So, first thing’s first. I know all of you know that condoms exist. Everyone is aware that there is a little rubber tube you put a penis in before said penis participates in sexual contact. We have all heard the myriad assortment of slogans from “no glove no love” to “don’t be a fool vulcanize your tool.” Every teen movie seems to have some frustrated gym/health teacher handing out condoms while telling students that if they have sex, they will die. In fact, my own pubescence was spent with the mantra “what are drugs? Bad. what are boys? Bad.” because interaction with penis-bearing individuals would result in my contracting thousands of STDs and dying. As a result of my childhood mantra, safe sex has always been an obsession of mine. To me, genitals are like comic books: unless it’s your own, you shouldn’t handle it without a protective sleeve. That being said, barriers go beyond just covering penises in plastic and it’s time to talk about that.
Condoms protect against STIs and pregnancy and are by far the most widely available form of birthcontrol. A condom is a little tube that you roll over a penis to catch the ejaculate. They come lubricated or unlubricated. A condom is used by opening the foil package, placing the condom on the head of the penis and rolling it to the base of the penis (the base, the condom does not go over the testicles. I have had to clarify this to several individuals). Condoms are most commonly made of latex which is typically the most readily available and the cheapest option, however for those with a latex allergy those condoms are a no go. Condoms are also made from polyisoprene and polyurethane and these provide pretty equal protection. Lambskin condoms are the exception, however, as they have tiny pores that make them ineffective at preventing STIs. This is because in the grand scheme of things, sperm are pretty big and can’t fit through the pores, while viruses, on the other hand, totally can. When storing condoms, please remember that friction is the enemy. Do not store them in your wallet (I have a fancy antique cigarette case I keep mine in on the go), and for the same reason “double bagging it” is super ineffective.
Dental dams are a square of thin rubber, latex, or other non-permeable plastic that is used most typically when performing oral stimulation on an individual who has a vagina, or alternatively, when orally stimulating someone’s anus (that’s a classy way to say eating that ass). Dental dams are unfortunately not as readily available as they are a typically queer form of STI protection and many people seem to be under the impression that oral sex can’t give you a STI (spoiler alert: it totally can). The use of a dental dam is rather straight forward: open package, unfold dental dam if folded, place over the area you are going to get busy with, and lastly, get busy. Originally, dental dams were created to be used during oral surgery to isolate the area the dentist is working in, however, as with most things in human history, we made it about boning. They provide a barrier to prevent the transmission of STIs during sex. In the kink community, dental dams also have a stellar reputation for being a barrier for erotic biting between partners. Once again, as with the condoms, friction is bad.
I am not going to lie to you, the first time I encountered a female condom I was horrified. They look complicated and weird and definitely were not something we covered in health class. There were rings and it was weird, ok. A female condom is simply a sheath that goes inside of the vagina and they are pretty cool because they allow vagina having folks to be responsible for their own protection against STIs. A female condom has two rings that are connected by a plastic membrane. To insert a female condom, you pinch the ring on the closed end of the sheath shut and you insert it into your vagina as far as it will go with the goal being to get it to your cervix. The outer ring remains outside of the vaginal opening. When you are ready to do the nasty, double check that the condom isn’t twisted and then simply add water based lube and go to town. Female condoms are also pretty cool because they can be inserted way before you actually decide to go to funky town so you can get caught up in the heat of the moment and still be protected.
STI protection is everyone’s responsibility. Yes, we live in an age where most things are curable with the exception of herpes, hepatitis, HPV, and HIV. However, we also live in a world where super gonorrhea exists. It is better to prevent an STI than to have to treat it later so remember: always wear protection, don’t accept excuses, and don’t think what set of genitals you have makes it not your responsibility.