Ask The Sexpert: How Can Lesbians Have Safer Sex?

Newsflash: We should be using condoms. Yes, CONDOMS.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of different health resources and community leaders talk about how lesbians don’t need condoms at all in their sex practices. And this idea honestly perplexes me! Every time I read it somewhere, I pause and think huh? Where did these people get their safer sex information from?

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This is a part of a bigger societal problem in that lesbian, queer and bi women are often left behind in the conversation about sexual health and STIs. It’s as though people think that STIs only come from penises and that lesbian, queer and bisexual women don’t ever have penises.

News flash: STIs can be passed on in many different ways. Through skin to skin contact. From anal sex. From oral sex. From sharing sex toys. Pretty much any kind of sex that you’re having, it’s likely that STIs can possibly be passed on, from person to person. It’s also important to remember that lesbian, queer and bisexual women sometimes have penises. Or sometimes we use dildos during sex. And for both a dildo and a penis, condoms can be used as a barrier method to lower the chances of STIs being passed.

In de-stigmatizing STIs, it’s important to note that it’s not the end of the world if you test positive for an STI. Your life and your sex life aren’t over. If we are able to have access to this kind of safer sex information, then we can all grow and learn together—and have more pleasurable sex!

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We’ve already talked about different barrier methods that lesbian, queer and bisexual women can use when having sex with each other. And yes, condoms are included in those options. You can use condoms as a barrier when having a penis in vagina or when having anal sex, when you’re using a sex toy or dildo, and you can also cut a condom down the middle (with scissors) if you need a dental dam for analingus or oral sex. When we tell women who sleep with other women that they don’t need condoms to practice safer sex, we are perpetuating this myth that our sex is intrinsically safe from any STIs being shared.

So many of my lesbian, queer and bisexual friends sometimes laugh about how they don’t practice safer sex. I hear queer women make jokes about dental dams and how they never have once used them. All of this makes me wonder who in our community do actually practice safer sex? And if we aren’t using barrier methods, are we then having in-depth conversations about our sexual health before we f*ck? Are we constantly prioritizing getting tested between our partners? And not just a pap smear (because that doesn’t cover it all), but like getting a full work up?

I don’t say any of this to be judgmental, at all. I’ve also been that girl to laugh about dental dams. I’ve also had one night stands where I didn’t prioritize me or my partner’s sexual health. But I want us to do better. I want us to be able to have real, nuanced conversations about our sexual health. Because it matters, babes. And I want to get past laughing about dental dams and shrugging off condoms as an option.

Often in this conversation, I get asked well, what if I want to use a dental dam but she doesn’t think that’s sexy? This fear is so widespread that I feel like so many lesbian, queer and bisexual women are even afraid to ask their partners to practice safer sex. But let me tell you a queer girl secret, receiving oral sex through a dental dam is sexy and feels amazing. In fact, the person it really changes things for is the person giving the oral. It’s a little bit different of an experience, but one that you can get used to! It’s sexy for the person receiving because 1. you’re both prioritizing each other’s sexual health, which is hot AF and 2. in my honest opinion, it still feels pleasurable as f*ck.

I also know how difficult it can be to bring up the conversation of STIs before you have sex, especially if you’ve never had sex with this person before. One thing I’ve learned in my years of messily navigating sex and relationships is that when I talk with someone about the kind of sex we both want to have and about what kind of barriers we want to use—I have wayyyy better sex. Like I’m not saying this because I’m a sex geek. I’m telling you my honest queer girl truth. Sex is better when you talk about desire and your bodies first.

Let’s break it down.

You and this potential hookup don’t know each other’s bodies yet. Every single person has their own desires and ticks and moves, that turn them the f*ck on. And while you could play a guessing game while you’re having sex to figure out what ~feels good~ for this new person, you could instead, talk about it beforehand. Isn’t it fun to be able to f*ck someone the way they want to be f*cked? Then you already know the go-to spot for them, where you want to build up to and how to get them to be putty in your hand.

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When it comes to talking about what barriers and/or toys you want to use while you’re having sex—a lot of people think it’s super not sexy and takes all the fun out of it. But imagine if you’re having sex but the whole time you’re anxious because you really wanted to use a dental dam but didn’t know how to tell her that and now you can’t have an orgasm because you’re so in your head about not speaking up for your needs? That’s no fun for anyone, trust me. When you get that conversation out of the way before you start having sex, then you already know to go for the condom when you use your strap-on or whether she’s cool with fluid bonding or not. These are really important aspects of sex and we shouldn’t ignore them.

I have homework for all of you reading this right now. The next time you’re having a new hookup with someone, try to integrate some of these conversations before you hit the bedsheets and see what the results are. I bet you that you’ll have some mind-blowing consensual safer sex!

Got any sex questions? Feel free to reach out: Corinne@gomag.com!