It’s time we talk about the elephant in the room. Let the cat out of the bag.
In most sex education classes, the LGBTQ+ Community is not being talked about. At this point, most people know the prevention methods of condoms and birth control. So, queer folks will turn to the internet, or our friends, maybe family. I hope to be another resource y’all can go to, until sex education becomes more inclusive and visible in the mainstream.
In thinking about how to write this, I made the decision to categorize by genitals rather than identity or gender. You’ll notice that I didn’t say “men who have sex with men” because that is excluding various gender identities. This is not to leave any identities out, just the fact that sex deals with biology.
The best form of protection from pregnancy, STDs, and/or STIs is a barrier. Many people think of condoms; but this is one of those things that is not just one way or no way.
Vagina and Penis
If there is contact between a penis and a vagina the best protection is a condom. This is the stuff you were probably taught in Sex Ed. Additionally, the person with a vagina should be on birth control if they want to prevent pregnancy.
Vagina and Vagina
For two people with vaginas participating in oral, digital (manual), or penetrative sex, there are a few options for safe sex. While condoms can be used as alternatives the three main ones are dental dams, finger cots, and female condoms. Courtesy of Sex,etc. here’s an explanation of each:
- “Dental Dam: a thin, square sheet of latex that is held over the vulva or anus during oral sex. Oral stimulation can then occur with a safe barrier, preventing the exchange of bodily fluids and direct physical contact
- Finger Cots/Finger Condoms: a glove that covers one finger to be used as a barrier during digital or finger insertion. This protects partners against dirt and bacteria, which can cause infection in the vagina or rectum and anus. Finger cots are sold at most drugstores.
- Female Condoms/Receptive Condoms: a pouch with flexible rings on either end used during vaginal intercourse that is inserted inside of the body of the partner that is being penetrated. A flexible ring on the open end of the receptive condom remains outside of the body. Partners can also use it for anal sex by removing the ring at the closed end of the pouch.”
Penis and Penis
For two individuals with penises, condoms should be used for anal and oral sex. Additionally, water-based lube (NOT oil-based) should be used during anal sex. Latex gloves are best for anal fingering or fisting. (AVERT)
In the Queer Community, I think there is often this idea that “we’re safe” because we don’t have to worry about pregnancy and I think that is people’s top concern. But let’s not forget about sexually transmitted diseases and infections. According to the second edition of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, practicing safe sex and getting routine screenings for STDs is the best way to prevent them. (Marr)
“Gay and bisexual men, particularly young African American gay and bisexual men, are most affected” by HIV (U.S. Statistics). However, in recent years PReP has become available in certain countries as a preventative. Visit this site to find out more about PReP.
In addition, if sex toys are being used, they should be covered with condoms and kept clean to prevent STDs/STIs (Marr).
In addition to talking about protection, I think it’s also really important to talk about the communication part: consent. This one has absolutely nothing to do with gender, sexual orientation, or identity in general. It also goes beyond having sex with someone else. I think Amy Rose Spiegel defines it perfectly in Action: A Book About Sex:
“Sexual consent is a direct verbal go-ahead that conveys, ‘What we’re doing with our bodies is okay with me,’ as confirmed before not only sex involving penetration, but so many other kinds of sensual scenarios, too” (Spiegel).
So as a bonus way to practice safe sex, be sure to be open about all sensual scenerios. Don’t let someone do something to you that you don’t want, and check it with them about what they want as well.
Masturbation (yeah, I said it)
Obviously this is not specific to the LGBTQ+ Community, but I think it’s important to talk about.
Since I enjoy defining things, masturbation refers to “a manual stimulation of one’s own or another person’s genital organs usually resulting in orgasm without engaging in sexual intercourse…Masturbation is the first sexual experience for a great majority of people” (Saral). If you’ve read my blog, you know that I don’t believe in virginity. I think it’s very interesting that masturbation can be considered a sexual experience, because typically that would result the losing of your “virginity.” Think about it!
In the book Don’t Put THAT in There And 69 Other Sex Myths Debunked, one of the great myths mentioned is “masturbation will make you go blind”(Carroll). Not true! Also not true:
- Masturbation will (IT WON’T) make you grow hair on your palms,
- make you go crazy,
- make you impotent (not able to have an erection) later in life,
- make your penis curved,
- unable to have orgasms during sex,
- take away your virginity,
- sap your strength,
- That you shouldn’t do it if you’re in a relationship (Carroll).
Again, all of these are myths! To sum up, “Giving yourself sexual pleasure can be an important way to practice sex, and it is probably the safest form of sex. Knowing what gives you pleasure can also lead to experiencing more pleasure with your partner” (Carroll). I would extend this to say it’s great for those in the LGBTQ+ Community since many same sex relationships include manual forms of sex.
Sexualization in the LGBTQ+ Community
Let’s end by talking about the media. It’s no secret that queer women are oversexualized in the media. This comes with the mysteries of “how do you two have sex?” You can watch an awesome video about that here (Fabello). It also comes along with women being seen as sex objects. I think Laurie Penny puts it perfectly when explaining the constant objectification of a marginalized group, explaining that it “tells us that women are bodies first, idealised, subservient bodies, and men are not” (Penny).
In the book Violence Against Queer People, the intersection of Queer People of Color is discussed within gay men. Comparing their experience to White gay men, Black and Latino men described sexual stereotypes that are put on them. Some examples include Black and Latino men are good in bed, while Asian gay men are supposed to be submissive. They further explained white guys being the norm, and that “Black men are there to please and Asian men are more than willing to please any white guy” (Meyer).
As Melissa A. Fabello explained, these stereotypes are hurting queer representation and making people believe these misconceptions as the truth (Fabello).
There are plenty of topics within sex and the LGBTQ+ Community that I haven’t even dove into, such as pornography. You’ll also notice that I didn’t really talk about how to have sex, rather just how to be protected. I think that’s the most and more important part. I hope you can use this and the sources as a resource for yourself or people you know if need be.
AVERT. (2016). Fact Sheet: HIV and Men Who Have Sex With Men. Averting HIV and AIDS.
Carrol, A.E., and Vreeman, R. (2014). Don’t Put That in There! And 69 Other Sex Myths Debunked. New York, New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Curran, C. (2015). Lesbians Need Sex Ed Too. Sex, etc.
Fabello, M.A. (2013). Lesbian and Bisexual Women in the Media-Or the Lack Thereof. Everyday Feminism.
Marr, L. (2007). Sexually Transmitted Diseases: A Physician Tells You What You Need to Know (2nd Edition). Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press.
Meyer, D. (2015). Violence Against Queer People: Race, Class, Gender, and the Persistence of Anti-LGBT Discrimination. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Penny, L. (2014). Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies, and Revolution. New York, New York: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
PreExposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/reduce-your-risk/pre-exposure-prophylaxis/
Saral, T. P. (2016). Masturbation. Salem Press Encyclopedia Of Science.
Spiegel, A.R. (2016). Action: A Book About Sex. New York, New York: Grand Central Publishing.
U.S. Statistics. (2016). HIV in the United States: At a Glance. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.