Category Archives: Monologues

Ewwww, you have what?

For Andrew, the end of STI and disease stigma beings at the disclosure process. He finds that being open, matter-of-fact and disclosing his HIV status without shame is the most effective method- no beating around the bush. What is your approach to receiving or giving an STI disclosure?  

It was like any other day where you take those tentative steps in a new friendship. I stepped out the door and headed down to my local pub to meet up with a guy who I had been talking to for a few weeks on-line. Today was the day we had decided that we should meet face-to-face in the flesh and see where it goes from there. So when I get in the bar he waves me over and hugs me tightly and says, ‘Pleasure to finally meet you’. Of course, I am happy to be expanding my circles of friends but deep down I have a dark secret; a secret I was ashamed of back then.

So after a few rounds of drinks the conversation (as you can well imagine between to very horny men) got down to the nitty gritty of sex. ‘Aww Gary’ (not his real name), ‘There’s something about me you must know.’ To which he came closer and gave me a kiss on the cheek and whispered, ‘You can’t shock me. I want you’. I blushed and looked down then back up and stared him long and hard in the eyes and just blurted out, ‘I have HIV’. He open and closed his mouth a few times then pushed me hard away saying, ‘Ewwwww, you have what?’ I told him again everything. After a long tirade of abuse both physical and verbal, he just walked away, and thankfully I never saw him again.

For people who are as scared as he was I have taken to introducing myself like this: ‘Hi. I’m Andrew and HIV+ is what I am.’

This as you can well imagine has its ups and downs and can at times frighten people but I do it because LIFE IS TO DAMN SHORT not to! I shouldn’t have to waste time on what false friends might think or how they may treat me due to the positive diagnosis.

There is the other side of the coin as well: In order to protect yourself from harmful reactions or protect those you hold dear, at times it’s OK not to disclose to others. Positive people develop ways to navigate a disclosure and search for social cues to try to predict if it is safe to share their status with a particular person. Just know that anyone who truly loves you should have no bother with you begin HIV+ or having any other STI other than, ‘Will you be ok?’

The only time you really must disclose is when you intend to have any form of sexual contact with someone else.

And the onus isn’t only on those who must disclose a positive status. Harmful reactions to disclosure strengthen stigma and further help the virus spread. The general public needs to learn how to respectfully receive a disclosure.

The disclosure of any disease, infection or condition should not be an embarrassment or something to shame. It should be as easy as telling them, ‘Oh god, make me fucking cum.’ But we can’t, we don’t, we wont, and this is destroying families, lives and killing people whether be in direct connection to the said STI or due to the secondary effect which is the suicide of so many every year. The fact that this can still happen in this century is a disgrace.

I argue that the fault lies in the hands of all those who have reacted badly to being disclosed to- including reacting with violence or verbal abuse. It also lies in the fault of those who do not disclose. There is a general fear in our culture towards talking openly about diseases and conditions. This fear must be overcome.

The reasons people don’t disclose ranges from fear, disgust, pain (both physical and mental). The one that stumps me is people who want to intentionally pass on the virus. These twisted, deranged assholes are rare, but their extreme actions are potent enough to further stigmatize the entire HIV community and make tolerance of HIV in the dating scene even more difficult. Any reason for intentionally transmitting any disease is a disgusting habit which needs to be stamped out by everyone who cares about this. We can make stigma a thing of the past if we all shamelessly disclose and respectfully receive disclosure.

So to end this little piece, understand me when I shout this:

‘IM ANDREW JOHN NIELD AND I’M A PROUD MAN WHO JUST HAPPENS TO BE HIV+, STAND BY ME AND I WILL STAND BY YOU AND TOGETHER WE WILL WIN AGAINST THE BIGGOTS.’

Monologues are independent stories and the opinions shared are the author’s own

 

The Birth of Momdoms (includes actual birth)

As a child, did an adult ever “catch” you looking through books of a sexual nature, like human biology texts or porn? Did the adult respond in shock, embarrassment, anger? For the brothers of Momdoms, their mother’s reaction was the spark that set off their company’s mission today. Here’s Wayne Simpkins telling that story:

MomDomGraphic-v2Penis. Vagina. The words that made us all giggle in our childhood years. But for us, it went way beyond that.

Our mom was a nurse who had no problem saying those words more often than your average mom. So often, that we would even have contests to see who could get her to say the word “penis” the most times.

