Sophie Wilkinson: A Letter To The Girl Who’s Too Gay To Get Tested

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Dear the girl who’s too gay to get tested,

Lesbian sex is the best. It can simultaneously be: comforting, familiar, thrilling and exciting, Underpinning it, like one of those expensively lush mattresses that make bedtimes the best part of the day, is the buoyant feeling that, during same-sex intercourse with another woman, there’s no need for contraceptives.

We can’t get each other pregnant, meaning we avoid all the neuroses of: taking pills, missing pills, living with the effects of pills, being too unwell to take a pill, weighing up the pros and cons of implants versus coils, then taking time off to get them fitted… For lesbians, avoiding pregnancy is far easier than what most women – and it is always, always, women – have to do in order to not become pregnant…

That is, however, where our laissez faire attitude towards contraception has to end. If sex is done for more than getting pregnant, then logically, sexual responsibility is so much more than avoiding pregnancy. What’s paramount is a responsibility to care, not just for the people you’re having sex with, but yourself too.

Sleeping with another woman might feel safe. That doesn’t mean that it technically is.

Many lesbian and queer women, thanks to being ignored by traditional sex education, believe the myth that they can’t pick up STIs or HPV. Without anyone being taught otherwise, it’s easy to think that getting STI tests, or attending cervical smear tests are just another part of reproductive health that only straight women need to do.

It’s easy to think, if you’re not attracted to male genitalia and the ways society tells us to interact with them, that they’re dangerous beasts. While that might sometimes be true, it’s a risky lie to suggest that it’s only true of men’s bits. STIs like genital warts and herpes, trichomoniasis, chlamydia and syphilis, can all be passed on between women. HPV knows very few bounds, easily transmitted via close skin-to-skin contact, usually during sexual activity including oral sex. That is regardless of the sex of your partner.

As for the sex of your partner…if we’re talking dictionary definitions, lesbians’ love lives exclude men, making between their sheets a hallowed women-only space. But sex isn’t always so easy to define.

Just like women are expected to have long hair and pretty faces and to kindly step aside when a big hulking man walks in our path, or smile when he interrupts us, we’re expected, from the moment we begin to become women, to believe sex isn’t something we do, it’s something done to us.

Further to that, something done to us by men, because somewhere along the line something that is the norm has been rebranded as normal.

The tides of patriarchy condemns young lesbians and queer women to see experimenting with men as the default, even if they already know, before one second alone with a man, that they don’t want one. When acquiescing to men is so expected of us, swimming upstream against this can seem like going against what it is to be a woman.

With all this going on, it’s no wonder that lesbians might, have, at some point had sex with a man. It’s a taboo subject to discuss in circles where the ‘gold star lesbian’ – a woman who hasn’t had any sexual interaction with a man – is celebrated. But lesbians and other queer women who sleep with men every now and then can, and do, exist.

Where does that leave you afterwards, though? Well, you might, one time, not have a condom to hand. You might, one time, get caught up in a moment. And you might, one time, find yourself at the counter of a pharmacist asking for emergency contraception.

And in that moment, even though you spend your life emitting signals that you are in no way interested in a man’s shape or form, you’re going to have to own up, to a complete stranger, that there was an interest for a fleeting moment.

There are more fun ways to spend a morning. There are few more important ways to spend one, though, because the level of control it gives you over your own body can be sweet relief.

I trust you to want what you want. I might not, though, trust the world to have told you that your love, and your way of showing it, is totally legitimate on its own. You’ve got a really powerful tool there, look after it, and it will look after you back.

Lots of love from,

ellaOne® 30mg film-coated tablet contains ulipristal acetate and is indicated for emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. Always read the label.