How to Practice Safer LGBTQ+ Sex

Safer sex is vital to health, irrespective of sexual orientation, as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are non-discriminatory. All sexually active individuals, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community, face a risk if protective measures are not taken.

Inadequate inclusive sex education is a significant issue. Astonishingly, only 29 U.S. states mandate sex education, with a GLSEN study revealing a mere 5% LGBTQ+ student representation in sex-ed classes. Similarly, Stonewall reports only one in five U.K. students are taught about safe sex in same-sex relationships.

This educational gap often results in misinformed practices, such as when two vulva-possessing individuals engage in sexual activities without understanding the importance of dental dams or vaginal condoms for STI protection. You can access our LGBTQ+ birth control guide for more information.

We consulted medical experts to foster safer sex standards by imparting critical information on STIs, sharing sex toys, and the necessity of open conversations about sexual health within the LGBTQ+ community.

Key STI Facts for the LGBTQ+ Community

The cornerstone of a fulfilling sex life is safety—both for you and your partners.

"STIs can spread via oral, manual, and anal sex, underscoring why they're dubbed STIs and not penetrative or vaginally transmitted infections," Dr. Sarah Yamaguchi, a Los Angeles-based gynecologist, elucidates.

As most STIs thrive in bodily fluids, Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can spread via oral sex, as highlighted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hence, regular STI testing and safe sex practices are imperative.

Indigo Stray Conger, a bisexual sex and relationship therapist working with the U.S. LGBTQ+ community, emphasizes that timely detection makes most STIs easily treatable. Conditions like Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) can also spread during oral sex, especially if a partner has a breakout or mouth cuts/abrasions.

Conger also highlights the risk of HPV and HSV transmission through manual sex, such as handjobs or fingering. Using latex gloves or finger cots in the presence of hand cuts or abrasions significantly mitigates this risk.

Even HIV can spread orally or during manual sex through cuts or abrasions. Modern preventative medicines (PrEP) and long-term HIV treatments allow HIV-positive individuals to lead healthy lives. The antiretroviral therapy (ART) can reduce bloodborne HIV levels to undetectable, thus preventing transmission to others, a concept popularized as "U=U" (Undetectable equals Untransmittable). However, this does not protect against other STIs.

PrEP, when taken by HIV-negative individuals before and after sex, helps prevent HIV transmission. Additionally, using barriers, like condoms, alongside PrEP, provides extra protection.

Bear in mind, most STIs can spread anally due to the anus' thin lining making it susceptible to ruptures during sexual activity. Thus, barriers like condoms or dental dams, coupled with anal-safe lube, can minimize the risk.

"Oral-to-anal sexual contact without barriers could lead to E.coli infection," Conger cautions.

Safe Practices for Sex Toy Sharing

If sex toys are part of your sexual activities, barrier protection methods should be considered. "Covering dildos with a condom or using a dental dam over egg vibrators is recommended," advises Conger, emphasizing the importance of avoiding the same toy for vaginal and anal use to prevent infection.

Prior to and following usage, sex toys should be thoroughly disinfected. Dr. Yamaguchi suggests cleaning with warm water and mild soap. "Harsh chemicals should be avoided as they could cause skin irritation," she adds.

Preventing STI Transmission for Safer Sex

Barrier methods like latex gloves, dental dams, or condoms are the first line of defense against STI transmission.

"Regular testing is crucial when new partners enter your relationship landscape, or if one of your partners introduces a new partner, to detect and address potential STI risks early," Conger advises.

Open dialogues about STI prevention help dismantle myths and stigma, promoting a healthier sexual culture. There's no shame in seeking safety.

The Importance of Communication in Safe Sex

Open, honest communication plays a dual role in enhancing sexual enjoyment and promoting safer sex. "If you can't trust your partner to disclose their other partners, the risk remains, regardless of your precautions," says Dr. Yamaguchi. Trustworthy partners contribute to safer, more enjoyable sex.

Unsafe sex poses more than just STI risks. "Safe sex involves understanding and communicating boundaries with a trusted partner," Conger emphasizes.