It’s Not Just for Dentists Anymore, Part I

If you’ve ever had dental work done, it’s possible that your dentist used something called a dental dam, a square of latex used to isolate a tooth. There’s another use for it that you may or may not have heard of. This post might be considered a safer sex lesson, but there is a safer sensuality dimension, and I have to be frank.

Betssy, Does this Dental Dam Make Me Look Fat?, August 10, 2008 by Flickr, Creative Commons 3.0 BY-SA

Betssy, Does this Dental Dam Make Me Look Fat?, August 10, 2008 by Flickr, Creative Commons 3.0 BY-SA

And that requires bringing up a name recently in the news: Michael Douglas. Michael Douglas, who’s been treated for throat cancer, throat cancer caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV. I won’t go into HPV’s connection to cancer; you can read that here.  How you acquire HPV is direct contact with the virus, which is found on the genitals or mouth/tongue where it can move further back into the throat.

So, enough said about that. So you want to be safe, you need a barrier, right? And the right (correct) barrier. Just like with condoms, latex is your best barrier, if treated properly (no storing in heat, use the right lubricant). So many like the taste of their female partner, and if she’s been tested for HPV, the mouth/tongue against her vulva is safe to do. Some partners may be less turned on, or she carries HPV (which may eventually clear from the body; see your physician about retesting). And then there are those turned on by latex. In any of those cases, a dental damn works great. Use a little tasty and appropriate something on the mouth/tongue side and a water-based lubricant, if desired, on the side against the vulva/lips/clit. Hold in place with fingers. Partner’s tongue moves the fluid around–whether added or naturally produced–and if done right, there’s no reason that the pleasure should be any less than without the dam.

Okay, so if you’re a dentist, you’re in luck–you know where to get your supplies of dams. But what about the rest of us? Make your own. Check out this great little explanation on how to turn a regular unlubricated condom into a dental dam. This is a DIY project you can get behind.

And speaking of “behinds,” stay tuned for Part II in the next couple of weeks.

Learning a New Skill: Putting on the Condom

Trojan-CondomsThose who can do. Those who can’t, watch someone else do it. Then if you watch carefully enough, you can actually do it  yourself.

Before I became a sexuality educator, I knew about condoms from using them with a partner. Confession: I always let the man take care of business thinking that putting on a condom required a special skill that only men possessed, given that they possessed the actual organ to be adorned. PluUntil I got into the business of safer sex education, I never knew the finer points of condom use. But in spite of my original hesitancy and confronted by the dawning realization that I would be demonstrating my proficiency in front of groups of strangers, I took on the challenge. (Plus my salary depended on it.)

 If I wanted to succeed, I knew I’d have to get it right my from an expert–my gay boss Kyle. I and a small group of young female college students were treated to the lesson while gathered around his desk, then each one of us had to demonstrate that we’d learned what he taught–on a condom model, to be clear. At first, I didn’t look forward to having an audience watching me awkwardly manage the little roll-down hat, but I pulled it off, or more correctly, put it on exactly the way it’s supposed to be done.

  • Open package; no teeth, as tempting as it is to use them to rip the package open.
  • Remove the condom from package
  • Grasp tip (and implement the tip tip)
  • Place on top
  • Unroll to the bottom; careful with fingernails
  • Enjoy

 To be honest, it took several tries, but in the end I finally got comfortable with it. And if you haven’t tried it, you can, too.

Check out this article on a study showing that condoms don’t diminish pleasure for men.

Product Review 2: Lubricant, and “A Tip About the Tip”

Tip-tipOne of the most basic products for safer sensuality is water-based lubricant. It reduces friction by providing moisture, and because it’s water-based, it does not damage latex. That’s latex condoms, latex dental dams, or latex gloves. Some condoms come with their own lube, and unlubed condoms are useful for performing oral sex on a guy.

Another option is silicone-based lubricants which are also useful and can retain their “slipperiness” longer than water-based lubricants but can also be more difficult to wash off the body and other materials or objects. No matter which you choose, definitely choose one. Research has shown that lubricants can enhance pleasure in relationships, whether or not you have to practice safer sex.
One of the most popular safer sex tips I give is just that: pay attention to the tip. Place a small amount of latex-friendly lubricant into the tip of the condom before placing it on the head of the penis. It returns that “natural” feeling to the condom experience, as many men have told me who tried it. And when a partner places the lubricant on the sensitive head of the penis before placing the condom (an alternative) or the condom on the penis with the lube inside, it’s a nice experience for both partners.

Safer Passion

You know what’s coming because all the signs are there. You’re felling close. You touch, kiss. He whispers words in your ear and you feel his breath against your neck. His hands travel across your skin. You work his shirt away from his body while his fingers pull down the zipper on your dress. And then…

And then what? Have you had the condom talk yet? Is there a condom around? Should you put it on him or watch him put it on himself? Maybe he’s already wearing it (little chance of that).

The heat of the moment. The chance of throwing caution and good sense to the wind and foregoing the condom. Or doing it without the condom or exchanging “fluids.” (Certainly a very sexy option but requiring a lot of good communication and even some interesting accoutrement. ) The latter means worrying and testing or denial. Now that’s no fun.

While safer sex, or as I like to call it, “safer passion,” does require planning, so does a rich and diverse sex life. And spontaneity can be part of the planning. Safer sex can be a drudge or just one more area to explore when being intimate. And for a woman, it can provide an opportunity to truly explore her sexuality.

That’s one of the themes I explore in my blog, and I’d love to learn your ideas about what works and what might work better. Leave your thoughts below, and join the safer sex conversation. Or there will be other opportunities, if you care.

“Let’s hear from our next caller…”

When I began my job as a purveyor of latex and safer sex wisdom, I started as the coordinator of an AIDS hotline. My education started with my first call, “What about BJs?”Cross-dressing

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”


Throat crickets.

“BJs!” Then the caller schooled me in the meaning of that acronym*.

I shared what information I had on HIV transmission and how to prevent it (oral sex is very low risk, still use a condom because, for the recipient, there’s always herpes) and was grateful to finally have gotten through my first question. I hung up.

The second call wasn’t much better. Caller two had picked up a sex worker off the street who turned out not to be one. A woman, that is.

Funny how fast someone not used to talking about sex became comfortable with standing up in front of people and talking about it without blushing. And not only talking but showing how to put on condoms and wear the giant one myself.

More about that later.


*BJ: Oral sex performed on a male, in case you didn’t get the memo that I also missed