Our mother would openly explain to us what was happening to our bodies as we were growing up, and how, when the time came, “The Talk” about sex was more of a conversation. No biggie.

There are four siblings in our family, three boys and the youngest a girl. Needless to say, we were always getting into things. When we were around the ages of 8-13, we found a box in our garage of our mothers old college nursing books, at that age we immediately honed in on the anatomy books. Our mother came down and “caught us”, we were mortified. Somehow, despite our young ages, despite sex positive parenting, we already knew the feelings of shame around sex.

But in true fashion of our mother she said, “Well don’t just sit there, bring them upstairs so we can look through them. We can talk about any questions you have, just please don’t color in the pictures.”

Our family has always used humor to get through awkward situations and this was no different. When you are a child, your mind is imaginative and you draw your own conclusions based on things you see and hear. Many questions were cleared up that day. Questions like:

“Do you have to pee in a girl to get her pregnant?” Followed by Eeewwwww and laughter.

“If our sister’s clitoris grows, will that turn her into a boy? Is it like an inside penis?” Eeewwwww and laughter.

“So the baby doesn’t come out of the butthole?” “Haha – you said butthole!”

This prompted my mother to to sit us down and watch a program that showed an actual child birth. We sat there in shock, but mostly awe.

As adults, my bothers were the coaches for their wives when they gave birth. I am the oldest son and gay. My sister asked me to be her birth coach- she wanted to be sure that I would be able to experience it for myself. Twenty years ago it was not quite the “norm” for a gay couple to have or raise a child.

Without our mother being as open and honest about sex and sexuality, our lives would be very different, certainly not as fulfilling. Thankfully, this mindset has been passed on to the next generation in our family.

With Momdoms, we wanted to reach families that were not quite as open as our family, by offering a tool for them to use that makes the “smart sex” conversation a little less awkward.

Momdoms has a humorous assortment of 1950s-style condom storage tins complete with tips for parents on why and how to talk about sex with their kids. Each tin includes six FDA approved lubricated latex condoms and can also be customized with your picture in place of the illustration. Turns out that moms and sex are an interesting combination, making anyone get a kick out of Momdoms. Check ‘em out!

 

Naked For Safe Sex

Andrew shows that three floors, a cold night and a neighbor’s cat are no obstacle against safer sex. How far would you go to get a condom? 

Copyright of condommonologues.com

In this circumstance, I didn’t mind a bit of shrinkage! Copyright of condommonologues.com

As a lot of these types of stories go, it was after a very heavy night of dancing and drinking at Club Kali in London.

I hooked up with some random guy who had taken a shine to my, let’s say, bulge. We had stopped off on the way back for supplies. We reached his flat. We were ripping clothes off of each other and were getting wet and horny when I realised that I forgot the shopping bag with all the condoms and lube in his car!

Now this guy lived on the third floor of a block of flats in the middle of Hackney. And I was drunk and I was very horny. So I decided that there was no time to waste and didn’t put clothes on to run down to his car stark naked.

It was a cold night and for once I would have been glad of it to cause shrinkage. Because you see, this elderly neighbour got an awful shock when she let out her cat. So I did the polite thing and said good night, leaving her stammering as I walked back upstairs. I couldn’t help but laugh while pulling on the condoms. It was worth it to spend a happy few hours having very safe but very hard fun.

Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own.

 

How an allergy improved my sexual safety

Something was wrong. I was a little itchy and, more concerning, I was sore. You know, down there. I was worried. I’m a safe-sexer, but I had one rather recent indiscretion in my past. As far as those things go, it was a fairly safe indiscretion, but it was one nonetheless.

Condom_pushing_blocksWhat happened was this: I was in bed late one night with my regular, monogamous partner. We had been going at it exclusively with each other for a couple of months, but we had not been tested. In the previous months, we’d been conscientious about protection and had used a condom every time we had sex.

(And, as a side note, I want to add that despite having the largest penis I’ve ever seen, he never once complained about putting a condom on. There was some pinching, and the things very obviously did not always fit well, but it was always more important for both of us that he wear one than he complain about discomfort, and so he always did. Men since, all with more averagely sized penises, who complain about condoms have gotten little sympathy from me.)

This particular time, however, we were travelling, and when the mood struck, we were not prepared. I had my period, so I was confident I could avoid a pregnancy risk if we were very slightly inventive. There was some bargaining- all with myself. He didn’t put any pressure on, but was up for what I decided. And I decided to go for it.

