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If you had sex education at school before 2003, you likely weren’t told anything about LGBT+ relationships.

Section 28 forbade ‘the promotion of homosexuality’ in schools, meaning generations of young people weren’t told about the ins and outs of their own sexual health.

And even after the statute was repealed, not all students have had access to the diverse and inclusive sex education they need.

In my school years, I put a condom on a model penis and got a brief glimpse of a dental dam, but not much by way of explanation on what they were. The most prevalent STIs were listed, concerta adderall difference but not who’s most at risk or how they’re transmitted.

These gaps in guidance that prioritise penetration can leave women who have sex with women in the dark.

We know to use condoms on penises, but what about protecting ourselves during oral, for example?

Whether you know your stuff or are still getting to grips with your sexual health, here’s what you should have been taught (and probably weren’t) about sexual health for lesbians and bisexual women.

Are lesbians at risk of STIs?

It’s a popular misconception that women who have sex with women don’t get sexually transmitted infections.

Although the rate at which lesbians contract STIs is lower than many other groups, anyone having unprotected sex can be at risk.

Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, HPV, syphilis, genital warts, and hepatitis B, A, and C can all be contracted through unprotected oral or manual sex.

Herpes can be passed on through skin to skin contact, while genital contact can transmit conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease, pubic lice, trichomoniasis, and HPV.

Sharing sex toys poses a low risk, although thoroughly cleaning between uses and/or using condoms on toys should mitigate any issues.

As the cervix is more open during menstruation (and because blood can contain STIs), the chances of contracting an STI are higher if you or your partner are on their period. Friction – and the microscopic skin tears this creates – may also increase risk.

Sexual health products for WLW

Dental dams are the main product touted for lesbians.

These latex or polyurethane sheets measure around 15cm by 15cm and should be placed over the vulva before and during oral sex. The barrier method works similar to a condom, stopping bodily fluids from mixing.

They’re certainly not the sexiest of prophylactics, but Sheer Glyde make flavoured dental dams that offer a realistic feel for both partners and stop you from tasting plastic all evening.

If you can’t get your hands on a dental dam in a pinch, take a condom and cut the tip off. Next, cut along the condom lengthways so it can be rolled out like a sheet.

Alternatively, if you’re using your hands, try latex gloves (or latex-free alternatives). These keep STI transmission to a minimum by reducing the potential for internal scratches and cuts.

What’s the best way for lesbians and bisexual women to protect their sexual health?

Aside from using barrier protection where possible, it’s good practice to get regular STI tests.

While female to female sexual transmission of HIV is extremely rare, with only a handful of cases reported over the last 40 years, it is still vital to practise safe sex. Transmission is thought to be possible between women through the sharing of sex toys and exposure to blood during sexual contact.

Women who are concerned about intercourse with someone who is HIV positive can take PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to reduce and prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.

Testing regularly for Hepatitis B is also advised for lesbians, bisexual women or those in WLW relationships, as they are at significantly greater risk of contracting the disease. A simple blood test can detect whether you’re positive for Hep B, with antiviral drugs on offer to help your body fight the infection and curb any potential liver damage.

To protect yourself from Hepatitis B, a course of vaccinations administered over a period of six months, can offer long-term protection against the virus.

Visit your local GUM clinic between partners and keep an eye on any potential symptoms that may suggest an infection.

There are also a few tips to keep in mind to ensure you have the safest sex possible:

  • Wash sex toys with antibacterial soap and water between uses.
  • Use plenty of lube to minimise friction (both vaginally and anally) during penetration.
  • Wash your hands before and after sex.
  • Keep your fingernails short to minimise the risk of cuts and tears during manual sex.
  • Use condoms on sex toys where possible.
  • Never use the same dental dam twice.
  • Speak to partners about their sexual health and history.
  • Avoid oral sex if you have cuts or sores around your mouth.

The risk for lesbians may be low. But since no sexual contact is without risk, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Metro.co.uk celebrates 50 years of Pride

This year marks 50 years of Pride, so it seems only fitting that Metro.co.uk goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support, through a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raises awareness for the community this Pride Month.

MORE: Find all of Metro.co.uk’s Pride coverage right here

And we’ve got some great names on board to help us, too. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week that includes Rob Rinder, Nicola Adams, Peter Tatchell, Kimberly Hart-Simpson, John Whaite, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranj, we’ll also have the likes Sir Ian McKellen and Drag Race stars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offering their insights. 

During Pride Month, which runs from 1 – 30 June, Metro.co.uk will also be supporting Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during times of conflict. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.

Help us raise £10k for Kyiv Pride and a UK LGBT+ charity

To celebrate 50 years of Pride, Metro.co.uk has teamed up with Kyiv Pride to raise money for their important work in Ukraine.

Despite war raging around them, Kyiv Pride continue to help LGBTQ+ people, offering those in need shelter, food and psychological support.

We will be splitting the cash with a grassroots charity closer to home.

You can donate here

Metro.co.uk celebrates 50 years of Pride

This year marks 50 years of Pride, so it seems only fitting that Metro.co.uk goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support, through a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raises awareness for the community this Pride Month.

MORE: Find all of Metro.co.uk’s Pride coverage right here

And we’ve got some great names on board to help us, too. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week that includes Rob Rinder, Nicola Adams, Peter Tatchell, Kimberly Hart-Simpson, John Whaite, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranj, we’ll also have the likes Sir Ian McKellen and Drag Race stars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offering their insights. 

During Pride Month, which runs from 1 – 30 June, Metro.co.uk will also be supporting Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during times of conflict. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.

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