The Basics of Safer Sex for Lesbian, Queer and Trans Folks

If you’re in the US, many of us didn’t get any sex education at all — if we did, it was likely closer to the Mean Girls depiction than a thoughtful or medically accurate instruction that set us up for success as sexually active adults. And no matter how (relatively) good your sex education was, it likely focused entirely heterosexual sex. Many lesbian and bisexual women who are otherwise very well informed have no idea what safer sex might look like for them — and myths and misunderstandings abound. Here’s what all women having sex with other women need to know about safer sex and sexual health:
Lesbian sex can still transmit STIs — but you can reduce your risk
Many of us don’t know as much about STIs as we think we do — and one common misconception is that only penetrative sex between cis women and men. Oral sex and even toys can also transmit STIs; and it’s entirely possible for anyone to be living with an STI without knowing it. None of this needs to be reason for panic, though; there are plenty of safer sex measures that can quickly and easily protect you from risk of STIs.
Barrier methods
When we think about safer sex for cis straight people, our first thought is often condoms. And barrier methods, including condoms, are still a great option for lesbian safer sex — even if the people having it aren’t necessarily having penetrative sex.

Barrier methods can include gloves or finger cots if you’re having sex with your hands; this can protect both people involved from exchanging fluids when they don’t want to via small cuts or wounds on your skin or around your cuticles. Wearing gloves is also more convenient and pleasant in some cases — removing a glove can be easier than cleaning lube off your hands, and can protect the receiving partner from the discomfort of ragged nails or rough skin.
Condoms are also plenty useful in lesbian sex, and have more applications than you might think. They can stretch to accommodate many sizes and shapes, meaning they can be used to easily create a barrier around a huge range of sex toys. If you have a Hitachi Magic Wand or an Njoy Pure Wand next to the bed that you usually use for yourself but want to try with a hookup, you can put a condom over one easily and share it with your date anxiety-free.
Condoms are also enormously useful for use with strap-ons and dildos as well as penises; it’s well worth keeping them in your bedside table. Condoms are helpful for any toys you plan to use with more than one partner, or use with one partner in multiple ways; it can cause infection to use the same toy for anal and then later vaginal sex, but using a condom means you can change it in between and continue on without a care.
Dental dams are perhaps the most maligned of any lesbian safer sex method — they can be difficult to find, and many feel that they take the pleasure out of both giving and receiving oral sex. At the same time, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can all be transmitted through cunnilingus — some might prefer an option like Lorals, which promise to be easier to use/wear than dental dams and boast material 0.07 millimeters thin for maximum sensation.
Safety and sanitation with toys and accessories

For many queer women, toys are a fun and significant part of our sex lives, whether solo or with others. Although it can feel like using toys means avoiding direct body fluid contact, there are still safety priorities to keep in mind when using toys in any context.
Before even using a toy, it’s important to shop for the right one — some toys are made with materials that unfortunately aren’t body-safe. Often, sex toys are categorized for sale as “novelty purchases,” which means that they aren’t regulated by the FDA or other governing bodies for your safety. If you’ve shopped at a general online marketplace for toys and been delighted to find a super cheap toy with great reviews, it’s likely that the low price is due to using cheaper, unsafe materials that can leach toxic chemicals into your body. Just a few of these unsafe materials include:
• Jelly rubber
• PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
• BPAs
• Low-grade silicone or glass
These materials should be avoided at all costs — look for toys that say they’re phthalate- and BPA-free, and that state they’re instead made of one of the following materials:
• Medical-grade silicone
• Medical-grade stainless steel
• Borosilicate glass
• ABS plastic
• Lucite

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