Now, here I was, weeks later. So sore I couldn’t stand to touch my own vagina. I trusted him to tell me if he’d had symptoms of something, but then guys don’t always get symptoms. His promise that nothing seemed unusual or uncomfortable with his body didn’t mean that we were STD-free. And so, heavy hearted and sore-vagina-ed, I scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist.

The morning of the exam, things were not looking up. I had developed a blister on my vagina, which had me pretty well convinced that I had either contracted herpes or syphilis. I climbed up into the stirrups, ready to be given bad news.

But, poking at me while I lay uncomfortably on my back, knees falling to either side, the doctor had a different idea. She promised me she would run the STD tests we should have had so much sooner, but she also said she didn’t think my problem was a result of anything I’d contracted from a partner.

“I think,” she said, “that you have a latex allergy.”

And so I do. Latex condoms pinch often, and can sometimes burn. The more often I’m exposed to them, the more intense my reaction and the longer it lasts. If I’m having a lot of sex with latex condoms, I can get to a firey state that takes days to cool. But the allergy is slight, and it’s also cumulative. The discomfort is fairly mild if I stick to 3-4 times a week, and sometimes if I’m going for more than that, the discomfort seems worth it. I’d still rather be protected, and also get to enjoy the sex I’m having.

Of course I can also use non-latex condoms. I can also use other forms of birth control with regular partners, who I always now ask to be tested at the beginning of our sexual relationship.

Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own.

Learn more about latex-free condoms here and here.

 

Dear Husband, When Will The Condom Come Off?

The reality of TasP (treatment as prevention) is having a profound effect of serodiscordant couples today. Scientific evidence shows that under certain conditions, the risk of HIV transmission is so low that doctors now recommend some serodiscordant couple have condomless sex if they want to get pregnant. But for many, updated evidence cannot match the deep-seeded fear of contracting HIV. Armed with sources and facts, this monologue is a personal letter from an HIV positive woman confronting her husband’s apprehensions to start having condomless sex. 

DearHusbandDear Husband,

We have been in this relationship for a year and you know how I feel about you. I think you are the most wonderful man in existence, in my unbiased opinion. We share many interests, we have fun together, and in spite of my HIV status, the sex has been great. There have been no major challenges with my status until now.

As I long for a time when I could have condomless sex and exchange body fluids, an intimate act that feels like none other, condoms are an increasing reminder that we have a barrier between us. Regardless of how much lube one uses there is no condom available that does not feel like a condom. The female condom is okay but as my colleague noted, it is like having sex with a garbage bag inside you, complete with the noise of the crumpling latex.

I did get pregnant the good old fashioned way with my first child from a previous relationship and she is not HIV positive, nor is her father. I want to have another baby, but somehow that conversation gets diverted each time I initiate it. As you very well know, I do want to get pregnant naturally and our doctor recommended we try the good old fashioned way, like other hetero-couples wanting to have a child. We are in a committed, monogamous, trusting relationship. We know each other’s sexual health and HIV status. Scientific evidence presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) and discussion leading up to CROI left me feeling hopeful that soon the condoms would be put to rest.

Gus Cairns explains the outcomes of the latest PARTNER study which is showing promise while waiting for the final results in 2017. The PARTNER study is an international collaboration taking place in several European countries and is funded by the National Institute for Health Research in England and coordinated by Copenhagen HIV Programme (CHIP), in collaboration with University College London (the sponsor) and The Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, London.

“When asked what the study tells us about the chance of someone with an undetectable viral load transmitting HIV, presenter Alison Rodger said: “Our best estimate is it’s zero” (In Cairns 2014).

Seeing all of this evidence presented, along with knowing about my HIV negative child, makes me anxious as we wait for the time when we can stop using condoms. I trust you and I know you trust me but your refusal to accept new scientific evidence resulting from research studies, information that is not really new, as I was told years ago that under certain conditions I am not infectious, is making me question many things about this relationship. Mark S. King raises the question of whether people living with HIV will ever be considered safe sex partners. He refers in his writing to the ways in which people living with HIV are viewed as “suicide bombers” (2014). While reading his articles, I realized just how much work is ahead for the HIV community. But does there need to be such effort with us as I wonder if we are continuing to make informed decisions?

