How can women have safe sex with women, do we have to, and how is HIV really transmitted? Let’s talk about safe sex, because caring for each other is necessary (and hot).
For 24 hours, I thought I might be HIV positive.
I went to take a test, because I’d never done it before, and a week later they called me. ”Your test came back with an unclear answer, and you have to retake it. But don’t worry!”. My heart was beating and my hands were shaking. What does it mean? How can it be unclear? How am I supposed to not worry about it?
This was abroad, by the way, if you take the test in Austria they will not call you, since you have to pick up your result in person.
They told me not to worry. Probably it’s something else. I’ll have to retake the test and everything will be fine. I’m a lesbian! I can’t have HIV? Right? Or? Maybe? Did you have sex with someone while they were on their period? Fuck.
I went to AIDS-hilfe the next day, took a quick test, and nervously waited. It was fine, negative, nothing. The tests are really sensitive, and sometimes, there are other anti-bodies that share some parts with the anti-bodies for HIV. So they will get caught on the test, and you get an ”unclear” answer. Everything is fine! But those hours between the phonecall and the negative test were, let’s say, intense.
I tried my best to not freak out and I almost didn’t cry, but I couldn’t stop the thoughts I got. I will die. I will have to take medicines every day. I will be one of those rare lesbians that got HIV, a sensation, doctors will talk to me, media will write about me. I have to tell my mother, I have to tell my father, I have to call everyone I ever slept with, someone I slept with will have it, I have to tell my friends, and if I want to have sex with someone new I’ll have to tell them too. I will always be scared I’ll give it to someone else. What if I already passed it on to someone? So I thought about what to say and how to say it and to whom. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else and I was so nervous for the test that I got dizzy, I got diarrhoea, and my heart was beating way harder than usual for the whole day.
But it’s impossible! I’m a lesbian! I only ever slept with women!
Actually, as the kind woman in AIDS-hilfe could inform me, it’s not impossible. Yes, there is a very little chance to get HIV from someones vaginal fluid. And lesbians are the group with the lowest risk. But you know where HIV is concentrated? In the blood. So if you have sex with someone who’s on their period, or if they start bleeding from getting fingered, the virus can be absorbed through the sensitive tissue in your vulva, or your mouth, especially if you have any wounds. If you have scratches or little wounds on your fingers, it’s possible to get infected. It is more common that lesbian get HIV than you might think. Lesbians rarely show up as their own group in HIV statistics, since many lesbians have had sex with men at some point in their life, or since there might be other risk factors (tattoos, drug use). If that’s the case, the cause for the infection will usually be ”unspecified” and the fact that it might’ve been transmitted from a woman is invisible in the statistics.
There are other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) that can get transmitted more easily between women who have sex with women, like herpes, hepatitis, genital warts (HPV), gonnorrea, chlamydia, trichomonas vaginalis, yeast infections, and even syphilis. Some are easy to treat, others stay for life.
These 24 hours of anxiety made me start wearing a bike helmet again, and think a lot about safe sex. What does it mean? Should I do it? How do we do it? Is a person I want to sleep with going to think it’s super weird? Will I come across as paranoid?
But then if you think about it. You bring someone home and you’re both super horny. You say you want to do it safe. These are the options:
- the other person says: OK, great! And you have sex
- the other person says: I don’t usually do that but if that’s what you want, it’s fine! And you have sex
- the other person says: I never heard about it, what does that mean, I don’t know how to do this. You explain. And you have sex
- the other person says: uhm no I don’t want to. And you don’t have sex. Seriously, they’d rather not have sex with you than have safe sex? I can’t believe it!
It’s quite easy. It’s all about compromising, like anything else when it comes to sex. And safe sex doesn’t have to be sterile or impersonal or whatever the common idea is. Forget that, and think of safe sex as hot, because caring for each other is hot. If we turn it around: when someone has their head between your thighs, the last thing you want to think about is genital warts! That’s really super unsexy.
So how do we do it?
Communicate. Talk about sex, talk about safe sex, talk about what you got tested for and when, talk about what you want to do with each other.
And when the fun starts:
Use latex gloves, especially important if they’re on their period and/or if you have little wounds or scratches on your fingers. If you don’t… at least make sure your nails are always really short (do I have to write this?) to prevent scratching. You can get the gloves at any drug store, but usually only the transparent ones. At some sex shops, or on the internet, you can get black or purple or whatever color you prefer!
Use dental dams. You can get them at sex shops (Liebenswert, Condomi, Spartacus, etc) a few drug stores, and some other places like Maran Vegan. They are not the cheapest though, so buying on the internet might save you some money. Here are two eBay options, one with 20 strawberry flavoured latex dams, or why not get a hundred while your at it (and share with your friends!).
Don’t scissor (oh nooooo) if you don’t know the other person well enough to know they (and you) don’t have anything. Vulva rubbing vulva is the thing that can transmit most of the diseases listed above. If you like tribadism, a thigh is better, or, (super hot!) you rub on their buttock (and finger them at the same time…). You can also wear clothes while scissoring, of course. If you wear tight jeans, the crotch seam might even feel really good.
Use condoms on sex toys.
Don’t finger yourself after fingering them or the other way around. Don’t use your own vaginal fluid as lube to use on them, or put your fingers in your mouth before or after.
Don’t put fingers that have been in the butt anywhere else before you wash them. Never, ok. That’s so basic, but I have to write it here too, cause I know many of you will read this article, think ”whatever” and never buy those gloves. Then at least be careful when you do anal sex. And for those of you who cares to use gloves, obviously, for anal penetration you should use them.
It all boils down to this: Don’t mix fluids, and don’t mix fluids and sensitive tissue. Keep things that have been in the butt away from other things. Get tested now and then and encourage your partner(s) to do the same. And you’ll be fine.
Read more about safe sex on sugarbox (in german):