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Sex Ed Resources for Lesbians
March 14, 2011 11:02 PM   Subscribe

My little sister is a lesbian, and seems misinformed about some basic sexual concepts (eg: safe sex for lesbians) ....

I'm a 29 year old straight lady, with a 19 year old lesbian sister (we'll call her S) and an 18 year old straight sister (we'll call her H). I have always had a close relationship with both sisters, and the channels of communication have been very open regarding sex and other "sensitive" subjects. They look up to me, and I am supportive and try to give good advice when asked.

Recently (within the last year or so) both sisters have become sexually active. However it has become apparent over the last year that my lesbian sister S has developed something of an attitude. We've had some general talks about STD's and the like, but she acts like no one in the family has any right to say anything to her (about her sex behavior) because we "just don't understand" because we're not gay.

I COMPLETELY understand her need to be able to connect with someone who has had similar sexual experiences, but some things transcend orientation in my opinion, eg: safe sex practices!

S spent many years hiding her sexuality from my parents (but not H and I), and would have her girlfriend spend the night, while telling my parents they were just friends. I called her out on this (in my opinion inappropriate) behavior, and she dismisses it because she "can't get pregnant" and "what's the big deal anyway?" When I explain how our parents would not approve of a boy spending the night with H she get's upset and rolls her eyes and tells me I just don't get it. Well, sorry, I think it's the same thing. Now she's telling us she doesn't need to get her yearly exams at the gyno because she's not having sex with a penis, she acts like she's magically immune to STD's, and she's hooking up with random girls from a bondage bar because "she can't get pregnant!" She has loud sex in my parents house while people are there (someone actually walked in on her during my uncles retirement party!) and when you ask her to stop she has no respect and acts like we're being unreasonable and trying to stifle her gayness (no matter how accepting we are, and WE ARE, she thinks we are trying to stifle her gayness). My parents have told her this is unacceptable, but she sneaks around and does it anyway, and now they've asked me to help.

I really want some resources to point her in the right direction, mainly about how being a sexually active lesbian doesn't mean you can neglect your body and your safety ... which is what she is currently doing. Books, interwebs, penpals ... anything! I am really frustrated because she completely disregards me and everyone around her because we're straight. (again, I completely understand and agree with the real need to have a friend/mentor that is a lesbian to have some good talks with her). Any advice about her attitude would also be helpful!
posted by starfyr to Human Relations (46 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This ain't about lesbianism, this is about attention-seeking or passive aggression or maybe "she needs to get her own place".
posted by orthogonality at 11:07 PM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Honestly, if she completely disregards you, do you really think if you find a REALLY CONVINCING piece of information, she will reform her behavior and act the way you think she should? No matter how heinous her actions, nominally, at least, she's an adult and I don't see how you have any power to coerce her. Anyway, if you want to try influencing her, ask her if she wants information about safe sex for lesbians. If yes, facilitate her getting that information (marching her down to the GLBT center, making calls, reading MeFi answers with her). If not, just be there for her.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:10 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Orthogonality: yes, I know she wants her own place, she is at my parents house while she finishes school (almost done!) and I believe will be looking to move then. We live in LA area, she just can't afford to leave while she's in school.

Wordwoman: she doesn't completely disregard me on everything, just specifically on sex, but I believe if it was geared toward lesbians and not just generic information she would be inclined to read it. I'm not sure anything but experience will really change her behavior, but I want to make the effort to provide her with good information that she might read because it comes from a more "reliable" source (ie: lesbians, not her straight sister).
posted by starfyr at 11:19 PM on March 14, 2011


Don't get between your parents and your sister. Don't parent your adult sister.

