Catherine Townsend: Sleeping around

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The Independent Online

It's not every day that I get to spend the afternoon fellating an aubergine. But after a bit of a health scare, I decided to spice up my approach to safe sex by taking an oral sex masterclass. Last time I was at Mark's house, he didn't have any condoms, and we were a bit careless. Two days later, I found out that he was still seeing his ex-girlfriend. After the initial freak-out, I called Victoria, who offered to come with me to my local sexual health clinic.

Normally, I have a reputation for being really anal (no pun intended) about protection. I'm the girl who never leaves home without an array of condoms and spare knickers, in case of a best-case scenario, as well as cash and the number of a reputable cab firm, in case of the worst. But the experience made me realise I needed a new way of incorporating condoms into foreplay - which is how I found myself at a sex masterclass in a central London boutique, giggling and "handling" a popsicle, before moving on to mastering the art of putting on a condom without using my hands.

I also went shopping. A visit to revealed an array of prophylactics that went way beyond ribbed or regular. I was taken with the fruit-flavoured and glow-in-the-dark varieties. There was even a musical condom that changes tunes as the sex gets more vigorous - although I think a soundtrack emitting from my nether regions would definitely throw me off my rhythm.

That aside, I was still nervous when it came to test day. Back in Manhattan a twice-yearly STI screening was part of my routine. I was thrilled that Scarlett Johansson admitted she has them because getting tested is "part of being a decent human being". But I've had mixed reactions from my British boyfriends. One ex freaked out; not only was he totally unaware of the symptoms of chlamydia and gonorrhoea, but I also got the feeling that he thought they were some type of tropical storm.

Victoria provided some much-needed comic relief. She showed up with a shopping bag - we were due to go to an Hallowe'en fancy dress party that night, and she was in charge of costumes. "I couldn't get much on short notice... so it looks like it's devil for me, sexy nun for you!" I went into the clinic in a habit with a lace corset underneath, feeling ridiculous and praying I didn't see anyone I knew.

I needn't have worried: the posh-looking, suited crowd could have been waiting in line for Boujis on a Saturday night. The exam itself was relatively painless, and the doctor was very reassuring. Plus I think the nurses got a good laugh - it's not every day you see a nun scooping up free condoms.

I haven't spoken to Mark again, but the call I was waiting for came through three days later: my test results were in, and I was given the all-clear. I may not have found the man of my dreams yet, but I'm healthy, happy and can now comfortably deep-throat a banana. And that's got to count for something.