Who would have thought a condom could create so much stress in our relationship. Stress I was not prepared for and did not see coming as I believed you would eventually accept the evidence presented and change practices accordingly. After all, we are not in a one-night-stand as random strangers not knowing each other’s sexual history, where a condom would be used without question. We have evolved in our relationship. Or so I thought. But the continued use of condoms makes me question whether or not you can finally rid yourself of the fear of HIV transmission.

On a global scale, Bob Leahy (2014), who initially was not sold on the idea of treatment as prevention (TasP), now supports it completely, but he does remind the HIV community of “the huge amount of work that needs to be done, with advocacy at all levels being a sizeable component”, to convince institutions of the need for supporting and implementing TasP. As individuals, you and me are part of the TasP model.

Sex is not as spontaneous as it could be because we always have to ensure beforehand that condoms are nearby. The act of getting the condom ready and reaching for it is a constant, nagging reminder that screams out – “Watch out for HIV the big boogy man waiting in the corner reminding us to constantly be on guard”. I fantasize about the day when we can simply wake up in the morning and have sex without any reminders, with complete intimacy and trust without anxiety and fear.

What would I do if I were in your position?

I cannot say with certainty that I would embrace the idea and abandon the condoms without any lingering fear and doubt. I just do not know. I would like to think I would understand the science of HIV and realize that there is no real risk; that I would abandon my trepidation and in turn abandon condoms eventually. Maybe I would, and maybe I would not, preferring to hang on to the comfort and security of the condom.

Condoms are for one night stands, random sex, having sex with partners whose status is unknown, for avoiding all other sexually transmitted infections. We have none of those concerns. I have to be honest as I share my thoughts. I have thought on a couple of occasions of pursing sex with someone else who wants to have condomless sex. I need to feel the intimacy and deep connection to a man as we have sex that is uninterrupted with reminders, good old fashioned spontaneous sex. I never thought a small piece of latex could cause so much stress and doubt in a relationship. I want to maintain the status quo but on the other hand I want to have sex without condoms.

The last thing I want to do is transmit this virus to you. But as Marc-André LeBlanc (2014) so eloquently explained it, you are in fact safer with an HIV positive partner than with one whose status is unknown. I am beginning to give up hope as I try to explain that in fact, you -my partner- are safer with me as an HIV positive woman with stable, well controlled health status. I am getting impatient. There is growing tension in the relationship. If you cannot trust me and scientific evidence then I am going to begin to wonder if you have really addressed your fears, in depth, about HIV.

The province of British Columbia as an international leader in developing a model of the Test and Treat strategy, recently collaborated with China in offering services for them to implement to reduce HIV transmission through TasP, (Povidence Health Care: 2014), providing further evidence for the need to recognize how treatment does prevent transmission of HIV. I am on and adhere to treatment and am well controlled.

I understand completely and if the shoe were on the other foot. It may take some convincing on my part to trust and believe what is being presented. I am no different from anyone else and my personal perceptions and ideology take time to adjust to scientific evidence which is presented. My education about HIV came from the old fear based strategically targeted place. It is not easy to let go of those fears. They are embedded in our institutions and in our individual psyche, very deeply, I am finding out.

Len Tooley who does HIV testing, explains how “sexual health is often framed in the idea of risk instead of rewards. He goes on to explain how “this may present HIV and those living with it as the worst possible outcome imaginable, which is not only stigmatizing but often irrational and false since many people with HIV are, in fact, just fine” (In Straube: 2014).

So, will you let me know when the condom can come off?

Sincerely,

Your partner and lover.

Monologues are independent stories and the opinions shared are the author’s own.

References
Cairns,Gus. 2014. No One With An Undetectable Viral Load Gay Or Heterosexual Transmits HIV in First Two Years of PARTNER Study. March 4

Leahy, Bob. 2014. The TasP Train Has Left The Station. April 10

Leblanc, Marc- André. 2014. FUCK POZ GUYS! February 10

King, Mark. S. 2014. When People with HIV Became Suicide Bombers  April 2

King, Mark.S. 2014. Will HIV Ever Be Safe Enough For You? March 11

Providence Health Care. 2014. China joins forces british columbia conquer hiv/aids. November 27

Straube, Trenton. 2014. Against All Odds. POZ April/May

What a Good Guy Barometer Looks Like

You can measure the quality of a guy by the proximity of which he brings up condoms. It’s a direct relationship: the sooner he mentions them, the better he is!

