage reckless sex.

Personally, I see these sorts of apps as useful tools, but they won’t make it less important to have a safer sex talk. Most people will get tested for some STIs but not all of them. There’s also a window between exposure to an STI and testing positive for it, so it’s possible to get inaccurate results (depending on the timing). But it’s still an improvement to have an app or other service that helps people have those conversations and helps reduce the odds that a potential partner is either mistaken or dishonest about what they got tested for or their results.

Of course, MedXSafe requires both people to have the app but it’s HIPAA-compliant, while Qpid lets you share your results with anyone without being HIPAA-complaint. As always, there are pros and cons. But whatever you choose, don’t forget that condoms are still a good idea for keeping yourself safe(r) and reducing the risk of pregnancy (if intercourse is on the menu). We have lots of great tips for finding the perfect condoms and using them right.

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Come Support Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific!

Sexual health is an essential part of  creating sexual pleasure and there’s no organization that brings that to so many people as Planned Parenthood. We’re proud to be supporting three different Planned Parenthood affiliates through our GiVe program and 100% of your donations will go directly to them. We’re also hosting a store tour and fundraiser for PP Shasta Pacific (12/6 7 pm at our Downtown SF store) , PP Mar Monte (12/13 5 pm in Oakland), and PP Massachusetts (12/13 6 pm in Brookline).

The lovely folks at Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific sat down to answer some questions about what they do. Come meet them on December 6 and help make sure this amazing organization can continue to bring health care to so many people who need it.

1) Planned Parenthood affiliates offer many more services than people are generally aware of. What are some of the services you offer your clients?

Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific’s mission is to insure all people have access to affordable, quality health care no matter what.  Our doors are open to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.  97% of PPSP’s services are preventive health care services such as birth control, STD testing and treatment, breast and cervical cancer screenings (Pap test), prenatal care, annual well women exams, HIV testing, among others.  PPSP offers both medication and surgical abortion care (3% of our services).  We also provide confidential, nonjudgmental reproductive and sexual health counseling and education.  PPSP operates 21 full service health centers and eight additional health services sites in 17 Northern California counties including San Francisco, Contra Costa, Solano, Marin, Sonoma and Napa.

2) In today’s political climate, PP is often attacked and scapegoated. How has that affected your work? What impact has that had on your clients?

That last two years have seen an unprecedented frenzy of wrong-headed attacks on our ability to provide essential women’s health services– most of which have absolutely NOTHING to do with women’s health. But women and our supporters have fought back to a historic degree– and as 2012 comes to a close, we can truly say we feel more support than ever, thanks to them (and you!). And although the extremists came close, they have not succeeded in limiting services, especially here in California. We were actually able to expand access to birth control in our state this past year through the Timely Access to Birth Control Act, thanks to a state Legislature and Governor who get it, and our network of activists who kicked into gear when we put out the call. The attacks won’t stop anytime soon, but we feel confident that our doors will continue to be open for every client in need, no matter what.

3) We know that sexual health and sexual pleasure are interrelated, although the connections between them are often ignored. Why is that, and what can we do about it?

Sexual pleasure and sexual health are interrelated.  For a variety of reasons, the connection between pleasure and health is ignored.  The biggest reason, which is probably not at all surprising to folks who work at PPSP and GV, is due to culture.  Most of us have been taught to not discuss sexual pleasure, especially women’s sexual pleasure. This topic remains tremendously taboo even in the safest of spaces such as among friends and with healthcare providers.  Many healthcare providers themselves feel comfortable to ask about intimate details regarding sexual partners and sex acts, but do not cross the line into conversations involving pleasure.  We know that when sex is pleasurable it is safer and vice versa.  In fact, for many people, when sex is safer it can be more pleasurable because they are not worrying about potential risks like STIs or unintended pregnancy.  If we want to foster a truly sexually healthy society we can no longer ignore this connection.  At Planned Parenthood we embrace a sex positive framework in providing sexual and reproductive healthcare and education. We know that in order for someone to be a sexually healthy person, we need to acknowledge and include all elements of sexuality – including pleasure.  One step everyone can take is to begin conversations about sexual health and pleasure with our partners, our health care providers, and even our children. Also, partnerships like the one between Planned Parenthood and GV is another great way to bring together two sides of the sexuality field – prevention and pleasure.

4) Good Vibrations is proud to support PP through our GiVe program. But if people want to donate to PP directly, where should they go?

