So you’re ready to have sex, but not sure how to do it safely when two vulvas are involved (thank you, heteronormative sex education). Nothing ruins a good sexy time like stress, so we’re here to help.
We talked to Tiffany Kagure Mugo, a queer sex expert and the author and curator of “Quirky Quick Guide To Having Great Sex,” “HOLAAfrica,” “Touch: Sex, Sexuality, and Sensuality,” and more. And remember — it’s OK to be nervous, even with this information!
1. Get rid of the preconceived notions you have about sex and see what you find pleasurable
The best way to have fun, safe sex is to get educated, unpack any myths you’ve heard, and think about what sex positivity means to you.
Haven’t heard of the the term “sex positivity” before? Here’s a good starting point: “Sex positivity is about understanding that sex is so vast, and as long as it is consensual and coming from a good place, different strokes from different folks,” Mugo said. “It is also very much about understanding what sort of sex you want and allowing yourself to explore and understand and properly engage with your sex, which takes work.”
She urges us to start by exploring our bodies and masturbating so we can settle into the feeling of being touched and figure out what we find pleasurable. Researching some things you might want to do — like fingering, clitorial stimulation, or using a vibrator — can help. And then, when you have sex with someone, talk about what you each feel comfortable exploring — and know you’re allowed to stop at any time.
“There is also the element of being open to learning and open to understanding and engaging things that you might not agree with or might not want to try, but are at least trying to understand,” Mugo added. “Not everyone will be into kink, but understanding that some people are is part of the journey and maybe even the first step to understanding some aspects of kink.”
To learn more, she suggested platforms such as HOLAAfrica and The Spread Podcast. They actively challenge ideas around “good sex,” bodily autonomy, and how we can improve our intimate lives, she explained.
2. Once your mind is in the right place, get some protection
When you’re having sex that doesn’t involve both a penis and a vagina, you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant — but there is still a risk of contracting STIs such as herpes, genital warts, and chlamydia.
If two people are menstruating at the same time, they also face a higher risk of contracting STIs. This is because any bodily fluid can carry STIs, and during your period, the vagina becomes less acidic and more alkaline, making it easier for microbes to survive and thrive in your reproductive tract.
To keep you and your partner safe from STIs, make sure to:
- Get tested for any STIs before having sex with a new partner
- Use protection — there are different options, such as
These are soft, plastic condoms you put inside of your vagina or anus to avoid skin-to-skin contact. If you’re putting the condom in your anus, remove the inner ring. If you’re putting the condom in your vagina, leave the ring in. The ring is there to make sure the condom doesn’t move and can provide an extra pleasurable sensation for some people.
External condoms can be used to cover a penis or a sex toy. Remember to use a different condom on your sex toys when switching which partner is using it, and always wash the toy with soap and water between sessions.
Dental dams are thin sheets of latex or polyurethane used to protect yourself during oral sex. These are used as a barrier between the mouth and the vulva or anus. It’s especially important to use dental dams or to avoid oral sex altogether if either of you has any cuts or sores in the mouth or on the lips. If you don’t have dental dams, you can cut open a condom or use a plastic wrap as a last resort.
Finger cots or latex gloves
STIs can be passed through the fingers, even when you masturbate then finger someone else immediately after. Use water-based lubricants and wear latex gloves for vaginal and anal fisting. Alternatively, you can wear finger cots, which cover one or more fingers and can be bought at places like Walgreens. You can also make finger cots at home by cutting off a finger from latex gloves. Remember to wash your hands before and after sex (and after masturbation.)
3. Learn about consent
We’ve talked about getting yourself into the right mental state, but it’s also important to make sure your partner is in a good space, too. For sex to be safe for both partners, it’s important to make sure that consent is ongoing throughout. (Important side note: Did you know bisexual women are more likely to experience sexual violence?)
“Consent can be asked for straight-up, e.g. ‘Can I kiss you?’ [or] ‘Is it OK if I touch you?’” Mugo said. “Or, it can be asked in various sexy ways: ‘I would really love to lick you there,’ ‘I’d love to taste between your legs. Is that something you’d like?,’ or ‘My fantasy is to have you sit on my face. What do you think about that?’
All in all, she said, consent is about being direct, open, and an enthusiastic “yes.” But also, make sure to pay attention to your partner’s changing body language. When in doubt, stop and check in, whether you’ve been having sex every day for a year or this is your first time.
4. Talk about what feels good (and doesn’t)
While safe sex is partially about protection, like condoms and dental dams, it’s also about being present and making sure both partners are enjoying it. Don’t look to outside sources to figure out what feels good — just be honest with yourself.
Then, communicate that with your partner. Let them know the best spot to touch you, and ask them how they want to be pleasured.
If you are shy and/or this is your first time, you can play a game like truth or dare just to get things started. After you each share what you like doing and having done to you, use that information. For example, are you curious about having your clit played with? Why not add that as a potential dare! This is also a great opportunity to ask your partner questions you’ve been dying to ask them. It’s important to remember that consent is still mandatory, though, and you don’t need to do anything you’re not comfortable with.
5. Make sure you feel emotionally safe and ready
Emotional safety, or feeling able to truly feel your emotions and be vulnerable, is super important. So, in the same way you get tested regularly, test out how you feel mentally and emotionally, too.
Tiffany suggests taking the time to answer these questions before, during, and after sex:
- Are you happy with the sex?
- Does it make you feel good?
- Are you having sex from a healthy space?
- Is it consensual?
- Do you want to be having sex?
Remember, this is supposed to be a pleasurable experience. If at any point it doesn’t feel right for you, it’s OK to walk away. Alternatively, if the answer to all those questions is positive, then have fun and enjoy the ride!
Women AdvaNCe compiled a list of Pride Month events happening this June! You can check it out here.
Amanda Tayte-Tait, aka Amanda Marufu, is a feminist, tech entrepreneur, TV producer, freelance writer, and author of “At What Age Does My Body Belong To Me?”. She has been published by The Feminist Leadership Journal, Amaka Studio, Black Ballad, Document Women, In Her Words, Meeting Of Minds, and countless other platforms, dedicating her life to using media and tech to spread awareness and change lives.