Rather than hem and haw like your parents or Phys. Ed teacher did during sexual health talks, we are going to get straight into it. If you’re sexually active with other people in any capacity then you need to be aware of STI risk. (Solo sex – that is, masturbation – is happily risk-free, assuming you aren’t sharing toys!) And yes, that means even if you’re having sex with people who don’t have penises.
A recent study showed that lesbian and bisexual teen girls are at higher risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections compared to their heterosexual counterparts, which means there’s a serious gap in knowledge.
Below, we cover off some of the things queer women may not know about safer sex practices when their partners have vaginas.
What STIs Affect Lesbian & Bisexual Women?
Here’s a quick look at the STIs that you can be at risk for, even if you’re not having sex involving a penis.
Genital or oral herpes can spread easily and cause painful sores, though there are no effects upon fertility. There are medications that can stop outbreaks and lower transmission rates if your partner does have it, which you can talk to your doctor about.
Generally, avoid sexual contact (including kissing) if you or your partner has an outbreak, and always use a barrier like a dental dam.
HPV can be spread through skin to skin contact, including by hands. HPV causes genital warts and can also cause cervical cancer, so learn more about preventing it through things like vaccination!
Trichomoniasis can be passed between during any sexual activity that involves the exchange of vaginal fluid. For some people it is symptomless, but for others they will experience frothy discharge, pain when peeing, vulval soreness, and sometimes an unpleasant vaginal odor.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are both caused by bacteria, which can infect the cervix, rectum, throat and urethra. There may be a discharge, but usually there are no symptoms. It’s treated by antibiotics, but If they aren’t treated, the bacteria may lead to an infection in the fallopian tubes and infertility. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be passed through shared sex toys, hands, and by rubbing vulvas together.
So How Can I Avoid These STIs?
There are a few ways lesbian and bisexual women can have safer sex to avoid STIs. However, one of the most important things you can do is get tested frequently if you’re having sex with new partners. As you may have noticed, a lot of STIs don’t always have symptoms – in fact, the most common symptom is no symptoms at all!
If you’re unsure about what having an STI test is like, just check out our guide for your first STI test, and remember that your health is worth a little minor embarrassment at the doctors!
Lane Baumeister is an internationally-based Canadian writer with several years’ experience creating educational and entertaining articles that discuss intimate health and sexual well-being. When not waxing profound about menstruation, she devotes herself to enjoying extremely good food and equally bad movies.