To contribute to Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific (PPSP) directly, you can donate online. When you reach the landing page, select the drop-down menu next to organization. Under California, please select Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific. Fill in your contact and payment information and submit your contribution. You can also send a check to:

Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific
c/o Development Department
2185 Pacheco Street
Concord, CA 94520

To contribute to our hard-hitting political efforts, you can donate directly the Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific Action Fund (PPSPAF)*.  You have the option to donate online or send a check to:

PO Box 1116
Concord, CA 94522

If you have any questions or would like to make your donation over the phone, please call (925) 676-0505 Ext. 5385. Thank you for supporting Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific!

You can also follow Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific on Facebook and Twitter.


* For donations to our political arm only – Due to the expressly electoral and advocacy nature of PPSPAF activities, contributions are not tax-deductible for income tax purposes. PPSPAF cannot accept contributions from businesses or labor unions. Your contribution may be used for political purposes, such as supporting or opposing candidates. Employer and occupation information is required for all gifts of $100 or more.

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What’s Your Favorite Way To Enjoy A Vibrator?

We get a lot of questions about vibrators. In fact, we have a whole section of how-to articles to help you get the most out of your toys. But there’s nothing quite like hearing actual vibrator users share their stories and experiences.

Here’s a lovely video of a conversation a few women had about their vibrators, how they use them, and what they like about them. Give it a watch- I bet you’ll enjoy it, too. (and a big thanks to for sharing it with us!)

If you ‘re looking for a treat, take a look at our Best-Selling Vibrators. You’ll find plenty of great choices there, whether you want to use it solo or with someone else. Or take a look through our entire selection of vibrators. Whether you want something battery-operated, you’d like some G-Spot pleasure or you want to enjoy bath time with a waterproof vibrator, we have some amazingly sexy gadgets!

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Behind the Good Vibrations Counter: Apaulo

Our Sex Educator-Sales Associates are the folks you see on the sales floor or on the phones here at Good Vibrations. They’re full of amazing information, useful suggestions, and helpful tips & tricks to make your sex life better. And since I get to meet all of them, I can tell you that they’re some of the most awesome folks you could meet! So here’s what Apaulo had to say about being a SESA!

1) Being a Good Vibrations SESA isn’t like any other job. What inspired you to become one?

I want to “Be the change I want to see in the world.”  I had negative experiences growing up being queer and transgender.  I was not taught important things about sex and gender and I think it prolonged my growth and self discovery and self love.   Therefore my uncomfortable and limited sex education in middle school, and the depiction of sex, body image, and gender in our media and culture has all inspired me to become a SESA.  I believe if I learn and help myself I will be able to help others who need my expertise.

2) What’s one of the best things about being a SESA?

One of the best things about being a SESA is all the light bulbs I see turn on above people’s heads every day.  It feels good knowing I can help someone love them self or help them love someone else a little more or even better.  I love seeing people’s creativity.

3) What are one or two tips or ideas you share with people a lot? Tell us a couple of your favorite sex toy tricks.

I believe there is not a magic tip or trick that will work for everyone but I do like to give three recomendations:

  • Loving and knowing yourself really leads to good and an all-round healthy life.  So get to know yourself by reading Urban Tantra or going to a therapist.
  • Lube Samples!  It can be fun to experiment and be your own sex scientist.  Since lots of folks have more fun with more lube – having a sexperiment date with a lover or yourself can be a great way to learn what the best lube will be for your body.
  • Ask more questions!  It takes courage to ask and confidence can be so sexy!  Ask your lover what they really REALLY want!  If you don’t have a lover then ask your self!  You might think you know what your lover wants because you asked a year ago or you have known them for so long, but we are all growing and changing all the time.   There could be a new fantasy, new toy,  or new interest you both could connect with!

 4) How has being a sex educator changed how you think about sexuality or gender? Was there anything that surprised you about that?

Since I am transgender, meaning I was diagnosed female at birth but I now identify as male, I have experienced a lot about sex and gender.  I am always discovering new things and nothing really surprises me anymore.  Though it is hard to surprise, I am still so very excited about the beautiful wide world of sex and gender.  There is such a grand spectrum of gender and as long as sex is between consenting adults there are so many ways to have, give, and perform sex.

I do have to say that it is a new thing for me to have people think I could not really help them with specific questions because I look male and they have a female related question.  They might think I could not know how to help them because I do not have personal experience with certain anatomy.   I usually reassure people by saying I have gone through many hours of sex education and training.  … Even though I want to say “Just because someone looks like they have male or female anatomy doesn’t mean they do and this fact doesn’t mean they are less human or less able to assist with a specific question about the g-spot or p-spot.”   I would never tell a customer this in the store because it might come off as rude but since we are doing personal interviews here I thought I would let it all hang out.

5) Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

I also perform as Puck Goodfellow and you can read my blog at
Hope to see you OUT!!!

Photo  by Dave Naz

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