Women who have sex with women are diverse. And sex between women is just as diverse. The risk of getting an STI or HIV depends on what kind of sex you have & who you have it with. So here are my top five safe sex tips for queer women*.
Yep. Condoms are for everybody! Some people like using toys like a dildo or vibrator during sex. If you’re sharing a sex toy you should definitely use a separate condom for each person. And if you’re using a toy on someone’s anus (bum) and then their vagina – use a new condom! You don’t want to get bacteria from the anus in the vagina, as this can cause infections. Condoms are a simple and easy way to keep your toys clean and your body safe.
If the sex you have ever involves a penis, then you need condoms too!
No matter what your sexual orientation or gender identity, penetrative sex with a penis is the easiest route for STI/HIV transmission or unwanted pregnancy.
When you’re having oral sex with a woman, the risk of transmitting most STIs (like chlamydia or gonorrhoea is really low. But herpes (both cold sores and genital herpes) can easily be transmitted between mouths and genitals, so if you or your partner have cold sores or genital herpes, talk about the best way to protect each other. One good way is avoiding sex when you feel like you’re getting a cold sore or a genital herpes outbreak. You can also try using dental dams – rectangular sheets of latex that you stretch across the genitals or anus to act as a barrier. These can be expensive, awkward to use and difficult to find, but you can buy them online or you can cut up a condom or a glove to make a DIY dam. Have a conversation about sex and sexual health with your partner and decide what works best for you.
Medical “examination gloves” aren’t commonly used by queer women, but are another way to protect you and your partner when you’re fingering or fisting. They are also great at protecting your vagina or anus from fingernails which can cause cuts and grazes. Try having some fun with gloves…and remember the lube!
Lube is great for any kind of penetration, whether fingers, hands, toys or penis. Condoms and gloves are less likely to break to if you use water- or silicon-based lube and it reduces the risk of cuts and grazes from fingernails to your vagina or anus. Try to get a lube that is “glycerin-free” as glycerin can sometimes irritate vaginas and cause thrush.
Because a lot of safe sex information out there doesn’t focus the needs of queer women, we’re often left thinking we’re not at risk of STIs. One of the best things you can do for yourself and your partners is talk about sexual health, and get tested if you think you might be at risk. Try a Women’s Health Centre, Family Planning Clinic, or a trusted GP if you’re nervous about testing.
ACON ‘Here for Women’ provides information on health issues and a range of services for LGBTIQ women in NSW. www.acon.org.au/women. Email us for more info, or to find out where to get safe sex supplies: email@example.com
*We’re using the term “queer women” as the most inclusive option to include a range of sexual orientations and gender identities that might include sex between women.
Viv McGregor, Coordinator, Lesbian and Same Sex Attracted Women’s Sexual Health Project, ACON firstname.lastname@example.org