When you think “contraception” or “protection,” what do you think of?
For most, including myself, I think of condoms and up until I was 20, I didn’t think of anything else. It should come as no surprise because up until then, in commercials or in drug stores, the only form of contraception I saw was always condoms. At school, sex ed was limited to straight-sex protection and the notion that there may be other forms of maintaining sexual health were unbeknownst to me.
This limited view of contraception is dangerously narrow because it excludes certain kinds of sex and identities. Sure, it’s a problem that I wasn’t learning how to use a condom properly or how to obtain alternate forms of birth control during my sex ed classes; but ultimately, the plight of condoms never ended up applying to me much anyway. I’m pansexual, and I’m primarily attracted to women.
It wasn’t until I met my current partner that I learned about using condoms for oral sex. All the years I had been giving blow jobs, I had never known I was exposing myself to STDs, and that a condom could be helpful. Because of the way contraceptive talk is so centered around condoms and penises and straight penetrative sex, I was under the assumption that penetrative sex with a man was the only way I could get an STD.
Obviously, this isn’t true. Any contact with a person’s infected genitals or mouth can cause you to contract an infection, whether there was penis-in-vagina sex or not.
Thanks to such a lack of info growing up for many of us, there is also this shared misconception among queer women and femmes that you can’t get an STD from sex with another woman; we also were confused into believing that penises were the only thing that can carry and successfully deliver an STD to our genitals.
Embarrassingly enough, only last year did I learn that being being gay wasn’t a Get Out Of Jail Free card — STDs don’t discriminate by gender. At age 21, I was given a live tutorial on how to use a dental dam. I was relieved to get learn more about this because there exists an established method, and products dedicated to protecting your mouth from an infected vagina and vice versa.
Luckily, I’ve never contracted an STD, despite my many false scares, but many of my friends with the same sex education as me weren’t so lucky. It’s scary not to have all the information about our bodies and our sexuality.
Even if we’re not having vaginally penetrative sex, we need to know that we still have to protect ourselves and how to maintain any agency over our sex lives. Convincing our partners to use a dental dam or condom during oral sex could be kind of a drag–we all ultimately come from the same dysfunctional sex Ed programs, after all. But at the very least, we have a right to know how to protect our bodies and that we, as queer people especially, are not immune to infection simply because of the method of sex we’re having.
Let’s encourage more conversations about protection with oral sex; let’s have more live demonstrations on how to use dental dams. If we keep non-conventional contraception in the shadows, we rob ourselves of the power we’re entitled to as sexually-diverse individuals.