I’m going to level with you guys really quick: I didn’t really start learning about same-sex sex education until a few years ago. It’s not something that you really hear about too much, even in places where heterosexual sex ed is in the core curriculum at school. This has led to a few generations of women who are seriously uninformed about their risks. Just because I didn’t know how to have safer sex with a woman until I was in my 20s, I had been having sex with women since I was in my teens. My first time with a woman and my first time getting tested were about five years apart. Of course, now I know that’s far too long to go without getting tested – but it wasn’t until I had a scare that I even considered it a possibility.
In places where sex education is a solid part of the curriculum, it’s often lacking, sometimes even criminalized. Abstinence is the only way to be safe, they say. But without knowing all their risk factors in the first place, many teens will do pretty much everything except penetrative sex – after all, if you can’t discuss sex, you’re very well not going to discuss the different types of sex, now are you? But the reality is that, aside from any type of sexual contact, you can get some STDs even through innocuous contact – or by walking in tall grass. I don’t mean to scare you, but it’s important to realize that there are other methods of transmission here.
This is a very big problem in the lesbian community, as many of us grew up thinking that, since they don’t tell you there’s anything to worry about, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case – you can get STDs from a woman just as easily as you can from a man. Your risk factors will include the different types of sex you have and whether or not you’re using protection reliably, but if it’s not in the school systems… Most people don’t even think of it as a problem. The number of women I’ve spoken to who have never even brought up safer sex with their partners is astounding – and, in some ways, depressing.
Fast forward to now, when many millennials are caught up in this hook-up culture. I know it’s not all of us – I’d say about 50% of my friends do “hook-ups”, and about 50% do “relationships”. While the simple act of promiscuous behavior doesn’t put you more at risk of developing an STD, it does rely on a sense of safer sex that is, quite frankly, lacking. Sure, most of us figure out safer sex as an adult – but what does that leave for those younger than us who are experimenting with their sexual identities and not really sure what they need to do to protect themselves?
I’m not trying to promote the idea of underage sex here, but let’s think about this from a realistic standpoint. A good portion of kids lose their virginity before they turn 18. In fact, it’s a goal to lose your virginity as early as possible sometimes. While there seems to be more pressure for boys to “give it up early”, in the lesbian community, we are especially prone to losing our virginities at a younger age – no matter what that definition may be for you. Maybe it’s all statistics and numbers, but there’s a clear-cut connection with our community and a lack of safer sex practices.
What can we do to fix this problem? The answer is simultaneously simple, and very complicated. It’s as easy as getting lesbian sex education into schools, and stop criminalizing (or sexualizing) women for their sexuality. But, of course, how you’d implement such a strategy is an entirely different story – our society just hasn’t reached that point yet.
One way we can start working toward a brighter future in the world of sex education is by openly talking about it. If you have kids, start the conversation early – and make sure you’ve got your facts right before you start. While it might seem like a horrible idea to start talking to your nine-year-old daughter about protection, chances are, the younger you start, the less uncomfortable she’s going to be with the idea in the future. Of course, the responsibility doesn’t fall entirely on the girls, though – boys should be taught at a younger age, too. (Personally, I got my first sex talk at the age of five, and I’m pretty sure if it had included the possibility of me turning out to be a raging homo, my sexual history would have been a lot different.)
Many times, we can think that our kids aren’t able to understand what we’re telling them, because it’s “too advanced for them”. But, as Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a five-year-old, you really don’t understand it yourself.” There’s a lot of truth in those words – you should know a way to talk to your kids about safer sex without making it awkward. Talking about your health should never be awkward, and it just might come in handy someday.