At the bottom of the barometer scale is this guy:

You’re both naked. You’ve been rolling around, kissing, whatever. It’s hot. You’re at that point where you’re getting worried about proximity of genitals on genitals, so you roll it out. “Hey, are we ready for a condom? Should I grab one for us from my trusty bedside stash?” (You’re always stocked, of course, because you enjoy some healthy slutting. It keeps things fun!)

This one’s a bad egg, though, and he’s going down the Wonka trash shoot: “I’m too big for a condom,” he says. Or, maybe: “I can’t feel anything with those things on.”

He’s a dick, so you don’t want his dick.Hot-Peni-small

 

The middling man goes here:

You’re edging toward naked, or maybe you’re fully naked. You’re rolling around, rubbing closer. It’s getting hot in here. That moment comes again. Looks like there’s going to be some hetero-normative penetration in not too long, if you’re reading the signs right. You sort of pause, maybe, or slow down, and he notices your slight deceleration before you get the words out. “Should we get a condom?” he asks.

Winner! Super hot when the guy takes some responsibly and asks first!Hot-Peni-medium

 

And the stellar, gold-star, barometer busting man?

You’ve been talking all night. It’s total heart-to-heart. Heart-to-heart moves on to mouth-to-mouth and you decide to move things from the couch to the bedroom. You sit down on his bed, and the music goes on, the lights go off. He says, holding your hand, ready to start kissing you again, “Just so you know, I have condoms if we need them. No pressure though.” Swoon!

This guy’s a winner.Hot-Peni-large

What do you think? What makes your barometer burst?

Monologues are independent stories. Opinions shared are the author’s own,

Why I Always Make Him Wear a Condom

Sure, there are the obvious reasons why I would want him to wear a condom (“him” referring to, of course, the anonymous him that comes and goes. Not a long-term boyfriend kind of him, but the one night stand kind of him; a friends-with-benefits-kind-of-him; a “we just started dating” kind of him).

Being prepared and willing to use a condom is as common a courtesy as a hand shake.

Being prepared and willing to use a condom is as common a courtesy as a hand shake.

Those reasons being assigned to the usual “I don’t want a baby or an STD right now” category. But this isn’t another typical “Hey, wear a condom so you don’t get herpes” mini-rant. Nope, instead, I’m talking about the psychological reasons why I make him wear a condom. I’m talking about the emotional implications of raw dogging it, and that slightly shuddering sensation of the lack of respect that goes into a guy refusing to put a condom on after I’ve expressly requested it. I’m talking about these reasons because there are only so many times you can tell a girl that she should make him wear a condom; because STDs suck before you realize that there has to be another reason why you should expect all your female friends to abide by this standard of sexual courtesy.

If you’re the type of person who might in any way be inclined to have casual sex with a variety of partners (or maybe even one), having condoms regularly stocked in your bedroom is an obvious five minute, five dollar solution to the “if I don’t have a condom, we might not bang” problem. It’s certainly less emotionally trying that the inevitable, “Holy shit, what if I have an STD” paranoid mind rant that can last for up to a month after an unprotected sexual interlude. It’s a common courtesy, really, a social necessity. It’s polite, much in the same way that shaking someone’s hand when you first meet them is polite. So why do anything other than err on the side of caution?

I guess that’s why any time a guy tries to not wear a condom, I immediately question whether or not this guy has any social grace whatsoever.

Sure, I guess you can’t buy a book at Walgreen’s that extols the virtues of abiding by hook up etiquette in a step by step how-to guide. But any guy that thinks he’s going to get away with disrespecting my body, putting me at risk for a whole host of unwanted consequences for the sake of a minimal increase in his sexual pleasure has another thing coming. Not wearing a condom makes it obvious that my concerns about my sexual health are irrelevant to this guy, and if my concerns aren’t respected in this situation, then what else about me does he not respect? Everything, probably, which is quite an unsexy, unthrilling realization. I’d rather run from the room screaming than sheepishly allow myself to be conned into unprotected sex.

Maybe the usual, “Got a condom question?” isn’t so much a question of whether or not he has enough foresight to buy condoms from the store, but more a litmus test of whether or not he’s mastered the basic sexual skill of respecting the other person’s boundaries and precautionary desire to avoid STDs and pregnancy. Because heaven knows, if you’re not using a condom with me, you probably didn’t use a condom with the last girl

or the girl before that, or the girl before that,

which means the mathematical probability of contracting an STD has increased tenfold. And I’m sure you know by now that I’m not willing to subject myself to playing Russian roulette with a gun full of STD bullets.

