Why aren’t we taking lesbian and bisexual women’s sexual health seriously?


    Why aren't we taking lesbian and bisexual women's sexual health seriously?
    (Picture: Shutterstock/metro.co.uk)

    In case you didn’t know, this week is National Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Week.

    You probably didn’t know that, actually, because no one’s bloody well talking about lesbian and bisexual women’s health.

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    And that’s especially true when it comes to our sexual health.

    Earlier this week we reported that research highlighted by the National LGB&T Partnership had found that lesbian and bisexual women are being told they don’t need cervical screening tests because they have sex with women.

    Which is incorrect.

    Women who have sex with women are able to transmit infections through any sexual practices where skin and fluids that could be infected come into contact with each other.

    So that means oral. And penetrative sex with shared sex toys. And vagina to vagina contact.

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    But even by the time women actually learn about dental dams (a form of barrier protection when having oral sex) – usually through chatting to other women who have sex with women, or doing some research on the internet – it’s not as simple as just running out and buying them.

    Dental dams are not readily available.

    They’re not stocked in club toilets (which upholds the assumption that oral on women isn’t a ‘casual sex thing’, but that’s a whole other issue). They’re not handed out willy-nilly at sexual health clinics. They’re not out on the shelves of Sainsbury’s.

    I popped to Boots on my lunch break today, and found myself overwhelmed by condom options and pregnancy tests, but couldn’t find a single dental dam.

    It’s no wonder, then, that a study in 2003 found that 86% of women had never used a dental dam, and only 1% of women always used one.

    It doesn’t help that dental dams are fiddly and irritating to use.

    ‘Lots of women who are having sex with women are also having sex with men and that some of the women and people they’re having sex with are trans.

    ‘So fundamentally, these wrongful assumptions about the types of sex WSW are having, who else they’re having sex with and the potential risks involved contribute to the lack of accurate and inclusive sexual health information available to WSW.

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    ‘Healthcare workers also need to develop sexual health and fertility strategies that explicitly consider the needs of LBWSW and increase access to testing services.’

    Failing to provide education about the risks involved and how to protect ourselves is incredibly irresponsible and just plain unacceptable. We need to sort it out – and that starts with the simple act of taking lesbian and bisexual women’s sexual health just as seriously as we would take anyone else’s, sharpish.

    Women who have sex with women can’t be erased. We can’t be ignored. And that includes our sexual health.

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