Tag Archives: sex 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.

Great Sex & HIV – Is it Possible?

I know it is possible to have good sex with a partner who is HIV negative. I did it for years. As I look back, the fear and frenzy about HIV transmission was more manageable back then, more so than now when the mere mention of HIV to potential sex partners causes them to behave in irrational and inconsiderate ways out of fear and hysteria. All of this to say, fear campaigns do not work, they do the opposite of what they were intended for. I can write forever about experiences but I do not want to bore anyone, so here are just a few from recent encounters.GreatSexHIV

1. I was pleasantly surprised when a man I met claimed he was comfortable with my status and wanted to pursue a relationship. Initially it went well but after a short while he began doing strange things, like checking to see if the condom was on during sex. That got frustrating when he upped the frequency so often that I wanted to scream – FORGET IT! How frustrating to be having sex, getting closer to an orgasm and him stopping the show to check the goddamn condom.

2. I met another man who claimed to be comfortable with my HIV status and after a great romp in the sack he promptly jumped up and washed his dick in the sink with hot soapy water. I don’t think the erection had subsided he was so fast. I walked out and never looked back on that one.

3. I can’t forget another experience with someone I had known for a long time who had not been aware of my HIV status. We decided to get intimate and he was shocked when I disclosed my status before hand. He mentioned how I did not look like I had HIV. I really wish I knew how someone looks who has HIV. He did assure me he was comfortable and well informed about HIV; not to worry. The first time we had sex it was great. The next time he came over his pockets were filled with every brand of condom on the market, dental dams, latex gloves and whatever safe sex paraphernalia he picked up at the university health center.

I checked in with him and asked if he was still feeling comfortable because he sure didn’t appear to be. Being that I had an undetectable viral load and was regularly adhering to my meds, the risk of transmission was extremely close to non-existent and we talk about this.   His answer was less than convincing, however, I decided to stop the craziness right then and there. I did not understand how we could have sex comfortably with him caressing me while wearing latex gloves. In the end, I suggested that he purchase an entire body condom, just to be sure. They must be available on EBay. Everything else is these days. This was a particularly sad situation because I lost him as a friend in the process. He left a message on my phone explaining how he could not cope with the fear of contracting HIV.

4. Now back to my HIV negative partner with whom I was in a monogamous relationship. We had the best sex for many years and at no time did he display any signs of being afraid of contracting HIV. He decided, after many discussions, and a visit to my doctor’s office to get the facts, that he was not going to use condoms. We learned that I was an extremely low risk for transmitting the virus and besides, we had been sexually active with no condoms and lots of sex for a year before I learned of my status. When I did get the diagnosis he was tested and the results were negative, as the doctor predicted. I cannot pretend I was completely comfortable with his decision as I strategically placed condoms all over the house and in the car, just in case we were stranded and wanted to have a quickie to pass the time. In the end I had to accept that it was his informed decision to not use condoms and he remains HIV negative today.

I am not encouraging people to have unprotected sex. I am not encouraging people to be reckless. I am encouraging people to use a bit of common sense. It is possible to have sex with a person who is HIV positive and not get infected. Circumstances vary for each couple. Depending on what is negotiated to protect one and other the sex can be great. I know first- hand and I long for the day when I meet someone who has the same understanding and lack of fear that my partner did in those days. Until then it looks like I am going to be having a lot more stories to tell that are less than satisfactory.

Yours unsatisfactorily,

Virgina

(Monologues are independent stories. Opinions are the author’s own). Got a question about HIV transmission and diverse-cordant couples? Ask us below. We also recommend following Shawn & Gwenn, a serodicordant heterosexual couple (Shawn is HIV postive, Gwenn is negative) that have been having great sex for over 13 years.  Learn the facts.  

