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The Naked Truth
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The STD Words:
A Sobering Look at Safer Sex for
Lesbians and Bisexual Women

Kathy and I were watching the show, "Cashmere Mafia," which has four powerful women as main characters, including one who is a lesbian coming out. The four characters were sitting at a swank restaurant discussing Juliet Draper's husband's affair with Cilla Grey. Juliet says: "I sure as hell don't want to end up like one of those angry, drunken, WASPs in an Edward Albee Play–"

Zoe Burden cuts in with "Did you see the one where the husband cheated on the wife with a goat?"

To which Juliet replies "I would rather it have been a goat than Cilla Grey. At least it would have saved me the STD Screenings..."

The first thing I thought about was that it has long been speculated that Syphilis started when lonely shepherds got a bit too familiar with members of their wooly flock, but then my mind went to the fact that the character on "Cashmere Mafia" was actually talking about SAFER SEX!

This lead my brain to the biggest complaint I’ve had about many lesbian movies and popular shows like “The L Word.” No matter how much finger-action, butt-munching, and lickity-splittin’ goes on, you never see characters using Safer Sex practices, and many openly portray risky behaviors, like having unprotected sex with both women and men.

Take the following “L Word” Characters for example: Tina traipsing back into Straightdom then hightailing it to Lesboworld after seeing her boyfriend clipping his toenails in the living room; then there’s bisexual Alice doing women and a man who claims HE is a lesbian; and the sweet but totally sex-addicted Shane, who got-off two sisters and THEIR MOTHER at the third sister's wedding!

Now don’t get us wrong, Kathy and I LOVE “The L Word,” but graphic scenes of unsafe sex totally give the wrong impression, especially to newly out lesbians who think that there is no way women can catch sexually transmitted diseases from each other.

The fact is that lesbians can be infected with STDs by having unsafe sex with other lesbians, or with bisexuals who have been exposed through semen; sharing needles from IV drug use; piercing or tattooing without the proper sterilization techniques; having unsafe sex with men prior to realizing they are lesbian; or having unscreened artificial insemination and/or blood transfusions. Many STDs are transmitted when blood, vaginal fluids (including menstruation), breast milk, or semen from an infected person enters your body or bloodstream.

How to protect yourself:
Before becoming intimate, it’s up to both partners to ask each other the following question: in the past five years have you or your partner, or ex-partners, participated in unsafe behaviors listed in the previous paragraph? If so, you may want to have a general blood screening and an AIDS test. Wait 3-6 months after your last risky behavior and have a second test. Ask your health-care professional for the latest information on STDs including AIDS, and find out the best way to protect both you and your partner from a potentially deadly virus.

Handy items for safer sex:
Latex gloves and Finger Cots can be purchased at most drug and medical supply stores, and you can also buy gloves in bulk at larger discount stores. These protective barriers are essential to use if either partner has a cut or sore on her finger, hand, mouth, vagina, or anus. These items are great for all kinds of activities, from clitoral stimulation to vaginal or anal penetration. Make sure to change them between vaginal and anal penetration, and also make sure your fingernails are not jagged, which can snag and cut the latex or your partner’s skin. If your partner tends to “flood with love,” then stick to the full latex gloves–they are safer.

Dental dams are five-inch square pieces of latex that can be purchased at medical supply stores. Because unprotected oral sex is risky behavior, dental dams of some kind are essential. You can place the whole square over your partner’s genitals, holding it yourself, or have your partner hold the top while you hold the bottom. Mark the dam with an ink pen to make sure you don’t use the wrong side if you happen to put it down, and throw away your dams after one use. If you or your partner has trouble feeling stimulus through the barrier, you can apply a water-based lubricant to the genital area beneath the dental dam. Single-ply plastic wrap from the grocery store can also be used as a dental dam. Make sure it is non-porous plastic wrap, not microwavable plastic wrap. Just remember, like latex, plastic wrap can rip, so always be careful.

If you use dildos or dildo shaped vibrators, then condoms are a good thing to use. Instead of having to jump out of bed to wash shared toys, just carefully peel off the used condom and slip on a new one. Always pinch the air out of the end before rolling it on, because trapped air bubbles can cause a condom to break. You may also want to use a water-based lubricant to reduce friction, which can also cause breakage. If you are bisexual, use of lubricants with spermicidal agents can harm certain condoms.

Safe, Risky, and Unsafe Behaviors:

Some safe things you can do with your partner are hugging; massaging her everywhere but there; masturbation or watching her masturbate; phone sex; sharing fantasies; using vibrators or sex toys, but not sharing them without washing or changing the condom; dry kissing--no tonguing; or tribadism--rubbing your body on hers without vaginal fluids, blood, or breast milk exchanged.

Risky Behaviors include: French kissing, especially if you have a sore in your mouth or your gums bleed after brushing or flossing. Make sure to wait 30 minutes before kissing your partner if your gums bleed. Shared hand-to-genital contact with finger cots, gloves, or dental dams can be risky if a tear occurs in the latex: Oral sex while using a barrier can also be risky if the barrier moves or tears. Inserting your fist into your partner’s vagina or rectum is always risky because of the pressure it puts on vaginal or intestinal tissues. Also, exchanging sex toys without washing them or using fresh condoms, any form of S&M or rough sex that involves piercing or shaving, or any sort of bloodletting are very risky behaviors.

Unsafe behaviors include: oral sex without a barrier; ingesting female fluids or ejaculate; sharing dildos or vibrators without a condom or without changing condoms in between users; licking the anal area without a dental dam or plastic wrap; fisting; any kind of unprotected sex with a man including oral, vaginal, or anal sex; sharing needles whether for drugs, piercing, or tattooing.

Drug or alcohol use prior to or during sex can impair your judgment to the point of not using safer sex practices. Passion is a wonderful thing, but not quite wonderful enough to die for. Worldwide, millions of people have perished from STDs, especially AIDS. Kathy and I personally knew over 20 people who died of AIDs, both men and women, and we know lesbians who have contacted Chlamydia, Hepatitis B, Herpes, and Genital Warts. Many STDs will stay in your body for the rest of your life, so please be safe and don’t become one of the statistics.

The advice in this column is the opinion of the writers and is not intended as a
substitute for medical or psychological treatment from a health care professional.

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