Adolescence is a well-known period of increased risk taking and sexual activities, for sure. But it is not the only stage of life that is prone to higher risk-taking behaviours. Sexual activity at any stage has physical, social, emotional and legal implications. Add in some risk-taking behaviour, such as elevated use of alcohol, drugs, sex without a condom, or high-adrenaline activities, and we have a cocktail for either harm to ourselves or others. We all know alcohol and drugs impair our decision-making capacity, even if we don’t like to admit it. We may be more likely to say yes to things we don’t feel 100% comfortable with or be placed in vulnerable situations.
Here’s another complexity: risk taking behaviours can also feel good for many people, addictive even. So, the dopamine hit tricks us and lures us in for more and more, increasing our tolerance of what a “risk” even is anyway, until extremely high-risk activities may seem normalised. It is important to learn what your personal norm for risk is (what you feel safe and comfortable with) as well as another person’s level of comfortable risk. Then of course there is the law to consider.
Individuals are responsible for the decisions and choices they make regarding sexual behaviour and risk taking. So how can you keep yourself safe?
- Always keep your phone charged, on you, in sight or accessible.
- Consider a back-up plan of someone knowing where you are, checking in on you later or the next day, and an exit plan.
- Practice safer sex. Boundaries are sexy.
- Be conscious of your substance (alcohol and/or drugs) intake. Practice safe consumption.
- Communicate clearly about what you are interested in doing and not doing. Express your consent explicitly. Ask for consent explicitly. Every step along the way. Boundaries are sexy.
- Get your risk-taking kicks in other domains. Eg. Take up a new sport, learn a new skill, put yourself out of your comfort zone somehow, go cold water dipping, do something unusual.
- Find your sex tribe. Maybe you belong to a sub-group or kink community. Sex can include taking risks and trying new things, but done well, with sufficient education, preparation, communication and safety.
- Work on your self-worth. We can turn to risk-taking and various sexual activities from a wounded place sometimes. Make time to invest in learning about your past and inner self, so that you can practise self-love and express the type of person, energy and activities you want and deserve in your life.
And just in case you missed it, don’t forget, boundaries are sexy. Ultimately, knowing your own limits, and respecting others’ limits, usually means that everyone can have a fun and safe time within those known boundaries.
Reach out if you need to: www.wildcalmtherapies.com.au