Dammed If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

I’m a 22-year-old woman who was infected with type 2 herpes a few years ago. I recently began a new relationship with a beautiful partner who wants to go down on me, but I don’t want to pass anything on. How can we make using a dental dam sexy so we can both get the oral arousal we crave?
—Seeking Some Dam Solutions

I’m really happy you wrote this question in, because sometimes I focus so much on prevention that I leave out the what-ifs and how-tos of actually living with an STI.

But this isn’t because they aren’t common—while Canada isn’t the greatest at compiling herpes-specific stats, it’s estimated that at least 1 in 4 Americans are currently living with genital herpes, and that 80 per cent of people infected are unaware because they have no symptoms.

So let’s start with some quick herpes info: Type 1 herpes involves oral sores while type 2 herpes is focused more around the genital and anal regions. There is a risk of oral herpes transferring to the genitals or other parts of the body, and vice versa, so safer sex practices are necessary during oral sex and touching.

The virus is still active and can be spread even when an infected person has no visible sores or symptoms, through a process called viral shedding.

It sounds like you’re off to a good start, but I’m definitely with you on the difficulty of making dental dams sexy, because I get asked this question a lot and still have trouble answering it!

To a certain extent, it’s up to you to make dams sexy, if you want them to be. Dams give you, a person living with genital herpes, another concrete safer sex option, and to me, that’s fucking sexy.

It may be awkward at first, or feel a little clinical to use dams, but hey, all sexual experiences are a little awkward at first and that doesn’t stop us. Just remind yourself of the role they play in protecting you and your partner, and they’ll eventually just become another part of sex.

More practically speaking, latex on its own isn’t the best feeling—but throw in some water-based lube and you’re in for a good time. You actually just might forget it’s even there.

Someone once told me she liked to cut the crotch out of a pair of underwear and secure the dam inside it to create a hands-free dam situation. I don’t think that’s for everyone, and you definitely need to be careful about it, but that’s just one creative example that I’ve come across, so try to find one of your own!

I think that at this point a major barrier (pun intended) in making dental dams sexy is really normalizing them.

While male condoms may have the added appeal of pregnancy-prevention, they didn’t catch on as a norm overnight either, so I’m holding on to my hopes that peace of mind and freedom of safer sexual expression will prove to be powerful motivators.

On a related note, I’d like to congratulate Concordia’s 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy on their Damit! project, promoting the need for dental dams to be included in the safer sex products currently offered free of charge by the Quebec Ministry of Health.

This is a step in the right direction towards normalizing and encouraging dam use and I hope you’ll all help them out by picking up some free dams, and filling out a survey to help them in their research!

For more info on Damit!, visit 2110centre.org.

Submit your questions anonymously at sex-pancakes.tumblr.com and check out “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook. Need some extra help? You can always contact Concordia Counselling & Development at 514-848-2424 ext. 3545 for SGW and ext. 3555 for Loyola. Got a quick health question? Call info-santé at 8-1-1 from any Montreal number.

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