Not too long ago, I ventured into a very well-known health/sex clinic in search for ~dental dams~. I had gone a couple sex toy stores to no avail in my search but thought for sure this place must absolutely must have some. I assumed they’d have them out like candy in a jar—similar to how they have condoms: easily accessible so patients never have to feel embarrassed to ask. But they didn’t. I looked in all the available bowls and only condoms.
“Hey, do you have any dental dams?” I asked the front desk personnel.
“Umm, what’s that?” They responded.
I politely explained that a dental dam is a barrier people can use during oral sex. They called the nurse practitioner in the back of the office to check on their dental dam status. I requested a variety of flavors and the nurse brought them out front for me. While the encounter wasn’t awful, my 17-year-old self would have probably died of embarrassment and turned as red as a tomato.
A 2010 study found that less than 10% of lesbian women have ever used a dental dam, and less than 2% regularly use them. The majority of women who don’t use them say that it’s because they find them unsexy and uncool and feel like women who have sex with women aren’t really at risk for an STI anyways (spoiler: we all are).
I want to make a call to action to make dental dams and gloves sexy again! Because I think that we should all feel comfortable talking about the barrier options we have available to use—and using them if we want to. If we were able to de-stigmatize dental dams and gloves, I think more queer women would use them. But I know I can’t just say these things and hope it happens, so I’m going to give a little ammunition to my argument here.
Gloves can be integrating into your role play.
Have you ever wanted to have medical role play? It’s the perfect time to test out gloves as a safer sex tool. The partner who is the “nurse” or “doctor” can sexily snap on the gloves before getting down to it.
But there are also many health benefits to using gloves during sex. For one, it’s easier to switch between vaginal and anal penetration because you can simply take the used glove off and swap it for a new—now you’re ready to venture into the other hole without having to run to the bathroom to wash your hands! If you enjoy going to play parties or having sex with multiple people, using gloves makes it easy to switch between partners without washing the previous persons fluid off your hands. Gloves reduce the chance of cutting or abrading tender skin with fingernails—they also protect from fluids getting into tiny cuts or hangnails and risking spreading STIs that way. They also don’t absorb lube which means the genitals stay slicker longer.
Dental Dams come in fun flavors.
You can get vanilla, banana, strawberry or even mint (which adds a little tingling sensation). If that doesn’t sound appealing, they also come unflavored.
When you find fun ways to integrate safer sex into your regular play, it will become the norm. You can get creative with how you bring the conversation up and integrate talking about barriers when you start discussing your desires and what kind of sex you want to have. Don’t think about dental dams as ew, I don’t want to use that. Try to rewrite the narrative and allow yourself to be excited that you’re having amazing and safer sex with someone you’re turned on by. It also allows for more spontaneity if either of you are positive for an STI or haven’t been tested in a while—you can still have sex with barriers.
Dental dams don’t have to be taut over the vulva or anus, they can gently be held in place. You can even snap or move it around for different sensations. If you add a drop or two of lube on the vulva or anus side of the dental dam, it will make things smoother and more pleasurable for the person receiving!
Happy safer sexing!