The Frugal, Safe Licking (Sucking, Nibbling) of Holes

by Anna

Note:   we at SEX+STL are not medical professionals.  We do, however, spend a fair amount of time engaging in responsible, critical research  in order to answer your questions as best as we can. Read and use your own best judgment.

Question:  Dental dams – which works better: a cut-open glove or plastic wrap?  Pros and cons of each (and any alternatives), please!

Lots of people who are consistent condom-users forgo  protection when it comes to oral sex.

Why use protection at all?

Check out this STD risk chart.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, oral sex can put you at risk for lots of STIs, including HIV. In the case of gonorrhea infections in the throat, the ‘receiver’ is at much at risk as the ‘giver.’ And most throat infections are completely asymptomatic.

Not just for lesbian and bi women!

There’s this idea that safer oral sex is just for lesbians.  Which makes no sense at all! Maybe I’m idealistic, but I’d like to think that there are men out there, besides my ex-boyfriends, who are generous with the cunnilingus. They need to protect themselves too!  Sex dams (also called dental dams) are  also useful for oral-anal play.  So really, sex dams, or a reliable alternative thereof (to be discussed below) should be in the nightstand/wallet/back pocket of anyone who has a remotely interesting sex life and who shares said sex life with anyone other than a monogamous, disease-free (in throat and in crotch) and long-term partner.
So  . . . we all need sex dams.  Right? Right!  We head over to our local drugstore looking for some — they’re a whopping 1.50 a piece! That better be some goooood, long-lasting oral play.

When I started having sex with women, I was shocked by the price of safer sex.  But then I quickly discovered plastic wrap  and decided that separate polymers for your food and your pussy was for the rich lesbians.

Recently, a  friend of mine sent the question to her Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival friends (thanks Festies for the help and input!) and there was a strong preference for plastic wrap among them as well. And what’s not to love? It’s cheap, handy and comes in sheets as big as you want them to be. In fact, when this question first showed up in the inbox, I was just tempted to write ‘Saran Wrap, non-microwavable. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’  But then I did a little googling.
It’s not really certain whether plastic wrap (of any brand) provides a protective barrier against STIs (though there is some possibility that Glad Wrap protects against herpes simplex).    Also, while it’s long been known that you shouldn’t use microwavable wrap (because it has little holes in it), microwave use is so common now that some brands are microwavable without labeling themselves as such.  For this reason, I have my doubts about the stuff.  While it stands to reason that a plastic wrap barrier is better than no barrier at all, there’s no certainty that it protects from STIs/ STDs and the CDC revised its language  regarding safer oral sex to reflect this lack of evidence.
Viable alternatives include cut-open condoms and disposable gloves. Both of these items were designed to be barriers against pathogens, including HIV (if you get hospital-grade gloves).  The trouble with both of these, is that, unless you buy big gloves or XL condoms, then the barrier they create isn’t really big enough.  Plus, who wants to pull out a pair of scissors right before they’re about to get busy?  How do you incorporate arts ‘n crafts into foreplay (glitter pens, yes – scissors, no) ?

One really fun thing about gloves, though,  is that you can stick your tongue into the thumb and lick around with it.

Even a Magnum won't get you more than 5" width.

I wish I had more and better to offer.  The way I see it, here are the options (in order of desirability):

1)sex dams (see below for money-saving options***)
2)buy XL condoms and XL gloves just for vulva and anal play; cut a bunch open ahead of time and keep in a sealed container beside the bed/play area.
3)Glad Wrap (this may be better than cutting open a condom or glove that’s too small )

Pick your side!

***Buying dental dams in bulk is also a possibility (note: only the Sheer Glyde is FDA-approved for protection against STDs and HIV).   This requires some extra cash at the outset (as well as a fair amount of optimism), but it saves money in the long- run. Of course you could split the costs and the sex dams (you buy 100 at a time) between a few people and have a sex dam-counting party. See —  there’s no problem that an appropriately-themed party can’t solve!


  1. Just an FYI…… If you live near Sikeston, MO or Springfield, MO…. Their health departments give out free dental dams, lube, and condoms. I have a friend that works at one of them and every time she visits she brings bagfuls of safer sex supplies for me 😉

  2. Sex dams aren’t just for those engaging in typically labeled ‘risky sex’. Anyone that engages in oral sex, even with a long term disease free partner can still have problems. Beyond STDs are standard types of infections one might have. As well, it can provide peace of mind with regards to ‘freshness’.

    Education is definitely lax in this area, as well as open discussion. Don’t think I’ve heard mention of dental dams yet on any mainstream tv shows.

    Cheers for the effort here to educate. 🙂

  3. @Phoenix – I didn’t think about the health department! I should find out if the one in STL does the same. Thanks for the tip.

    @the Nerd – You’re most welcome. I appreciated the question, as it made me think about issues that I hadn’t thought about before. Pussy doilies and pom-pom balls! Beats vajazzling.

  4. This is such a tough one for me. While I believe strongly in safer sex, and try to always use condoms (hey, we all do dumb things sometimes), the thought of giving oral sex to a woman with a barrier is so utterly unappealing. It seems like it would kill 80% of what I love about it. I suppose I should try it before judging, but I can’t imagine tasting latex instead of the delicious tastes to which I am accustomed.

  5. Pingback: Sex Positive St. Louis » Blog Archive » The Collection Blog Interview

  6. I usually stock up on dental dams when I get tested at the St. Louis Effort for AIDS, but I use them sporadically, so a few go a long way. I think my dentist gave me one when I picked up my dentures, but in all these years, I’ve never figured out an actual dental use for a dental damn.

    One advantage to plastic wrap is that you can cover the entire bathing suit area and go from anal to vaginal oral sex without cross contaminating.

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