There is a long-standing cultural myth that lesbian sex is inherently safer than sex between heterosexuals or queer men. This false narrative feeds into behaviors and expectations that increase the sexual health risks of all queer women, and this myth has only begun to unravel in recent decades.
According to the recent lesbian sex survey that Wet For Her conducted on the sex in our community, less than half of lesbian-identified women practice safe sex regularly. Up to 34% of lesbians don’t practice safe sex at all, and 3% don’t even know what the term means! Does safe mean using high-quality toys? Sleeping with only partners you trust? Using barriers during penetration or oral? The reality is that it can mean all of these things, which is why we decided to break down the different methods of engaging in safer sex to help you decide which is right for you.
Covering The Basics
Transmission of STIs between female partners can occur anytime fluids are exchanged (oral sex, anal play, or sharing sex toys) and some can be passed through skin-to-skin contact. The prevalence of online dating creates a culture of easily accessible partners and this, combined with the rising number of sexually transmitted disease cases diagnosed each year, make safe sex more important than ever before. Remember that some STI’s can be present without visible symptoms, so regular testing is a key step in protecting everyone’s sexual health.
Capturing the full spectrum of queer women means making space for the fluidity of both sex and gender so safe sex conversations are inclusive to transgender and intersexed bodies. Cultivating direct, honest conversations around safe sex along all identity spectrums helps to protect and educate the entire queer community. Ultimately, all sex involves some level of risk. Protect yourself and your partners by getting tested regularly, communicating upfront about your sexual history, and exploring your preferred safer sex methods.
“Safe sex” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, and it often evolves over the lifetime of a relationship. Starting and staying on the same page with partners is a critical element of practicing good consent. Having “the talk” also gives you both the opportunity to share what you like and don’t like in bed and how your body prefers to be touched. Rest assured, having this information beforedoing the horizontal tango will result in hotter sex for all parties involved.
Barriers for Body Protection
Barriers can prevent the transmission of STIs, with condoms being the most common form out of several barrier methods available. Condoms have a place in lesbian relationships for playing with toys or crafting a makeshift dental dam. If you’re sharing penetrative toys (or if the idea of pervertables gives you tingles!) be sure to use condoms each time you slide any uncertain variables between your legs.
Sex is a hands-on activity, and 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) can also make fisting a safer and smoother experience.
Dental dams can be used during any mouth-to-genital contact to prevent the transmission of things like herpes or HPV. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI, according to the Center for Disease Control, and different strains can cause symptoms such as genital warts or long-term complications such as cervical cancer. A recent preventative development is the HPV vaccine that protects against several strains of HPV, specifically the strains that are most associated with cancer.
There is a certain cultural reluctance or stigma around dental dam use, as they’re said to change the sensory experience of oral sex. Anecdotal evidence indicates this change is more noticeable to the giver than the receiver. 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 a somewhat new, evolving shift in thinking that reflects the pragmatic realities faced by queer women navigating sex in modern society.
A Healthy Selection Of Sex Toys
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 product line which were lovingly made with happy, healthy vaginas in mind.
Take care of your toys to ensure a long lifespan, and 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 like Mighty Tidy Toy Cleaner are especially important if toys are being shared between partners. Choose a quality lubricant that is a water-based or hybrid formula that is easy to clean off and will not degrade the material over time. Brands like Sliquid set a high bar in the industry for long-lasting products that work great and are gentle on your microbiome.
At the end of the day you, and 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 you each feel confident and safe in your sexual health practices.