So, in lieu of that, please go to the corner store and buy some condoms. You’ll automatically earn an extra ten points in my book.

Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own.

 

Why We Should Stop Using Fruits & Veg in SexEd

The banana (or cucumber) penis prop in sex education has got to go. I think it’s an outdated euphemism that helps adults (not young people) feel more comfortable talking about sexuality. Shyfully skirting topics only reinforces the mechanisms of shame around sex. It creates an environment in which certain question can’t be addressed. Hence ignorance perpetuates. At it’s core, the banana is a symbol of non-pragmatic, fear-based sex education.

Character 'Jonah Takalua' from Summer Heights High getting schooled in sex "practicalities".

Character ‘Jonah Takalua’ from Summer Heights High getting schooled in sex “practicalities”.

Like so many Americans, my sex education in high school was minimal. It was covered only once in the entire four years during a single, out-of-the-blue gym class. Topics were rushed and general. Looking back, I realize how heterocentric and cis-genedered sex ed was simply by the way information was presented and what was intentionally absent. How to use a condom, however, is the most vivid lesson I remember.

Us 14 – 15 year old boys and girls were instructed to sit on the basketball court floor and watch our gym teacher (a bleach-blond nutritionist who always wore L.L. Bean fleeces) pull out a single condom and banana from her canvas sports bag. “Now, who will volunteer to help me put this on?” She cheerfully asked us.

Of course, no one raised their hand so she picked the student who was talking under his breath to another student. “Brad, come on up and show the class how to use a condom.”

This was discipline.

Brad stood in front of the class with a grin and demonstrated how to open the condom wrapper. He handed the wrapper to the teacher in exchange for the banana. Then holding fruit in one hand and latex in the other, he placed the condom over the top and vigorously struggled to pull it down the, um, shaft.

“No no no!” blurted the gym teacher. “You’re skipping a very important step. You must make sure not to trap air in the top hat.”

Top hat?

Brad struggled trying to simultaneously pitch the tip and roll the condom down one-handedly. “Here, let me help you.” The teacher reached for the banana’s shaft and said, “You hold the hat while I roll,” and started to inch down the condom.

The awkwardness and humor of it all distracted me from actually understanding how to put on a condom. If anything, it seemed far more complicated because it required more than two hands.

How about suggesting to practice by one’s self? To masturbate with a condom? Or discuss ways partners can put condoms on together? Or ways to negotiate condom use? Or the variety of condom options that are out there?

Practical, matter of fact approaches are much more effective at equipping young people to make informed choices.

I think a penis or dildo model should be used instead of these foody phallics. Moreover, a dildo is great for including information about queer safer sex and toy sharing. Condom use does not only apply to penis!

The plastic penis prop by Justin Hancock of Bish Training is a stellar example of condom instructions for the real world.

Penis models are so less awkward.

Penis models are so less awkward.

Watch Bish Training’s condom use here.

How were you taught condom usage? What props were featured in your sex education (if any!)?

Our Hippie Secret Teasure

The first time I saw a condom I was nine years old and slightly too old to be playing pretend. This sounds wrong, but let me explain:

I was sitting in my friend’s parents’ 1992 Subaru station wagon and we were playing a game called “Hippie Road Trip” where we were two hippies driving across America. I’m not sure what this game entailed besides my friend sitting in the driver’s seat of the parked car and turning the wheel every so often to not crash into imaginary pedestrians and animals. While looking through the glove box for a map (we had gotten lost) I came across a box of condoms.

TreasureBox-CM

“There was something so thrilling about finding evidence of the adult world.”

I had heard about the legendary pieces of latex in class from the school nurse. She was a portly woman with red hair who had clearly been uncomfortable explaining “the birds and the bees” to a class of fourth graders. Her perspiration and rushed tone, however, had made the topic more exciting, more mysterious. And so it was no wonder then that finding a box of condoms to us was like discovering buried treasure.

“They’re my parents’,” explained my friend, who had christened herself ‘Sparkle’ whilst playing pretend. I too had taken a new name for my character, the most beautiful name I could think of, which at the time happened to be ‘Crystal’. Her parents were in fact real hippies and as a result Sparkle was somewhat of an expert on the subject of sex.

“Here– let me see those,” she said, extending her hand. She opened the box and grabbed a small, plastic square before tearing it open. It was long and cylindrical with a strange almost soft texture.

