Non-hetero sex should be safe and sexy, too (duh)!
Q1: "How do I practice safe sex with someone of the same sex? Are there condoms or protection I can use? Specifically, how do I a female with a vagina have sex with another person with a body like mine?"
Q2: "Where do I get more resources on ftf sex? I guess I have always only been exposed to heteronormative sex and was wondering where I could learn about how women have sex with women - further resources on what can occur?"
I’m so happy you’re asking these questions! So many of us get a high school sex education that completely leaves out same sex experiences. I wish it weren’t so hard to come by this type of important information but kudos to you for caring about your sexual health and for taking the time to look for reliable resources and information. Luckily there are many ways that you can make sex safer with someone who has the same genitals as you do!
General Resources for Non-Hetero Sex Technique
For people with vaginas: Check out this online guide for your first time having sex with someone who also has a vagina. If you’re into books, The Whole Lesbian Sex Book, A Passionate Guide for All of Us by Felice Newman is hard to beat.
Know Where to Get Reliable Info About STIs
STIs are transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids (such as semen/cum, vaginal fluid, blood, fecal matter, or saliva) or via skin to skin contact.
Knowing how different STIs are transmitted and how different STIs can affect you will help you make informed decisions about what makes sex feel safe and comfortable for you. Check out tabú's comprehensive guide to STIs! Planned Parenthood and the CDC are also reliable resources.
It’s helpful to know that different sex acts carry different STI risks. The chart below shows which sex acts can transmit which STIs.
Know Your STI Status
In most states, you can get free or low cost STI testing at community clinics. You can also get STI testing through a gynecologist. You can get tested for most major STIs like HIV, hepatitis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Once you know your status and your sex-partner’s status, you’ll have a clearer idea of what types of STIs you might need to protect against. However, some STIs are a little more difficult to test for. For example, people with penises cannot be tested for HPV, even if they carry the virus.
When you have a new sex partner, it’s helpful to have a conversation about your STI status before having sexual contact, that way you can plan what types of protection you will want to use. It can be a little daunting to bring this up with a new partner and there’s no right way to start this conversation. Before having these conversations with a partner, think about what your personal boundaries are, how you will communicate them, and what you would want to know about a partner to feel comfortable proceeding with sex. That way, you know what you hope to get out of the conversation before jumping into it.
Whether you’re having sex with someone of the same sex or not, finding an effective barrier can greatly reduce the chance of STIGMA transmission. A barrier (most common example is a condom) prevents bodily fluids from passing between partners.
If you and your partner have vaginas dental dams and finger cots are good barriers to look in to.
Dental dams are square pieces of latex that you place over the vulva and vaginal opening when you are performing oral sex on a partner. This ensures that partners do not come in contact with each others’ saliva and vaginal fluid.
Finger cots are like little condoms you wear over your fingers! Honestly, there’s not a really high risk of STI transmission from fingering someone’s vagina unless you have cuts on your fingers that would open up a pathway for transmission via blood/vaginal fluid.
If you’re using sex toys with a partner, put a condom over the toy when using it on a partner and change the condom if you’re going to use the same toy on yourself.
If you and your partner have penises, wearing condoms during oral sex and/or anal sex will prevent partners from coming into contact with each others’ semen/cum. If you are having anal sex it is particularly important to use condoms for protection because the anus does not self-lubricate which makes it more susceptible to small fissures or tears during penetrative sex which could open up pathways for STI transmission. Wearing a condom and using a lot of lube are your best bet for making anal both safer and more pleasurable!
Choose Sex Acts That Reduce Risk of STI Transmission
If you know that you or a partner has a certain STI, you can choose to engage in sex acts that are less likely to put you at risk of transmission. For example, if you’re having an active herpes outbreak on your mouth, you can avoid kissing a partner until the sores go away and stick to manual sex (fingering your partner or giving a hand job) so that there is no mouth to genital contact that would potentially transmit the herpes virus.
Additionally, you can always use sex toys such as dildos and vibrators to penetrate your partner or stimulate them. This can provide similar sensations to those you would provide with your body but give you a way to strategically avoid mouth-genital contact, genital-genital contact, or skin to skin contact depending on what STIs you’re working with.
Thanks for your questions!
Header image illustrated by Marcy Gooberman