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Lesbian Teens Need Sex Ed Too

Sex education
By , 18, Contributor Originally Published: July 30, 2015 Revised: September 14, 2015

My sexual health education lasted one semester of middle school. I listened to my seventh-grade science teacher explain the importance of condoms, which I will call “external condoms” to distinguish them from “female” or receptive condoms.

He warned the class to avoid pregnancy scares. He then projected teen pregnancy statistics onto the board and ended our lesson by passing out external condoms with the uncomfortable tagline “no glove, no love” to every student.

Truly comprehensive sex education would be beneficial to all young people, regardless of the sex of their sexual partners.

Unanswered Questions

During that middle school lesson, I felt like an outcast. What about students like me who don’t identify as straight? I was also puzzled as to why my teacher didn’t focus on other important topics, such as the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Ultimately, many people experience sexual health education that is heteronormative, meaning that the instructor only focuses on “heterosexual sex” and assumes everyone in the room is straight and worried about pregnancy. But there’s more to safer sex than that.

Questions Answered

During the summer of 2013, I volunteered at Response’s Center for Sexual Health, a sexual health clinic in Skokie, Illinois. Therapists offer counseling and conduct leadership workshops to provide clients with safer sex education. The center offers free pregnancy tests and birth control prescriptions. Gynecological exams are also available for people who cannot afford them elsewhere.

I immediately felt connected and intrigued by their work because of their focus on adolescents. At 16, I had come out a year and a half ago, and I was ready to fill in all of the information that was missing from my sexual health education.

I learned more about safer sex in those two weeks than ever before. As a lesbian who grew up learning that the definition of safer sex involved a male and a female wearing an external condom, I was impressed by how Response’s Center for Sexual Health represented and included the LGBT community in their educational programs and sexual health services.

On my second day as a volunteer, a Response Center staff member led us in a program about LGBT inclusion and gender roles. We discussed possible reasons for society’s assumptions that males “play sports” and females “are emotional.” Following this introductory exercise, the group was quizzed on LGBT terminology. This was only the beginning of what I would learn at the Response Center.

My Turn to Teach

During my time as a volunteer intern, I was a part of a team that worked to construct programming for safer sex instruction. After practicing demonstrations on models and learning the facts, we presented our workshop in front of other teens. It was a fulfilling feeling to share this crucial information with my peers.

I focused on what I felt most passionate about, safer sex for lesbians. Scripted skits and engaging games made learning about safer sex both enjoyable and memorable for workshop participants.

I was really interested in learning about female-to-female/vaginal-to-vaginal safer sex. I learned that regardless of the sex of the partners the barrier methods below can be used during a variety of sexual behaviors to protect you from STDs and, in the case of the receptive condom, even prevent pregnancy:

  • Dental Dam: a thin, square sheet of latex that is held over the vulva or anus during oral sex. Oral stimulation can then occur with a safe barrier, preventing the exchange of bodily fluids and direct physical contact.
  • Finger Cots/Finger Condoms: a glove that covers one finger to be used as a barrier during digital or finger insertion. This protects partners against dirt and bacteria, which can cause infection in the vagina or rectum and anus. Finger cots are sold at most drugstores.
  • Female Condoms/Receptive Condoms: a pouch with flexible rings on either end used during vaginal intercourse that is inserted inside of the body of the partner that is being penetrated. A flexible ring on the open end of the receptive condom remains outside of the body. Partners can also use it for anal sex by removing the ring at the closed end of the pouch.

Keep in mind that STDs can affect anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Any couple, heterosexual or same-sex, engaging in oral, digital or penetrative sex can use these methods.

My experience working at the Response Center was rewarding and eye opening. Not only was I able to expand my sexual health knowledge, but I was also able to actively participate in the fight to end heteronormative sex education. Truly comprehensive sex education would be beneficial to all young people, regardless of the sex of their sexual partners.

Eighteen-year-old Shelby is a contributor from Illinois.

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