WTF is a dental dam: Or, how abstinence-only sex ed failed me

I am an adult. A sex positive adult. An open and progressive and educated adult. I have been sexually active to some extent since 2006. So how the fuck have I missed SO MUCH over the years in terms of sex education?

My first brush with misinformation causing me personal turmoil came at 14. I got pushed in a pool and ended up borrowing my boyfriend’s basketball shorts. I was wearing a thong and in my adolescent mind, I was sure I had gotten pregnant because he probably jacked off IN HIS SHORTS at some point and my thong left my vagina OPEN TO SEMEN.

After that, I figured a few things out. But still, at 19 I had another insane brush with misinformation about sex! I had full-on penetrative sex for the first time (not counting a one-time encounter with the biggest penis I’ve ever seen in high school). More on both of those another time. But, even though the guy didn’t cum – we were both halfway trying to be Mormon – I was SURE I was pregnant. Even though he didn’t cum and even though I was on birth control. I know that I could have been pregnant despite both, but those chances are TINY!

Anyway, the last few months I have been on something of a sexual rumspringa. And I thought I knew the basics about STIs and pregnancy and risk factors with different acts. Which is why I was shocked and mortified to find out how much I didn’t know when reading a book about non-monogamy.

Here’s what happened: Spouse and I decided to date again about a month ago and the intimacy we experienced in making that decision opened us up to have sex for the first time in almost a year. Before that happened, Spouse asked if I had used protection with other partners and I said yes. Because I had been using condoms with everyone but Barista, who had been tested before we had sex. Remember that Spouse is a doctor, so it was a practical and smart question. So we had condomless sex. Yay!

The next day, I read the chapter in my book about safer sex practices and was horrified to learn that dental dams are a thing! And a thing I maybe should have been using! I spent the next 24 hours doing a deep dive on sex-ed. I took my sexual health in my hands. I read up, set up an appointment for testing and started considering what my level of comfort for different risks really is.

Then I saw Spouse again. And I told him that I had not been practicing protected oral sex. He was really upset. In his mind, when he asked if I’d had protected sex, he was asking if I’d used a barrier for every single act. In my mind, it meant, did I use a condom for penis-in-vagina sex. Upon telling this story to friends, they agree with me, and knowing Spouse, they laugh at his perspective.

It’s not that we think protected oral sex is a joke. It’s not. But Spouse is a total dork. It’s one of the most endearing things about him. He’s an actual genius, but he can really miss some obvious things. And I was his first sexual partner. So, of course, he didn’t know that most people don’t use a dental dam or a condom for oral sex (though maybe more of us should). In his doctor mind, he thought “of course everyone uses all protective measures”. haha

Sweet angel.

We used a condom that night but haven’t had sex since. I told him I’d use protection with other partners in every way. And I intended to…

But after that conversation, I realized I’d like to renegotiate the oral sex thing. After talking to my NP and getting a clean bill of health STI wise (yay!), I’ve decided that if I’ve had a good talk with a partner on their history, that I don’t want to use a dental dam or a condom for oral sex. I haven’t told him this yet because we haven’t been physical again since and also, I’m a chicken shit and don’t want to have to say “no rubber between my pussy and a tongue, sorry Spouse”.

But alas, I gotta do it. Wish me luck?


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