Let’s talk about (safe) sex

Two young women talking in bedBY JENN B.

Safe sex is not often a conversation that is had between two women in a sexual relationship, or for women who identify as lesbians have with themselves. But, this topic is just as important as other specific health aspects.

A recent case of HIV being transmitted between two lesbians in a monogamous sexual relationship, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has resurfaced the topic of safe sex between women who sleep with women (WSW). Although it is rare for women to transmit HIV to other women through sexual contact, sexually actively women (and really people in general) should be educated in how to protect your body because a healthy sex life begins with your overall well-being.

WSW should be aware of how to protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), get routinely tested and having an open conversation with sexual partners about their sexual history. For WSW, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, mouth to vagina, vaginal fluids, menstrual blood and sharing sex toys. The most common STIs that can be transmitted between WSW are bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), pubic lice, and trichomoniasis. While all of these STIs can also be passed between women who have sex with men, WSW are at a higher risk for this subset because of the nature of sexual contact.

So, how can you protect yourself against STDs before you’re doing the deed? Go get tested! Planned Parenthood has a great online checker to suggest when you should get tested. Also, make sure your sexual partner gets tested. And more importantly, have an honest conversation with your sexual partner about their test results and sexual history. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Have you been tested for STDs?” before getting down to business. Your sexual health is impacted by every person you’re sexually active with, so it’s important to know this information before the clothes come off.

What test should you get to protect against STDs?

  • Pap Smear: Women who are in their 20s should get a Pap test every 2 years and women 30 and older should get a Pap test every 3 years.
  • STDs: Get screened for all the STDs if you’re sexually active, especially with multiple partners. This should be done at the very least annually, even if you’re in a monogamous relationship. The Office on Women’s Health has a guide you can print out and take to the doctor to help start the conversation on getting tested for STDs.
  • HIV: Knowing your status is important and it’s recommended to get tested yearly. A lot of places offer free or discounted testing that is done on-site, especially during National HIV Testing Day.

How can I protect myself and my partner during sex?

  • Barrier methods: for oral sex try dental dams, saran wrap or slip open condoms. When inserting fingers during vaginal or anal sex try using gloves.
  • Cleaning: wash your hands before engaging in sex (especially under the fingernails) and clean sex toys before each use, especially when switching between vaginal and anal use.

Remember, sex is about having fun and getting your groove on. But that doesn’t mean talking about getting tested, and sharing your sexual history, has to be formal and uncomfortable. Honesty is always an attractive quality and there’s no better way to turn on your partner or prospects than by laying it all out there.

Jenn B. holds a Master in Public Health with a focus on women’s health as well as a Bachelor’s degree in psychology.

For inspiration, visit Passion Sense.

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