While sex ed. for straight people has a long way to go before it's up to snuff, there's even more work to be done when it comes to teaching safe sex options to young queer people. Kids and teens who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum are often left to fend for themselves to gain proper sex education, and certain information can fall through the cracks, leading to myths and improper protection when having sex. There is a lot of incorrect info going around about safe sex for women who hook up with women.
For straight people, there's sex ed. both in and out of the classroom. In movies like Mean Girls, you're essentially told not to have sex, or you'll get pregnant and die (OK...). If you aren't straight, the directions are less clear. Do you use a condom? What else is there to worry about, safety-wise, besides pregnancy? How do you make sure your partner is being safe, too?
For answers to all these questions and more, I spoke to Amanda Hayden, a family permanency coordinator at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center in New York City about how women can have safe sex with women, and the myths surrounding sex between them. She discussed a variety of contraceptives, common myths to dispel, and how to "hack" condoms, too. Here's what you need to know.
Queer girl sex doesn't only mean hooking up with people who have vaginas and vulvas.
A big thing people can gloss over when thinking of queer sex between women is that it doesn't necessarily mean it's two people with vaginas.
“One of the myths is that all women have vulvas," says Hayden. "Trans women are women, and not all women have vulvas." This factors in to the conversation – and precautions – to prevent yourself from transmitting and receiving STIs.
Dental dams and condoms are readily available: use that to your advantage.
Dental dams – protective sheets to place over genitalia during oral sex, or on the anus during anal sex – are available at local drugstores, online, and at Planned Parenthood. If you can't find a dental dam, you can make one yourself.
"An interesting tidbit is if you don’t have a dental dam, you can make one out of a condom by snipping the top, and folding out the middle, just like a dental dam," says Hayden.
Also, you should remember that some people have latex allergies, so check in with your partner beforehand. If she's allergic to latex, non-latex condoms and dental dams exist on the market, says Hayden.
A glove is an option, too.
One of the lesser-talked about means of protection is using gloves or finger cots. Manual sex is less risky than oral or penetration in terms of STIs, but any time fluids are in contact, that does pose a risk.
In addition to the STI protection, gloves and finger cots can also be beneficial for their feel. The material will cover sharp fingernails and rough skin.
Be aware of your health, responsible for your partner(s), and get tested.
"It’s important to remember not all STIs are symptomatic, so it’s important to remember you may not even know if you have something," says Hayden.
Routinely check in with your gynecologist or local Planned Parenthood branch for HIV and STI testing.
Be transparent about your sexual activity.
One of the most important things when having sex is transparency with your partner. If you're in an open or polyamorous relationship, be sure to tell your partners about who else you're having sex with, says Hayden.
Hayden recommends birth control in addition to open conversations – if you're sleeping with multiple people of different genders, and do not wish to get pregnant, seek out the best birth control option for you.
And if you and your partner both have vulvas, and are STI and HIV-free, you can consider not using the above methods. But remember, it's always better safe than sorry. "It’s not always guaranteed, and it’s your body," says Hayden. "You should feel empowered to use safe sex methods, no matter what relationships you’re in."
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