Dramaz.
posted by jbenben at 11:26 PM on March 14, 2011 [16 favorites]


Do you have any friends who are lesbians that are older than her that she might be able to look up to since she doesn't feel she can look up to you when it comes to sex since you're straight?
posted by elpea at 11:33 PM on March 14, 2011


jbenben: I'm not trying to parent her ... on re-reading that sentence sounded like my parents wanted me to say something about her having sex in haus; not the case, sorry for the poor editing on my part!

elpea: I had thought of that, but I don't have many lesbian friends, and the one really good lesbian friend I do have lives far away and is very busy :(
posted by starfyr at 11:43 PM on March 14, 2011


As orthogonality said, this is not about sex, but about something fundamentally different. Just like teenagers coming from uber-strict families tend to go to the other extreme when they have freedom.

I think that because your parents are talking to S about sex and not to H, S feels specifically called out only because of her orientation (which is not the truth). One way to deal with it is to establish common rules for the house - no sex unless married. Sending this message indirectly, for example, channeled at H (with her prior approval!) can deflect some of S' feeling.

However, rules are not worth anything unless enforced with loss of privileges for breaking them.

I know you asked for books/resources, but when one doesn't want to hear something, the source doesn't matter unless it is someone at the same level (lesbian, in this case) and for whom there is respect (to at least hear them out). Anyway, here is a good starting point - Link. Print it out and ask S to read it as a favor to you. If she is interested in more or to talk about it, there is your first step.

I also know of one lady friend who recommended "Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us" by Felicia Newman to lesbian friends of hers, but don't have any personal knowledge of the book.
posted by theobserver at 12:03 AM on March 15, 2011


Read this whole sentence:

My parents have told her this is unacceptable, but she sneaks around and does it anyway, and now they've asked me to help.

Whatever the issue are, it does sound an awful lot from your choice of words here and at other points like she is a wayward minor who is out of line and needs correction. It's not editing, it's a general tone.

In fact, your sister is a 19 year old adult. That doesn't come across anywhere in your question.

- I submit to you that no matter how risky her sexual behavior is, you've talked to her about it, and now it is none of your business.

- What she does or doesn't do in your parents house is between her and your parents, regardless of her age.

And, umm, FWIW... it does sound a lot like the concern about her risky(?) sexual behavior is a cover for a disagreement between your sister and the entire family concerning her acting outside of the boundaries of the acceptable established family dynamic. So, it's not her sexual preference, but her attitude generally that is really pushing everyone's buttons.

If you want to talk to her about how she's being a crap sister or family member - go for it. I'm just not sure what positive result that will net overall unless you are willing to really hear her out on the subject.
posted by jbenben at 12:03 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I realize she's not in a place to listen to you, but she might warm up if advice is coming from another lesbian. I noticed that your profile says you live in Los Angeles. Have you thought about contacting the Youth Services folks at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center for advice, possibly a mentor for her?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:19 AM on March 15, 2011


Here's a list of lesbian safer sex practices that detail which actions are safe and which actions are inadvisable if you're uncertain of your partner's STD history.
posted by brookedel at 1:13 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


You give her the necessary information once and then you remove yourself from being involved. Your sister is an adult - part of that is that she is responsible for her own decisions. Your job is to support her - not to convince her do anything. And that would be the case regardless of the situation, regardless of her sexuality. I am a firm believer in making sure people are as informed as possible - but what they do with that information is up to them and them alone. Your sister is reacting to your attempts to control her, and to be honest she's only going to get worse if you, or anyone else, keeps pushing her to behave a certain way. She is after all an adult, even if she's, in your view, a poorly behaved one.
posted by mleigh at 1:35 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here is the paraphrased list of what she is currently doing that you disapprove of:

1. She had her girlfriend spend the night, while telling her parents they were just friends.
2. She says she doesn't need to get her yearly exams at the gyno
3. She's hooking up with random girls from a bondage bar
4. She has loud sex in my parents house while people are there

Only one of these (the second) is about safe (STD-free) sex. The third I can also kind of see why you might be worried for her safety, if you think she isn't careful about bondage practices, or if you are worried the random girls she picks up might be serial killers or something. The other two are just bad manners, and are between your parents and her.

