Hey Alice,

Do you know where I can get dental dams for lesbian oral sex and why these are barely promoted compared to condoms?


Dear cedar,

Indeed, dental dams are hard to find. But there are still several places in most metropolitan areas you can either purchase or obtain free dental dams for safer oral sex with your partner(s) of any gender.

If you are a Columbia student, a good place to start is the safer sex supplies map. Columbia students on the Morningside campus can get free dental dams at the Alice! Health Promotion office in Lerner Hall on the seventh floor and at Medical Services in John Jay. Dental dams and other safer sex supplies are also located in Wien Hall on the main floor, just through the glass doors on the left. At Medical Services, students can find safer sex supplies at the Broadway Practice Group on the 4th floor of John Jay. No need to ask for supplies, just help yourself! If you are a student on the Medical Center campus, you can get safer sex supplies from the Center for Student Wellness located at 107 Bard Hall. A promising first stop for those seeking dental dams may be your local Planned Parenthood, or to check with your city's Department of Public Health. Private sellers and businesses specializing in safer sex supplies are also a good option. Babeland, with locations in New York City, sells dental dams for just under two dollars, and also provides confidential online shopping and shipping services. Condomania, which offers a range of dam sizes, and Good Vibrations, which offers a non-latex dental dam option, are good bets for appropriating dental dams online. College students may also want to check with their campus health provider or student health services for getting your hands on dams.

Unlubed or dry condoms can easily be made into good substitutes for dams. With scissors, carefully snip off the elastic band part and tip of the condom and then cut down its length. The resulting rectangular piece of latex (or polyurethane if someone is latex sensitive) is stretchable. If you're in a pinch, you can also use non-microwaveable plastic wrap.

Dental dams are a type of barrier method that protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). For women having sex with women, vaginal fluid or blood exchange during oral sex or other sex play has the potential to infect a partner if one of the partners is infected. Keep in mind that dental dams are useful at reducing risk in oral sex performed on a woman (regardless of the gender of the person performing oral sex), and are also useful in oral-anal sexual contact, a.k.a. rimming (again regardless of the gender of giver or receiver).

Dam-finding difficulties likely stem from the well-deserved attention given to condoms' effectiveness at preventing both pregnancy and infection transmission. Also, condoms were designed with sex in mind, while dams were originally created to help dentists focus on a particular part of the mouth during an oral procedure. Condoms are less expensive than dams and that means a lot in the marketplace.

The market and the sexual health industry clearly need to break the "dam" on ready access to these helpful safer sex supplies. In the meantime, the resources above should lead you in the right dam-finding (and using) direction.


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