Non-Latex Condom & Dam Size Chart

banana measure tapeThe world of non-latex condoms is a mysterious one. There aren’t many options. In another post we confirm that there is no such thing as flavored non-latex barriers. Also, most manufacturers do not make “special” sizes for non-latex. By special, I mean anything smaller or larger than 2.1″/53mm base wide and 7.5″/190mm long. Some brands offer sizing information on their packaging, such as Lifestyles’ SKYN and Glyde. But most remain vague.

Each of our size guides offers non-latex options (see our main condom chart or try our condom size calculator for a quicker search). We have consolidated that information into this post to make dimensions easier to find.  This chart is organized by “Regular” and “Large”. There is no “small” or “snug” size non-latex.  Scroll to the bottom for female condoms (sometimes called “internal condoms”) and sex dams.

Read more about the differences between polyisoprene and polyurethane.

(Some external links may be affiliate links that earn us a small commission but this information is not sponsored by any company.  All opinions and advice are our own).

Non-Latex Regular

Trojan Supra BareSkin
Made of polyurethane. Trojan’s only non-latex male condom.
Classic straignt shape
Base width: 2.1″/53mm
Length: 7.9″ /200mm

LifeStyles Original SKYN and LifeStyles Skyn Extra Lubricated
Polyisoprene. Praised as the first to make the market- the rest followed.
Base width: 2.1″/53mm
Length: 7.5″/190mm

Non-Latex Large

LifeStyles’ SKYN Large

This is the first ever LARGE polyisoprene condom.
It’s wider than most large condoms but not quite as long.  Ideal for thicker than average men.
Base width: 2.2″/56mm
Length: 7.8″/200mm

Female Condoms

FC2 Female Condom
Latex free, made of nitrile synthetic rubber. Here is FC2 official site.
As of now, there is still a one-size-fits-all approach to female condoms.
Opening width: 3.0″ / 76mm
Length: 7.2″/ 185mm

Non-latex Sex Dams

Hot Dams!
Made of polyurethane. These are the only non-latex we could find.  Do you know of other options (besides saran plastic wrap!).
No flavor added.  Standard size.
6″ X 8″/152mm X 203mm

Dams and condoms are extra special when lubricant is involved.  Don’t forget to use this essential item.

Confused about what condom width fits your penis girth? Simply divide you penis girth by 2.25 (penis girth/2.25 = condom width). Read how we got this formula.

If you think we’ve missed a condom (or dam) or have questions please comment below. Follow us on Twitter – Facebook – G+ for updates.

Flavored Non-Latex Condoms

Do they exist? We’ve been asked this question a few times. It’s hard to believe that the condom market would overlook this specific and important need. Unfortunately, after deep digging we did not uncover a non-latex flavored condom or dam. So what’s the orally-minded to do? 

lips lubes**If you are surprised to hear that people do use protective barriers for oral sex than you need to read our post on why and how to protect yourself. Other trusted resources include Scarleteen and The Body. (Some external links are affiliates).

Skip to the end for more about flavored non-latex sex dams. No flavored non-latex male condoms were found. We searched over 20 condom retail sites, flipped through hundreds of flavored options paraben-free, sugar-free, vegan, organic fruit extracts but it seems non-latex also equals non-flavor.  And ditch your resolve to find a dry, non-lubricated, non-latex barrier because those don’t exist either! (see plastic wrap below).

In general, the popular assumption must be that polyisoprene and polyurethane condoms aren’t manufactured with that latexy aftertaste and smell. So what’s the point of flavoring them?  Personally, I have never smelled or tasted anything from standard lubricated polyisoprene condoms (so far I’ve only tried original Lifestyles Skyn). Others have stated that polyurethane also has no-to-little scent and taste. But everyone is different. If you do not like the scent and taste of non-latex we have two important suggestions for you.

Left with these non-latex limitation, here are two options (comment below if you have more ideas).

1) Add your own flavored lube.