If I were her, I would have trouble hearing your "legitimate concern" through the other issues. I would feel like you were disapproving of my lifestyle because you don't think bondage bars are a good idea, and you don't think I should be having sex at my parents' house, etc. If it's really her health you are concerned about, you will probably have more chance of being heard if it's only strictly health-related issues you comment on.
posted by lollusc at 1:42 AM on March 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yeah, your sister is an adult. Nobody can really tell her whether she can hook up with random people or have loud sex or have people spend the night. By the same token if she is going to make those very adult choices, your parents are under absolutely no obligation to support her. The solution is pretty obvious; she moves out.

She can't afford to live on her own? Then she lives by your parents rules. But that's between her and your parents, you have nothing to do with it. If they aren't willing to put their feet down it's not your place to get in the middle.
posted by Justinian at 1:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sort of amazed at the ignorance and double standards being spouted here. I went to a superfeminist rah rah rah school, and I remember being surprised when the safe sex presentations and flyers came around to lesbian safe sex practices, but upon 5 seconds of reflection, it seems obvious that fluid (ie blood) transfer can occur and spread disease during any kind of sexual intimacy. I think it's a shame that I wasn't exposed to safe sex knowledge for all genders and sexualities growing up, and it's doubly a shame that so many others never have been.

Hooking up with random girls is absolutely an STD risk. Just because the risk is smaller, doesn't mean it's nonexistent. And the riskier the sex practices -- for instance, who knows if your sister is properly washing sex toys at these bondage clubs? -- the higher the STD risk.

It seems there's, tragically, no longer an LA branch of Toys in Babeland, but I'd encourage you to seek out a sex positive, woman-friendly sex shop to teach your sister the lesbian birds and bees (which, contrary to her beliefs, are mostly exactly the same). They say they still have workshops in LA, but I didn't see any listed, unfortunately. I know nothing about LA, but maybe another AskMe can provide good recommendations for this type of workshop/sexshop. It sounds like your sister fancies herself "edgy", so maybe she'll listen to women who've been there and done that as far as real "edginess".

Second, your sister is being a brat; I can't admit to being perfect as far as respecting my parent's rules, but at least I had the sense to be a respectful teenager and be sneaky when I broke them. I'm not sure what kind of parent I'll be (there's something to be said for allowing safe sex under your own roof), but I am sure that once I set rules, my kid should respect them and not openly flaunt them. If your parents have rules about sexual behavior under their roof, she should respect the rules, not look for loopholes. She's demanding a double standard under the guise of being treated "equally". It's childish, and she should be treated like a child, and disciplined as one (preferably by her parents, not her sister). She's not entitled to be a brat just because she's a lesbian.

I suspect that your parents are allowing themselves to fall into her trap of feeling guilty and not punishing her disrespectful behavior because they are struggling with admitting to themselves that they are a bit homophobic. That's understandable - as long as they're working to overcome it. But it can't excuse neglecting parental duties. I would absolutely recommend that your parents become active in PFLAG or another similar group so that they can work through their discomfort and get back to being parents. It might also help show your sister that they care about her and respect her as she is, although that's a secondary goal. It should be something they want to do for themselves, so that they can be sure they're treating her equally.

It sounds like, perhaps due to your ages, you are sort of a "second mom" to your sisters, and seeing as how you seem to happily take on the role, that sounds great to me. You sound like someone they can simultaneously look up to, yet also relate to. It's great that your sister has someone like you looking out for her best interests.
posted by lesli212 at 2:34 AM on March 15, 2011 [16 favorites]


S spent many years hiding her sexuality from my parents (but not H and I), and would have her girlfriend spend the night, while telling my parents they were just friends. I called her out on this (in my opinion inappropriate) behavior...

This stood out for me. If you called out your straight sister for sneaking boys into the house, wouldn't she also be annoyed and tell you to mind your own business? And how does this have anything to do with STDs? I think you need to separate your concern over STDs with your involvement in all these other issues.
posted by creasy boy at 2:40 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a list of lesbian safer sex practices that detail which actions are safe and which actions are inadvisable if you're uncertain of your partner's STD history.
posted by brookedel at 4:13 AM on March 15 [+] [!]


