Lube, pleasure, safer sex and a DIY dental dam / condom combo!

Hello! I’m Cal (he, they, and ze/hir pronouns), age 16, of SHIFT NC’s Youth Advisory Council. Welcome to the YAC’s blog, where we will post information or resources about sexual and reproductive health. When it’s my turn to post on this blog, I will mostly talk about how different genders and bodies can enjoy safer sex. I want to make sure you have accurate information about how to protect yourself if and when you decide to have sex. Today’s post will be about sex toys, lube, and how to make an STI-reducing barrier for a transmasculine person who has experienced clitoral growth. While reading, please try to keep in mind that sex can be anything that you and your partner(s) decide it is, not just penis-in-vagina penetration. Also remember that anything you do needs to have full consent from both partners.

A great way to improve sex for everyone, no matter how their body functions, is to use lubricant. Lube can come in a ton of different styles, ingredients, and uses: there is flavored lube for oral; thicker lube designed for anal sex; water-based lubes to be used with condoms and/or silicone sex toys; and many other options! Not everyone prefers using lubrication during sex — because lube decreases friction, it may make it more difficult for an individual to find the right motions or pressures that they enjoy during sex or masturbation. However, many people use lube to make penetration easier (especially for anal!) or to make external stimulation more enjoyable. It can be very overwhelming to choose things like lube or condoms when you’re looking at a wide display of them, but a way to narrow it down is to know what materials you’re looking for. For example, oil-based lube is not compatible with latex condoms, because it can break down the particles of the condom and potentially cause it to tear. If you narrow down what you’re looking for (say, specifically latex condoms and water-based lube), it can make it a little easier to choose what works best for you. Also, check the ingredients! If you or your partner(s) have a vagina, make sure to search the ingredients list for any ingredients that could upset the vaginal pH levels. If it does contain such ingredients, put that one back on the shelf and try a different lube instead.

If you and your partner (or you by yourself) are using sex toys, make sure to get a safe material. Materials like TPE, jelly, PVC, and rubber (and many more) are not good materials for sex toys because they can be porous, toxic, or introduce pthalates into your body. If you use a material like this, make sure to use a condom in addition to the toy. If the toy is made of silicone, opt for a non-lubricated condom, since the lubes in many pre-lubricated condoms are cheap and silicone-based, which could damage a silicone toy. But if the toy is an ideal material — like stainless steel, platinum-grade silicone, or borosilicate glass — the only main reasons to use a condom could be for quick and easy cleanup, or if you’re sharing the toy with someone else. And if you do have silicone toys, don’t store them together! They can break each other down with prolonged contact. Additionally, the most common sex toys you hear of include dildos and vibrators, but several companies have been branching out recently to make toys specifically for individuals who are transgender or gender non-conforming.

Here are a few extra things to keep in mind if you are sexually active:

  • Make sure to check the expiration dates — condoms, dental dams, and lube can expire. Expired condoms are much more likely to break, which could potentially lead to STIs or pregnancy. Expired lube may not have the desired viscosity, and can even cause a yeast infection or allergic reaction. Throw these out and get new ones!
  • To the best of your ability, always pee after having sex or masturbating. This can help prevent bacteria from entering the urethra and causing a urinary tract infection (UTI).
    Use condoms for oral and penetrative sex, and dental dams for oral.
  • Check to see if you or your partner have a latex allergy — if so, search for alternative materials for condoms and dental dams.
  • If you’re going to be using an insertable toy vaginally and anally, it’s okay to go from vaginal-to-anal contact, but not the other way around! Swap condoms on the toy or wash it before bringing it back into contact with the vulva.
  • Ask your partner what words they prefer for their genitalia so as to not make them uncomfortable.
  • As always, explicit consent!

And lastly, I’ll show you how to make a condom/dental dam combo! If you or your partner happen to be transmasculine (someone who identifies as male and has a vagina, ovaries, etc.), there is a quick and easy way to make this barrier that can keep you and your partner both safe. This method works for a transmasculine person who has been on hormones, since this likely will have enlarged the clitoris enough for penetration, but not enough to fit a traditional condom. Luckily, all you need to make a protective condom for a transmasculine person is scissors and a single-use latex (or alternative) glove. The thumb hole of the glove will be the “condom” part. All you need to do is cut off the fingers of the glove, except for the thumb, and cut all the way up the side that the pinky finger was on. (see diagram below)

The thumb of the glove is what goes over the transmasculine person’s clitoris/penis, and the rest of the glove can cover their vulva, just like a dental dam would. This can be used to protect every involved partner during oral or penetrative sex!

That’s it for today. I hope you learned something new, and if you did, you should tell someone you know so that they can maybe learn about it too. Stay safe and have fun!

By Cal (he/him, they/them, ze/hir)

This post was reviewed and approved by a medical professional, Catherine S. Lee, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, UNC School of Medicine.

Tags: gender, trans, condoms, sex toys, lube, safety
Sources consulted: