Oral sex is highly underrated. It’s also not considered to be risky sex. But guys, gals and non-binary pals, the risk is still there! Even though the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) is lower than vaginal or anal sex; there is still an associated risk of contracting STI’s. Such STI’s include; Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, genital herpes, syphilis and HPV (Human papillomavirus). Lovely huh? But wait, there’s more. It is common place to involve digital stimulation (or FINGERING) when performing oral sex. This can also transmit STI’s. Wait. What? If you and your sexual partner engage in mutual masturbation (i.e. touching your own genitals) and then touch each other’s genitals, STI’s can be transmitted. Wounds on fingers, (like cuts) especially can transmit STI’s. One last thing! All of this also applies to dildos, butt plugs and other shared sex toys being used in sex acts. Fluid exchange and skin to skin contact can transmit STI’s. This pertains to all and any sex acts.

Okay. So. What you just read may have been a lot more than what was ever covered in any of your high school sex-ed classes. The use of condoms was rammed down our throats. Hetero-normative sex-ed classes concerned themselves with preventing pregnancy and STI transmission from penetrative sex. But what about protection for the other types of sexy time? For penis-oral sex, you can still use a condom to protect against STI’s. For fingering, a latex glove is recommended if there are cuts or broken skin on a person’s hand or genitals. Hand-washing is also a good preventative measure, especially if mutual masturbation occurs. The same methods don’t work so well for vulva and anus-oral sex. But not to worry! There are these things called oral barriers, or known more commonly as (but just as unsexy) dental dams. When first hearing about dental dams, I imagined them as literal condoms for tongues. However, they take the form of a rectangular, sheath of latex (there are silicone substitutes). They prevent the skin to skin contact and fluid exchange that can transmit STI’s.

How do I use a dental dam?

  1. Hold the dental dam to the light to check for any cracks or weak spots.
  2. Apply a water-based lubricant to one side of the dental dam.
  3. Place the lubricated side on the vulva or anus and then continue as usual. Pretty simple right?

Dental dams are not well stocked in supermarkets and pharmacies, but can be found in sex shops. Luckily, if you don’t have any dental dams on hand or can’t find any in stores, you can make one from a condom.  And guess what?! You can also use the below steps to Macgyver a latex glove (the non-powdered variety) into a dental dam as well! Who knew?

  1. Simply snip the top and bottom ends off the condom
  2. Make a cut down the long side of the now, latex tube
  3. Put it to good use

There are a few more tips and tricks for dental dams; don’t over stretch the dental dam as it could break; they are for ONE use only; use more than one dental dam if performing oral sex on more than one person at the same time; DO NOT move the dental dam from anus to vulva and vice versa, as this can cause infection (use separate dental dams); dental dams are not a contraceptive (birth control); and lastly, LUBE is your best friend when it comes to dental dams. In fact, your friendship with lube should extend beyond dental dams to all and any sex acts.

Look, no one wants to discuss STI’s. We don’t want to offend our sexual partners by suggesting that they may have something. The huge stigma prevents a lot of people taking steps to protect themselves. There is no easy-peasy, polite or well-timed way to bring up “being safe” during sex. Dental dams may not sound glamorous. Believe me, I know. It is mega unsexy to have to pause during the hot rumble and tumble and grab the safety equipment. But hey, STI’s are not fun either. They can cause infertility, pain, embarrassment and just a general un-nice experience. Not to say that getting an STI is wrong or dirty or something to be ashamed of. It is not. But you have the right to know how to protect yourself and to make conscious decisions to do so. And anyone uninterested in respecting this right may not be worth sleeping with (even if they’re super hot).

Phoebe Tetlow


For any further information please either of these mega informative and helpful sites

http://www.bleedingfeminism.com/2012/11/safer-sex-what-hell-is-dental-dam.html or 

http://safersex.education/sex-barriers-condoms-dams-gloves/

This is the third of a four-part series on sexual education, check out part one and two for more.