That list is pretty good other than "If you are piercing each other, clean the needle with bleach between users"

Use separate new properly autoclaved needles. You can buy them cheap from a multitude of body jewelry sites.
posted by SuzySmith at 3:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


- I submit to you that no matter how risky her sexual behavior is, you've talked to her about it, and now it is none of your business.

Yeah, because when your sister is dying from undetected cervical cancer because she's completely stupid about safe sex practises and delusional about the risks of woman-woman sex, you can go, "Huh, well, none of my business".

The poster is right to be concerned.
posted by rodgerd at 3:15 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


A pap smear is recommended (for lesbians, too) about three years after the first sexual intercourse or around age 21 (whichever comes first). It doesn't sound like either of your sisters meet that criteria.

Reluctance for other STD testing... Besides thinking it's not necessary, is there some other reason she is reluctant to do it? Is she afraid (needles/doctors/?)... Is there a money issue? Is it just that it's a nuisance to spend a chunk of free time sitting in a waiting room for something you don't really want to do? It's probably better if you find ways around any reason she might have for not doing it, and then point out that even if she's low risk it's still so very simple, so why not? (Oh, and really--nothing to do with being a lesbian. Everything to do with being That Age.)
posted by anaelith at 3:30 AM on March 15, 2011


We've had some general talks about STD's and the like, but she acts like no one in the family has any right to say anything to her (about her sex behavior) because we "just don't understand" because we're not gay.

...but some things transcend orientation in my opinion, eg: safe sex practices!


Actually, sexual orientation does have a lot to do with safe-sex practices. Lesbians are at less risk than straight people or gay men. I don't understand why you'd say safe sex "transcends" sexual orientation.

she's hooking up with random girls from a bondage bar because "she can't get pregnant!" She has loud sex in my parents house while people are there ... and when you ask her to stop she has no respect and acts like we're being unreasonable and trying to stifle her gayness (no matter how accepting we are, and WE ARE, she thinks we are trying to stifle her gayness).

If she were making as much noise by watching TV instead of having sex, would you be equally upset? If not, then I think you are being unreasonable in asking her to "stop" (though I'm not sure if this means "stop having sex" or "stop being so loud").

I really want some resources to point her in the right direction, mainly about how being a sexually active lesbian doesn't mean you can neglect your body and your safety ... which is what she is currently doing.

How do you know?

Are you this critical of your straight friends' sex practices? It seems like you are extremely eager to make your point about how lesbians shouldn't think safe sex doesn't apply to them. I'm not surprised your sister isn't interested in hearing this from you. Based on what you've written, this "safe sex" thing seems like an excuse to criticize a litany of things she does.

While there may be important information for her to read about safe sex, we can't tell from your post what she does or doesn't know. And I wouldn't be surprised if she's less receptive to information about this coming from you than if she found it herself by a Google search. If I were you, I'd let her live her own life.
posted by John Cohen at 4:29 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, that's one helluva chip your sister's got. I really sympathise with you wanting to help, and I think it's understandable that you want to make sure she is fully aware of all the risks and how to be safe. And ignoring John Cohen, there are some (albeit reduced) risks, even for two women. But as long as she has this attitude, she's not going to listen to you, so point her to some online resources or a local gay and lesbian organisation and hope she will be more responsive to other gay people.

Having done that, I think you need to take a step back because some of the broader issues you describe are for your parents to tackle, not you.
posted by londonmark at 5:15 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, people just need to stop posting that lesbians are some kind of magic STD-repellers. Being a lesbian doesn't mean that you don't have to be tested, or that you don't need to use condoms. Being less likely to get an STD doesn't mean a person should behave irresponsibly. Personal responsibility absolutely transcends gender or orientation.

Lesbians are just as likely to get herpes, for instance.

