Barrier Methods Beyond the Binary

A gender-neutral safer sex guide

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Illustration by Rose Collins

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are common on all college campuses. Luckily, all are treatable and many are curable. Barrier methods are the best way to protect against STI transmission, and some also prevent pregnancy. Thank you to Student Health Outreach and Promotion (SHOP) for teaching me everything I know about breaking boundaries and the binary. For more information about safer sex and STIs stop by SHOP.

Gender neutral terms: bits, genitals, innie and outie, phallus, back hole/front hole. 

THE FIRST STEP WHEN USING ANY OF THESE METHODS IS SIMPLE AND VITAL: GET CONSENT.

Condoms

Great for: penetrative sex, sex toys

Condoms are a single use barrier method that protect against STI transmission and pregnancy. Condoms are 98 percent effective when used correctly. 

How to use:

  • Check the expiration date. Expired condoms should be discarded.
  • Hold to your ear and squeeze to check for air holes. Condoms with damaged packaging should be discarded.
  • Push the condom to one side and carefully open the package to avoid damaging the condom.
  • Check the condom is in the correct orientation to roll down easily.
  • Pinch the tip to leave room for fluids, roll down.
  • When you’re done, hold the base while pulling out, turn away from your partner to remove the condom and throw it away!

Dental dams

Great for: oral sex

Dental dams are a single use barrier method that protect against STI transmission. Dental dams are a thin sheet of stretchy latex that provides a versatile barrier between a mouth and whatever parts are getting stimulated.

How to use:

  • Make sure the dam is intact with no holes or tears.
  • Hold the dam over the skin with hands or a harness.
  • Use lube to enhance sensation.
Illustration by Rose Collins

Love glove

Great for: hand stuff

Latex (or non latex for those with allergies) gloves are the easiest way to make sure you’ve got a barrier between sensitive skin and fingernails. Gloves also protect the receiving partner from any germs, dirt or cuts on their partner’s hands.

How to use:

  • Put on the glove.
  • Remember to switch up your glove if you’re going between partners or spots where cross-contamination could occur.

The cape

Great for: anyone with genitals on the spectrum between innie and outie, or anyone who wants a dental dam with the option for penetration

How to use:

  • Cut four fingers off a latex glove, leaving the thumb.
  • Cut down the side opposite the thumb.
  • Open up the cape and use for external and internal stimulation.
Illustration by Rose Collins

Lube

Great for: increasing sensation, decreasing risk for STI transmission, mimicking body fluids

How to use:

  • Use lube to reduce microtears, which can be entry points for viruses.
  • Use lube to make things slippery. Less friction can increase pleasure.
  • Lube reduces the risk of condom breakage.
  • Oil-based lube degrades latex, it is NOT good for use with latex barriers.
  • Water-based lube can be applied to any surface, it absorbs more quickly than silicone based lube so it might require reapplication.
  • Silicone-based lube can’t be used with silicone toys because it degrades silicone, but it lasts longer than water-based lube and it’s good when your plans involve water.