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Women Loving Women: Safer Sex

Safer sex means integrating knowledge with your desires, learning to communicate with your partners and being creative. Empower yourself with safer sex information!

How much is too much?
Every sexual behavior carries some risk. The question is: how much is too much for you? Low-risk doesn’t mean no risk. Learning ways to make risky behaviors safer and then putting them into practice is one way to protect yourself. Figuring out your limits and sticking to them is another. Arm yourself with the facts to make the decisions that are best for you.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Women who have sex with women aren’t immune to STIs or HIV infection. Any behavior in which there’s exposure to blood (including menstrual fluids), vaginal secretions, semen (pre-cum) and/or breast milk carries with it the risk of STI or HIV transmission. Herpes and genital warts (HPV) are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with a lesion, wart or infected skin.

HIV, HPV, herpes and hepatitis are caused by viruses and are treatable, but not curable; HIV, AIDS and hepatitis can cause long-term complications which can lead to death. Bacterial STIs, such as chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea, are transmitted through body fluids and are curable with antibiotics.

Tips for hot sex

The hottest sex happens when you’re free from worries. Some tips:

Communicate: Talk to your partner before and during sex. You want to know her likes, dislikes and limits and she’ll want to know yours.

Get tested: No matter what the results, you’ll know the steps you need to take to be safe. UHS offers routine HIV testing; for an appointment, call (413) 577-5101. Learn more about HIV testing.

Drugs and alcohol: They impair judgment, decision-making and fine motor coordination. Inhibitions are lowered, which may lead you to take greater risks.

Dental dams

Dental dams are pieces of latex rubber used during oral sex to prevent transmission of vaginal fluid or menstrual blood to a partner. Use latex condoms on sex toys to prevent mixing you and your partner’s bodily fluids. Latex condoms and dental dams are sold at the UHS pharmacy.

You can make a dental dam from a latex condom. Here's how:

From a latex glove:
Cut the fingers and wristband off of a latex glove; leave the glove's thumb. Then, make a vertical cut along the side opposite the thumb. Open and use the thumb for your tongue.

From a male condom
Start with a non-lubricated condom for best results; flavored condoms are also available. Before unrolling, cut off the condom’s tip. Make one cut up the length of the condom. Then, open the condom; you'll have a latex square.

When using a dental dam or cut condom, try putting lube directly on the vulva for extra pleasure.

Keeping sex safer

Kissing is safe and fun! If your partner has herpes sores (cold sores) on the mouth, it’s possible to pass herpes to you by kissing. Hepatitis and HIV are transmitted by blood; if either of you have these, don’t brush your teeth right before you smooch!

Masturbation: Nothing is safer than touching yourself when you’re alone. Touching yourself when someone else is watching is just as safe!

Massaging, hugging, cuddling, visual fantasy, reading erotic literature to each other and touching each other are all safe behaviors, as long as no body fluids are exchanged.

Oral-vaginal sex (eating her out): STIs can be transmitted through unprotected oral sex. Spread is possible via vaginal secretions, even if no blood is present. Don’t brush or floss 20 minutes before performing oral sex and use a latex dental dam, especially if there are cold sores, genital herpes or menstrual blood present.

S & M includes a wide range of activities and each person must decide what they’re comfortable with. Exposure to blood, semen, pre-cum and vaginal secretions carry the risk of STI transmission. Make sure all props are clean. Communication is extremely important. Know your limits before you start.

Oral-anal sex (rimming) can be made safer by making sure the anus is clean. Using a latex dental dam can protect against transmission of body fluids.

Fingering and touching are safe behaviors as long as there are no cuts or sores. If sores or warts are present, wash your hands before moving to another part of the body. You can also experiment with latex gloves.

Sharing sex toys can be a great way to experience pleasure. Always make sure to wash toys before switching partners or holes. Condoms are also great if you don’t want to run to the bathroom in the middle of sex. A new condom should be used for each person or hole.

Fisting: Use lots of lube, start slow and listen to your partner. Fisting often involves contact with blood, which can carry HIV and hepatitis. To make this behavior safer, wear a latex glove.

Some people don’t like the taste of latex, so use flavored lube, honey, syrup or jelly. Check the list on this page for lubes that are safe to use with latex. It’s important to use water-based products, because oil breaks down latex. Always check the label to make sure the product doesn’t contain oil or something you or your partner may be allergic to.

Lubes and latex...

Okay to use with latex...

  • Aqua Lube
  • Cool-Whip
  • Crisco
  • For Play
  • Homemade whipped cream
  • Honey
  • Ice cream
  • Jellies
  • K-Y Jelly
  • Pre-Pair
  • Surgilube
  • Syrups

Don't use with latex...

  • Baby oil
  • Butter
  • Chocolate sauce or syrup
  • Hand lotion
  • Liqueurs
  • Mineral oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Redi-Whip
  • Vaseline
  • Vegetable or olive oil