Bacterial vaginosis, if untreated, can cause pelvic inflamatory disease; it's frequently found to be more common in lesbians (it may or may not be an STD - jury's still out).

Mutual masturbation can even spread disease. Have I freaked everyone out into swaddling their entire bodies in saran wrap and never ever having sex with anyone again yet? My work here is done!

The point is, if OP's sister is running around sleeping with every girl she meets*, she'll end up being one of that 2% of lesbians with gonorrhea or chlamydia.

*This is not to say sleeping around is bad, but sleeping around without getting yourself and your partners tested is bad. Cuz, yeah, I've known exactly one person who's ever used a dental dam. Once.
posted by lesli212 at 5:17 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


As a youngest sister of four, I'd read over these comments and think very carefully about what exactly your problems with her are, what they stem from, and be clear about them.

For my whole life I've gotten tons of unwanted and poorly formed advice from my older sisters who were probably just trying to look out for me, but it always came across as condescending and dismissive. I was never actually interested in them looking out for me, and they didn't know much about my life, so their advice was usually inappropriate. After a while it didn't matter what they said, I was so angry at their tone and arrogance that it was hard to have a conversation with them.

I'm not saying this is necessarily the case here. Clearly your younger sister is overstepping boundaries. But whenever I hear "older sibling wants to give advice to younger sibling" questions here, I instantly bristle. Don't treat her like a kid sneaking around, treat her like an adult. Even if she is still very young, you'll show her that you expect more from her because she is an adult, rather than allowing her to continue the pattern of filling her role of immature teenager.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 5:27 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Are you this critical of your straight friends' sex practices? It seems like you are extremely eager to make your point about how lesbians shouldn't think safe sex doesn't apply to them. I'm not surprised your sister isn't interested in hearing this from you. Based on what you've written, this "safe sex" thing seems like an excuse to criticize a litany of things she does.

The eagerness seems to come from the fact that the sister thinks she is immune to STDs. People who think that should be criticized.

Yes, younger siblings hate their older siblings giving them advice. And the older siblings hate that their younger siblings refuse to acknowledge that the older siblings are trying to help them avoid painful mistakes. Sucks equally.

In this question, both issues are derails of each other. The sister is acting like an asshole, AND she is misinformed about safe sex.

And the lesbianism is a derail of both. The younger sister seems to think this gives her an excuse to disregard whatever she wants. That's what 19 year olds do; it has nothing to do with her sexuality.
posted by gjc at 6:14 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Your parents have a right to be able to say no sex in our house. While I personally don't agree with that, she's not having crazy sex in my house and disturbing my parties. So, they need to lay down the law and say if she wants to act grown, she needs to be grown and find someplace else to live. I don't care who she's having sex with, being disrespectful is another issue entirely. Maybe for a while no one gets to have guests in the house. It sucks for H, but it will either cause S to act like a reasonable person or it will give her the impetus to move out, which solves the problem for everyone.
posted by crankylex at 6:27 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


We only have the OP's word the adult-but-younger sister is misinformed about STD's. Based on the flavor of the other complaints the OP makes regarding this sibling... I'm not entirely convinced the sister is being all that risky or reckless sexually. Furthermore, I know what fishing for validation on AskMe looks like when I read it.

When posters use words like "brat," or "discipline," or similar when advocating the younger sister requires guidance, it compounds what is already a contentious dynamic between these family members. Like it or not, people don't age backwards. That sister is never going to be back in highschool and require a curfew ever again.

OP should adjust her view of her sister, recognize the sister's autonomy, and address only those issues with the sister that she would discuss with any other close and beloved peer.

-OR-

OP can continue to treat her sister like a rebellious highschooler. Y'know, because it has worked well so far.
posted by jbenben at 6:44 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Take yourself on a visit to a queer-friendly doctor surgery - the kind that identifies itself loud and proud as queer-friendly: rainbow flags, sex-positive posters hanging around the waiting room, that sort of thing. They should be able to provide you with pamphlets on safe sex and general sexual health matters for lesbians (my doctor once gave me one entitled 'Lesbians need pap smears too', for example), or point you toward where you can get some. You may also have some luck in this department calling a queer-oriented advice/counselling line in your city, or AIDS-related organisation.

