*Note: This article was originally published on Pride Pocket prior to merging with MyUmbrella*
No matter what you’re doing or who you’re doing it with, safe sex is one of the most important aspects of your sex life. For queer women, there are far too many misconceptions about what safe sex looks like and far too many presumptions about what positions can and cannot put you at risk. In this article, we seek to debunk myths about female sex, to explore the risk of STIs and STDs, and to rectify misguided beliefs. It’s time to talk – not just about sex, but about safer sex.
First, let’s define sex. There’s one word that seems to be synonymous with sex and that is intercourse. Any person that looks up this term comes across a lot of definitions for intercourse revealing it to be the act of an erect penis penetrating a vagina. The heterosexually biased definition fails to encompass a wider range of actions that are considered intercourse. It is true that intercourse involves penetration. However, it is not strictly limited to penis and vagina only penetration. Rather, penetration may include fingers, mouths, anuses, and even foreign objects. For some reason, there is this notion that lesbians don’t have “real” sex because of the lack of penis involvement. “Real” sex does not always incorporate a penis; real sex incorporates penetration. Lesbian sex, like heterosexual sex, or even male-on-male sex, consists of multiple forms of penetration.
Now, let’s talk about how you can transfer STIs and STDs. In the very condom conscious society we live in, there seems to be the perception that penises wield the dangers of STIs and STDs. Women are just as capable of transferring an STI or STD to another woman as a man is. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is transmitted through skin to skin contact alone! This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex. The two most commonly transmitted STIs are gonorrhea and chlamydia. These STIs are transferred through genital contact, bodily fluid, and sharing toys; not just penises!
For the bigs one, like the human immunodeficiency virus, a transfer is possible through blood, genital secretion, and even breast milk. Interestingly, HIV is not transferred through saliva.
Studies have shown that women are at a lower risk of contracting HIV from another woman, however, this does not mean it is not possible. An HIV positive woman on her period can easily transfer the virus to another woman if they engage in sex.
And it is not just a period that warrants caution. Genital secretion on toys or during oral sex poses a risk of the disease being transmitted as well. And unlike chlamydia and gonorrhea, HIV has no known cure. Additionally, 75% of women who identify as lesbian or bisexual claim to have had sex with a man. A woman who has sex with a woman that has had sex with a man is just as liable to contract an STI as a woman engaging in heterosexual sex.
Finally, let’s chat about ways to protect yourself.
Safe sex can be practiced by everyone! Here are some easy but necessary ways to ensure safe sex:
- Groom and clean underneath fingernails. Not only can dirty fingers cause urinary tract infections, but long sharp nails may cause vaginal pain or tears. Ouch! If you love your long fingernails, try finger cots. They’ll protect your partner from your nails but are less restrictive than gloves. You’ll still be able to feel the sensation of your partner.
- Clean your toys! Or simply, don’t share toys at all! Adam and Eve toy cleaner is an awesome and inexpensive product you can use to ensure the hygiene of your toys.
- Condoms aren’t just for penises. Condoms can be applied to toys as well.
- Make sure to get routinely papped and also checked for STIs and STDs.
- Always have communication. Be open about your history and don’t be afraid to ask questions about your partner’s. Make sure to uphold your regular safety habits and don’t compromise them on the insistence of your partner.
Free STI Screening from Planned Parenthood
STI Testing Info from the CDC
Tips for Finding a Low Cost Screening
11 Things You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Lesbian Sex
How Do Lesbians Have Sex? From Scarleteen
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