Thursday, October 29, 2009

Q & A: "I am confused about how to have safe sex between two women"

Q. I recently came to the conclusion that I am bisexual. I am
confused about how to have safe sex between two women. And what
exactly IS a dental dam?

A. A dental dam is the latex material a dentist places in
your mouth when having dental work done. It is often used
during heavier procedures where tooth fragments or blood may be
generated. It is impermeable to infectious organisms, even those
as small as the HIV virus, and therefore can be used to protect
yourself against an STD. Plastic wrap from the grocery store (the
heavier stuff) can also be used, as well as a condom that has
been cut open longitudinally.

The point, of course, is to provide an impermeable barrier
between you and your sexual partner. The trick is how to do it
without losing fun, spontaneity, and intimacy. It may take some
getting used to. It also may be easier to do if the barrier is
used as an expression of caring or love for your partner. You
probably wouldn't want to have sex with her if you didn't care
about protecting her from inadvertent harm. Sex between two women
is statistically much safer than sex between two men, or sex
between a man and a woman. But you would be wise not to forget
about STDs.

First, with regards to HIV: anytime there is the potential for
infected bodily secretions to gain access to your bloodstream,
there is the potential for disease transmission. A cut or scrape
on your finger, a small sore on your labia, a cold sore or scrape
in the mouth -- all can be routes for HIV transmission if
infected body fluids come into contact with those areas. In a
woman, these body fluids include vaginal secretions, menstrual
blood, breast milk, even saliva (although transmission by kissing
alone has never been documented). Other STDs such as herpes or
genital warts may be transmitted during direct vaginal contact
between you and your partner, sometimes even without visible
lesions.

So how do you know? You really don't, which is why everyone is
being bombarded with the notion of prevention. Until you've been
in a longstanding monogamous relationship and feel totally
confident that you and your partner are infection-free (this is a
very tricky assumption), the use of a barrier during oral sex, or
during vaginal-vaginal contact, is a good idea. A latex glove, or
fingercot, may be used if your fingers or hands will be exposed
to vaginal fluids.

Finally, don't forget that as a bisexual, if you happen not to be
using condoms during sex with a man, you may be placing your
women partners at greater risk too.

-- R. Jandl

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