Flavored lubricants come in all sorts of variety. Rain offers 8 flavored single packs. From Undercovercondoms.com

Flavored lubricants come in all sorts of variety. Rain offers 8 flavored single packs. From Undercovercondoms.com

Think of non-latex as a clean plate that you can fill up with your personal buffet of hundreds of flavors and sensations. Literally hundreds. Flavored lubes are designed for oral sex.  Yes, they are safe to ingest (you only need a drop or two). Plus, lube does more than just mask condom tastes nice. It greatly heightens sensation, body heat transfer and can be lots of fun. Experiment! However, you may be allergic to an ingredient such as glycerin or silicon, so check the content. Also, make sure your lube is compatible with polyisoprene or polyurethane barriers.

Here are some recommended flavored lubes from some of our Condom Monologuers. The Sexpert’s personal favorite is K-Y’s Your’s & Mine Kissables, strawberry & chocolate flavor. She also recommends any flavor of the Masque flavored gel strips that you put on your tongue before going down. Other condom monologuers love watermelon, sour apple and very berry. Writer Ams Sweiger also praises flavorless lubes- Ideally water-based, like Astoglide, because silicon can leave a funky aftertaste.

2) Plastic Wrap

(But not the microwaveable kind! That has holes which STIs and viruses can pass through). Plastic wrap comes lube-free but is compatible with all types of lubricant (oil, silicon and water-based), and it’s the least expensive of prophylactics. You can also easily cut it to the exact size and shape needed. This is a good solution for latex sensitive people who like lubricants and want safer cunnilingus (vulva oral sex; “eating out”) and analigus (anal oral sex; “rimming”). However, plastic wrap is not really recommended for effective protection when giving head (fellatio; “blow job”). Also keep in mind that plastic wrap tears more easily than other non-latex options, so be a bit more tender.

The one flavored non-latex is…

Well, vulvas and buttholes- it’s the Hot Dam! Banana is it’s flavor. However, it looks as though the manufacturer has stopped producing this version as we can’t confirm any retail site with them currently in stock! In other words, Hot Dams are available, but not necessarily with flavor.

Help us update this post

Have you come across any non-latex flavored barriers?  Do you have a favorite lubricant?  Post a comment or ask question below.

Dear Dental Dam,

There is no way I am having you cover my vagina while my partner performs oral sex on me. It is simply not going to happen. I would rather have no oral sex at all, because you sound like torture, kind of like licking ice cream through the screen door.

I am having this rant because my sex partner showed up armed to the hilt with condoms, lube and you for an evening of sex. You were a new addition to the safe sex practice because a counselor at the health center suggested you to him. Obviously, you have never covered that counselor’s vagina during oral sex.

I have no sexually transmitted infections, other than HIV. My partner has no sexually transmitted infections and we are monogamous. The odds of him getting HIV from licking my vagina are about as great as being struck by a meteor. I am going to chance getting hit by a meteor. My partner is also happy to escape having to lick you- dental dam. Oral sex is the greatest pleasure and an alternative safe sex practice that does not involve you right now. Besides, I would never knowingly put someone at risk.

My partner already had the discussion with the condoms about staying off his privates during oral sex, so why the hell would I want you covering my sensitive parts during oral sex and stifling my orgasms? The condoms are bad enough and that is as far as I am willing to go with safe sex practices with my partner. You are not going to take all the pleasure out of sex and intimacy for me. It is simply too much latex and makes no sense.

I have always believed that a little common sense in each situation can go a long way. So you, dental dam, are going to be put in the bathroom drawer until further notice. I promise to seek you out if needed for some future date.

Yours Sincerely,
Virgina

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

For information on HIV and safer sex practices we recommend these resource: The Sero Project. Rise Up to HIV. CareXO.comThe Body Q&A Forum. The Needle Prick ProjectBaseline Mag. Positive Lite Mag. Poz Mag. Just Get Tested. Connected Health Solutions. The Stigma Project. AIDS ACTION NOW. Act Up!. Testing Makes Us Stronger. and your local HIV/AIDS community center. Know your status.

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