Women and sexual health needs

It is often assumed that women who have sex with other women cannot contract sexually transmitted diseases.

This is because it is assumed that women do not exchange fluids during sex, and that sexual activity is similar to heterosexual foreplay. It is sometimes thought that sex between women does not really constitute sex at all and therefore does not pose a risk to either party. This is not the case. Women can, and do, exchange fluids, and engage in sexual activity that can have consequences for a woman’s health.

Women have to find information about safe sex from sources other than the health sector because these issues are not discussed between a health care practitioner and a patient. For example, women should wear gloves when participating in digital penetration, especially if either is menstruating. Condoms should be used with sex toys, and the toys should be washed before sharing.  Women do contract sexually transmitted diseases from each other, and do need to be tested for asymptomatic diseases, such as chlamydia.

The lack of visibility and acknowledgement of lesbian sexuality can affect whether a woman feels able to discuss her relationship, or concerns about her relationships or sexual activity with a health care professional. Research suggests that, in common with other people, lesbians can experience concern about their level of happiness and sexual satisfaction in the relationship. Lesbians are unable to discuss their concerns and anxieties with a health care provider who does not understand or recognise the validity of their relationship or their sexual health needs and activity.


  • Health Needs of Women who have Sex with Women: Healthcare workers need to be aware of their Specific Needs C Hughes, A Evans (2003)
  • Women's sexual health, sexual satisfaction, and sexual orientation A Stulhofer, M Gregurovic, D Stulhofer (2003)
  • Lesbian women and sexual health: the social construction of risk and susceptibility. K A. Dolan (2005)
  • Treating lesbians and bisexual women: challenges and strategies for health professionals. E P Gruskin (2001)
  • Lesbian sexual health: deconstructing research and practice. J C Farquhar. (1998)
  • Lesbian health: what are the issues? P N Stern (1994)
  • Lesbian health: current assessment and directions for the future. A L. Solarz. (1999)
  • Good for you: a handbook on lesbian health and wellbeing. T Wilton (2000).
  • Are lesbians sexually healthy? A report of the ‘Lesbian Sexual Behaviour and Health Survey. C Farquhar. (2002)

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