Hi Anna! I have a question about using protection during sex. I’m currently in my fourth year of university, and have only recently come out and started dating women. I’ve had boyfriends in the past, so I’m not sexually inexperienced, but I feel kind of lost about some of the specifics of getting it on with a girl. I don’t mean the actual mechanics of doing it or anything (no worries there!), but rather what is the deal with using protection?
I guess my question is this: I know that doctors, etc. promote the use of rubber gloves and dental dams when you’re doing the deed, but is that like, actual common practice with most ladies? What kind of gloves do people use? I have this horrible image of those loose fitting rubber gloves from the pharmacy in my mind: not sexy at all. And, most importantly, where was this information when I was learning how to put a condom on a banana in 9th grade Health class?
As much as I’m concerned about the possibility of STIs, I’m also worried about looking silly or inexperienced by whipping out 5 pounds of latex the next time I bring a girl home, since, as a newly-out 22-year-old, most of the girls I meet are way more experienced than I am. And really, who wants to feel silly while they’re naked? I feel like an awkward virgin all over again, and it’s terrible. Thanks for your help!—ReVirginized
Anna says: Safer sex is on y’alls minds lately, huh? We already talked about how to broach safe sex with a one-night stand recently, but for your question, I’ve called for reinforcements. Allison Moon is an author and sex educator who’s writing Girl Sex 101 an illustrated, sex ed book for queer women. She’s raising money to complete the book on Kickstarter now. But first, here’s what Allison had to say about your question:
“Congratulations on coming out, ReVirginized! And good on ya for being aware of safer-girl-sex practices. Much like the condom in the purse signifies a proactive and smart lady when it comes to getting it on with dudes, gloves at the ready often tell me that the woman I’m getting with knows her stuff. If anything, having gloves in your bag will indicate you’re more sophisticated in the ways of lady-lovin, not less.
Gloves are increasingly used by queer ladies for a bunch of practical reasons: They protect against long and/or sharp fingernails, they keep lube “lubey” longer, and they save you from having to wash your hands between touching her and yourself.
Gloves are great if you work with your hands, too. My ex is a hairstylist, and her fingers were always covered in stains from hair dye. I liked her to use gloves so those chemicals wouldn’t end up in my cooch. Same thing if you often have little cuts on your hands from your work or hobbies. And they make after-sex cleanup a breeze. Simply remove the glove and cuddle to your heart’s content.”
It’s easy to find latex or nitrile (latex-free) gloves in sexy colors and multiple sizes. Most folks go for black or purple these days, which spare you from looking like a lab tech (unless you’re into that kind of thing). If you’re lucky enough to live near a feminist sex toy store, you can wander in and try some on. If you’re stuck in the boonies, check out online feminist sex toy stores like GoodVibes, Smitten Kitten, and the Pleasure Chest.
But is glove use common practice? Well, yes and no. They’re very common in group sex situations and queer porn like The Crash Pad, and women are becoming more comfortable using them in private, one-on-one situations. Most of the women I play with decide on a case-by-case basis when they want to use them. Some of us use gloves all the time as a matter of course.
Every sexually active person should be adept and willing to accommodate the safer sex needs of their partner(s). This means having things like gloves, dental dams, and condoms on hand. It’s up to you and your partner(s) what safer sex protocols you want to use. In my experience, dental dam use is even rarer than gloves, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know how to use them. Practice on a willing partner, and then you’ll always have the skill in your back pocket for next time.”
As a personal aside, I’ve used a dental dam exactly once (at the request of a new sex partner). It was like licking an inner tube, but hey, that’s where her comfort level was, so I was happy to oblige. Other than that though, I don’t hear much about dental dams. Granted, someone must be using them—for other reasons than “something to throw at drag show audiences.” Also, and this is something I learned from Allison in one of her workshops, you can turn a glove into a dental dam quickly and easily, which is so smart and so MacGyver a move that your lady can’t NOT be impressed.