“Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die.” Not all sex education is quite as bad as Coach Carr’s, but it’s certainly clear that most of sex ed in America is lacking. This is particularly true for queer people. For the most part, those of us who didn’t have abstinence-only sex ed learned little more than how to use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, as it’s important to understand that the risks of sexual activity go far beyond simply preventing oneself from getting pregnant. One of the most underutilized methods of protecting oneself from STIs is the dental dam.
Dental dams are a tool designed to help have safer oral sex. A dental dam is a small sheet of rectangular latex that acts as a protective barrier between your mouth and the vagina or anus during cunnilingus or anilingus respectively. Dental dams can also work as an effective barrier if both you and your partner have vulvas and engage in tribadism, more colloquially known as scissoring.
When using a dental dam first wash any of the starch or powder off the dam and inspect for holes or tears. Make sure not to use any oil-based lubricants but feel free to put a few drops of a water-based lubricant between the vulva or anus and dental dam itself. Position and hold the dental dam over the vulva or anus during oral sex, making sure the dam stays in place. If that’s too much trouble, some sex toy stores sell belts you can attach dental dams to, or you can use a garter belt. Only use one dental dam at a time and never share the same dental dam with your partner or flip it over to use the other side later.
You can get dental dams for free from our health center on campus, but if you are ever in a pinch and can’t find any you can always make a dental dam out of a condom. Make sure the condom is non-lubricated, cut off the tip and cut down one side of the cylindrical latex tube that remains to create your latex rectangle dental dam. Above all, make sure to stay safe and have fun!