“Can I have one?” I asked excitedly.

It was not so often that I had such easy access to illicit objects. There was something so thrilling about finding evidence of the adult world. She handed me a small plastic square of my own. Pretty soon the entire box had been completely emptied and every one of the six condoms was unwrapped. It turned out that condoms could fit over your hands, your feet and even the stick shift of a 1992 Subaru station wagon.

Finally, tired of playing with them, we folded and stuffed all of the unwrapped condoms back into their box and into the glove compartment.

Sparkle readjusted her seat and went back to concentrating on driving. I stared out the window of the un-moving car, satisfied with our new found hippie secret treasure.

Monologues are independent stories. Opinions shared are the author’s own. Also, you should know that glove compartments are a terrible and risky place to store condoms. The heat from the car can breakdown the latex and render condoms useless. Do you remember your first encounter with condoms or dams?

Lessons from Watching Lesbian Porn in Class

LesSexMonoThe first time I had sex with another woman I had no idea what I was doing. As I started to take off her panties, she said down to me, “Gloves?”

I remember thinking: “What gloves? What for?”

The practice seemed so esoteric to me. From then forth my whole orientation with safer sex altered. As a teen, I had not fully realized my sexuality and only had sex with (cis) guys. I was surrounded by sexual health messages that greatly encourage safety:

Understand birth control options, communicate with partners, get tested, use condoms.

But there was no enthusiasm for queer sexual safety. Saying, “Use gloves” or “Use a sex dam” is very different from “Use a condom”. None of my education went beyond the scope of heterosexual sex; specifically, penis-vagina penetration.

Clearly, this education ill-equipped me for the “real world”. But it also served a deeper function. Excluding information about safer lesbian sex, or more inclusively, sex between people with vulvas, maintained and reinforced the attitude that it’s not “real sex”, and that women-who-have-sex-with-women don’t really need to practice safety.

As a bisexual (cis) woman who has had penis-vaginal sex before, where did I fit into risks? Do people really use dental dams? Are gloves always necessary for manual sex?  If so, why aren’t gloves promoted more among heterosexually-based safety messages? What sexual acts are less risky than others? I soon realized that I was not alone in the confusing and silent knowledge gap. The most powerful moment of this realization happened during a university course lecture in which we watched lesbian porn.

The class was titled, “The Sociology of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic”. That day we were covering the 1988 ACT UP protest of Cosmopolitan Magazine for publishing an article which (very erroneously) claimed that women were unlikely to contract and transmit HIV. The professor then dimmed the lights and switched on a porno short. Current Flow by Jean Carlomusto stars Annie Sprinkle and Joy Brown getting it on with an array of safer sex props ranging from condom covered vibrators to eating pussy with sex dams. The women fuck on the couch while a broadcast of the ACT UP protest faintly play on the television in the background. This video was specifically made to counteract Cosmopolitan. It was one of the first lesbian porn made by and for women that explicitly shows how to have safer sex.

The professor then bluntly asked the class, “Who here actually knew how to use a dental dam or understood the function of latex gloves prior to this video?

Only a few raised their hands. Among a group of predominately queer, early twenty-somethings this felt horrifying and shocking.

That activist porno is just as relevant today as it was 24 years ago. Lesbians and women who have sex with women, including those who are FAAB (female-assigned at birth), continue to be overlooked in the HIV epidemic. According to a 2009 review by the GMHC, very little research has devoted to the study of lesbian sexual play yet we are still learning new degrees of STI risks associated with different acts such as manual sex, fisting, tribbing, sharing toys and oral sex.

I’m lucky that my first time having sex with another girl was one that encouraged safer practices. Safety wasn’t optional. It was ethical. And it was hot. It opened up my world and cemented my desire to learn more, inform my options, and talk about safety confidently with other partners. But I know not everyone (and lesbians in particular) experiences such enthusiasm- including a lack of concern from medical professionals who assume “queer* women*” experience almost zero risk of HIV and other serious sexually transmitted infections.

For me, safer sex has developed a whole new dimension of excitement because of the political protest attached to it. Feminist mantra: “The personal is political”. It’s partly an acknowledgement that the sex I have with another woman is very real despite hetero-sexist attitudes. It’s also an intimate act of caring for and protecting each other.

Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own. For more information on sexual safety for lesbians and women-who-have-sex-with-women, the National LGBT Health Education Center is a good place to start. Please do comment and share other recommended resources below.