Safe Sex for Lesbians
We don’t mean to sound like a broken record or a scolding auntie, but our Community is in something of a safe sex crisis. Wet For Her’s recent lesbian sex survey revealed some alarming statistics:
Less than half of lesbian-identified women practice safer sex regularly
34% of lesbians don’t practice safe sex at all
3% don’t even know what the term means or think the “rule” applies to them
We’re not judging–we get it. Safer Sex for Lesbians wasn’t exactly in the high-school sex ed curriculum. So, the Queer community has always had to educate ourselves and each other.
So, what can people with vulvas do to practice safer sex? Does safe mean using clean, high-quality toys? Only sleeping with partners you trust? Using barriers during penetration or oral stimulation?
The answer is: it means all these things. “Safe sex” simply implies that everyone involved is taking precautions to prevent the spread of STIs and limit the risk of pregnancy. Here’s what you need to know to keep you and your partner(s) safe:
Gay Women, Trans Men, and the Gender Fluid Can All Catch STIs
With the number of sexually transmitted disease cases diagnosed rising and online dating creating a culture of easily accessible partners, safe sex is more important than ever before.
STI transmission among trans and female partners can occur anytime fluids are exchanged (oral sex, anal play, or sharing sex toys) and through skin-to-skin contact (scissoring, foreplay). The risk of contracting human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common STI, is present during almost all intimate acts.
However, different sexual activity poses different risks. Here’s how to stay as safe as possible during some of them.
Safe Oral Sex
Oral to genital stimulation poses risks of infection to each side of the equation. HPV, herpes, trichomoniasis, and gonorrhea can all be spread through oral sex. Dental dams provide the best protection against these STDs, but the cultural reluctance around dental dam use means many lesbians see using them as an annoyance rather than a necessity.
Real talk: There are a growing number of strains of antibiotic-resistant STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, which can all be contracted during oral sex. Normalizing barriers and other safe sex practices focused on oral sex is still a somewhat new. This shift in thinking reflects the pragmatic realities faced by queer women navigating sex in modern society.
The risk of vulva-to-vulva contact during scissoring (or,”tribbing”) is two-fold; there’s direct skin-to-skin contact and a high chance that fluids may be transferred from one partner to the other. HPV (genital warts) and HSV (herpes) are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and also spread through fluids along with gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and chlamydia. Placing a dental dam over the vulva and holding it in place is one way to enjoy safer scissoring. Another way is to have someone keep their underwear on.
Safe Strap-On Play
Condoms are actually useful in lesbian sex whether you are playing with toys or in need of a makeshift dental dam. If you’re sharing penetrative lesbian sex toys like strap-ons, condoms make excellent STI protection. Moreover, sharing strap-ons without a good cleaning between uses can expose you and your partner(s) to other uncomfortable issues, such as bacterial infections and UTIs.
Fingering doesn’t carry as heavy a risk of STI transmission as the other fun sex acts listed above, but, unfortunately, sometimes unhealthy bacteria will hitch a ride to all the wrong places during digital play. Yeast infections are commonly shared between partners this way. Gloves and finger cots can be used as a regular barrier or when circumstances demand, like if you have long nails or a cut on your hand. Gloves (and lots of lube) are a good idea in a fisting scenario not only to protect against common STIs, but also against any physical injury.
Choosing The Right Sex Toys (and keeping them clean) is Safe Sex Too
Safer sex with toys starts before the dildo comes out of the box. The sex toy industry is not well-regulated, and many items designed for penetration are made from toxic materials that can do all sorts of nasty things to your insides. Make sure to only buy toys made from non-porous materials such as glass, metal, or medical-grade silicone like the ones in our namesake line of products.
It’s important to always wash and sanitize sex toys between uses. Most toys, particularly those with batteries and buzzing bits, are best washed with soap and warm water that is 180 degrees or higher.
Antibacterial and antiviral sex toy cleaners are especially important if toys are being shared between partners. Choose a water-based or hybrid formula quality lubricant that is a is easy to clean off and will not degrade the material of your toys over time. Brands like Sliquid, available at Wet For Her, set a high bar in the industry for long-lasting products that work great and are gentle on your microbiome.
The Bottom Line
“Safe sex” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, and it often evolves over the lifetime of a relationship. Remember, you alone are responsible for your sexual health. Make decisions that sit comfortably within your body and prioritize direct communication with your partners so that each of you feels confident and safe in your sexual health practices. Wet For Her will support you any way we can. All of our sex toys are made by Lesbians, for Lesbians and the Queer Community at large.