It's Saturday night -- pretty close to midnight -- and the best date you've ever been on is winding down. You're both in the car on your way home, and out of the blue, your date asks if you want to come inside his or her place to watch a video and have a couple beers.

Now we all know that watching a video and having a couple beers is just code for a make-out session with the option of sex, but you've only known this person for a couple of weeks. You really like 'em, and you can see yourself having wild sex with this person even before the opening credits of the movie start scrolling -- but you're firm on your safe-sex-only policy.

So how do you bring up the fact that you're not into full intercourse without protection? Sure, prophylactic talk often kills the vibe, but if you know how to handle the situation, you'll always be safe and sexy.

Timing is Everything "Bringing up the subject of safe sex isn't something you're going to want to mention in passing when you and your partner are already unclothed, in bed and seconds away from intercourse," says Rhona Raskin, sex therapist and author of Ask Me Anything. "It can be an awkward situation, but you have to look for that opportunity [to ask your partner if he or she has condoms on hand]. If they don't, hopefully you will. Either way, don't wait until your body takes over your better judgment."

In other words, if you wait too long to bring up the topic of condoms (or whatever your contraceptive of choice may be), you're going to be so hot and heavy into the foreplay that it would take your parents busting into the room to stop the action. Instead, bring it up no later than when the clothes start coming off.

Say What? So all roads point to the fact that intercourse is in your immediate future. You know there are only a few minutes before your brain's going to shut down and your body will be on automatic sex pilot. You don't want to ask your partner if he or she has any spare condoms lying around and risk breaking the mood -- but you don't want to not ask either.

"I think one of the biggest causes of unprotected sex is the fear of being perceived as uptight or uncool," says Ryan M. Kull, C.S.W., a clinical social worker and co-director of the Gay Health Advocacy Project. "We've all been in that situation where we think the words 'Do you have a condom?' are going to spoil the moment, but those words should be expected nowadays."

Kull suggests that you should never be timid or uncertain when asking about contraception. Keep your request short, direct and simple. "Do you have any protection?" is just about the best way to ask without ruining the vibe.

"Assume the worst though," Kull adds. "Assume that your partner has [no protection] and always carry at least a couple of condoms with you just in case."

Am I a Slut? That question may not apply to you if you're a guy, but if you're a single girl, it's probably always going to be in the back of your mind: "Am I a slut if I carry condoms around in my purse?"

The answer, of course, is no, you're not a slut. You're just smart. No matter how much you like the guy you're with, chances are you're probably going to be a little bit more responsible than he is. That's not science talking -- just call it experience.

Therefore, stashing one or two condoms away in your purse is probably an extremely good idea. If you're worried about your parents or anyone else going through your purse and discovering its precious cargo, consider that they now make condom holders that look like compacts. Thank God for modern technology!**

There's Safety in Numbers It's pretty widely accepted that when it comes to safe sex, the first word we think of is condoms. Sure, there are all kinds of other contraceptives out there, but the condom is tried and true.

That might not mean all that much to you, but according to Planned Parenthood stats, the truth of the matter is that if you're currently sexually active, you've got about a 70 percent chance of transmitting or contracting a disease or infection before you're done with college -- that's seven out of every 10 people. That's why it's not only smart to keep your stock of condoms fresh, but it's important that you don't skimp on the quality.

In a 1999 survey of more than 30 different condoms, Consumer Reports found that Excita, Ramses, Sheik, and Lifestyle brand condoms all had a 98 percent or better reliability rating. Not bad, considering that at an average of about a buck a rubber, that's probably the best health insurance deal you'll ever get.

So, no matter what form of contraception you use, make sure you use something. Contraceptives may not be completely effective 100 percent of the time, but if you use them (and use them correctly) you'll have a lot more fun than you would using the ultimate contraceptive: abstinence.