Dear Queer: Safe Sex

An advice column about sexuality, gender, dating and overall queerness

By Mollie Whuppie /// Staff Writer

Dear Queer,

I’m a queer woman who hasn’t had much sexual experience, but am still worried about sexually transmitted diseases and infections. How can I have safe sex?


DentalDam(n, Why Wasn’t ITaught about Safe Queer Sex)

Dear Dam,

It is not uncommon for sexual educators, especially in public schools in rural areas, to avoid the topic of non-traditional sexual practices. In some areas, methods of safe anal sex are discussed, but measures for preventing STD and STI transmission between two vagina-owners are rarely mentioned. This results in an undereducated demographic, many of which assume that there are no health risks involved with “lesbian sex.”

As a member of the queer community at Lewis & Clark, I have heard the statistic thrown around that lesbians have the lowest rate of STD and STI transmission. This is often said with a laugh and a high-five, a loaded way of saying “Lesbian sex is not risky — let’s bang.” I will be honest: I have spouted out the claim myself, completely unaware of what I was actually saying.

The study often referred to is never explicitly cited, and Googling “lesbian rates of STD transmission” will give you many results, some finding transmission rates are higher, while others say they are lower.

One of the problems is identifying what constitutes lesbian sex. Not all people who engage in vaginal-vaginal/vaginal-oral/vaginal-digital sex are lesbians, and not all lesbians have vaginas. Are sex acts between two cisgender bisexual women “lesbian sex”?

Knowing your STD and STI status is important, both for your health and the health of your partner(s). Knowing your status is also a good way to segue into asking your partners if they know their status. When asking, avoid using the words “clean” to describe the nature of a person’s sexual history or current condition. Asking before sexual contact is important. Some ways to ask:

So, I was tested for STDs and STIs last week, and my results came back negative. I wanted to let you know that, and was also wondering if you knew your status.

I am recent on my testing, but do you know your STD and STI status? It’s okay if you don’t, but I would like to wait before things progress any further, just to be safe.

Did you read that ‘Dear Queer’ article on safe queer sex? Yeah. Do you know your current STI status?

Is asking sometimes awkward? Yeah, it can be. But that’s okay. Being sexually active requires some responsibility, and being upfront and honest is important. If you don’t know your status, don’t pretend that you do. Some STDs and STIs show no symptoms; you do not know you are negative until you are tested.

Some options for safer queer sex include dental dams, condoms and gloves. Dental dams are thin sheets of plastic held over the genitals or anus of one participant, preventing direct contact from the mouth of the other participant.

Condoms should be used on sex toys, such as dildos — especially if the toy is made of rubber, which cannot be cleaned completely after use. Silicone can be cleaned completely and can be washed with hot, soapy water, boiled or run through the dishwasher, but using condoms is good practice and lowers risk even further.

Make sure to change condoms between partners. Gloves can be used for digital penetration, and prevent direct contact with the participant’s skin. Lube can help make things feel more natural. Also, make sure all participants are not allergic to latex. Check with the Queer Resource Center and Feminist Student Union for these resources.

Your Queer,

Mollie Whuppie & Friends

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