Actually, here looks like an excellent start.

If you can offer these to your sister with a "I don't want to be a nag so I'm not going to keep on at you about it, but I grabbed these for you," I think you've done what you need to do here.
posted by springbound at 6:47 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


jbenben, OP should adjust her view of her sister, recognize the sister's autonomy

If her parents are paying for school and paying for the roof over her head, she doesn't have complete autonomy. If she wants to do whatever she wants when she wants to do it, she needs to move out. Until she is able to do that, she needs to make at least a cursory effort at respecting the wishes of the people that are supporting her. I see no reference of a curfew, presumably she could go have sex elsewhere.
posted by crankylex at 6:53 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems like this is less about your sister having respect for herself and more about her disrespecting your parents. I know you want to help your parents, but your sister is not going to start respecting your parents if you tell her to - it needs to come from them. I think they need to sit down with her and say, look, we love you, we support you but this is our house and you don't get to have sex in our house, period. You can have crazy, loud lesbian sex parties at your friend's house, at your own place, whatever, but not here. You and H both have to follow the same rules.

To some extent, and I say this as a former rebellious younger sister, she needs to make her own mistakes, have her heart broken, an uncomfortable or scary doctor's appointment, worry about how she's going to pay her credit card bill, etc. before she can appreciate how much your parents have taken care of her, how hard they work, and how much growing up she has to do. Your parents' job is to enforce rules in their house. Your job is to empathize and help her follow the rules. All of you share the job of loving her and supporting her but sometimes that means calling her out.

And don't forget to take H out for ice cream once in a while too. My sister is a year older than me and that was challenging when she was being a drama queen and I just wanted some attention.
posted by kat518 at 6:59 AM on March 15, 2011


Seconding The Whole Lesbian Sex Book as a fantastic safe sex guide if she hasn't already discovered it on her own. It's kind of the newly-out-lesbian bible. Or at least it was in the early 2000's.
posted by Lieber Frau at 7:11 AM on March 15, 2011


Wordwoman said something about "Marching her down to the GLBT center."

I think that's the best tactic for the STD concern. She won't listen to you because you're "straight." I'm positive someone at the GLBT center would be more than happy to help explain the concept of "safe sex" to your sister. You can take her out for icecream and make a suprise stop at the GLBT center on the way.

The other issue is a matter of respect, of which she appears to have none for you or your parents. That's the more difficult of the two problems by far, and I think it's probably a function of her being so young... I like to think that one day she'll snap out of it and realize what a horrible person she was being. So I'll just hope that day comes sooner rather than later.
posted by j03 at 7:14 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some additional short thoughts:
- Young adults tend to think that drinking or having sex makes them adults when it's taking responsibility for said drinking and having sex that makes one an adult. This is something you can tell your sister but she has to learn it and internalize it for herself.
- Contrary to popular beliefs (that your sister appears to hold), getting pregnant is not an STD. Getting pregnant is not the worst thing that can happen to you when it comes to having unprotected sex.
posted by kat518 at 7:53 AM on March 15, 2011


Yeah, go to a lesbian bookstore or LGBT center, get some information and/or books, and give them to her, saying "Sister, I love you, and I want you to be healthy." Let your parents deal with her behavior at home. If you don't want to deal with her having girlfriends over at Mom & Dad's, tell her not to tell you about it. But I think you're doing her a favor if you continue to listen, point out areas of concern, and be a safe haven for her as she goes through adolescence.
posted by theora55 at 8:36 AM on March 15, 2011


S spent many years hiding her sexuality from my parents (but not H and I), and would have her girlfriend spend the night, while telling my parents they were just friends.

hi! this is how a friend of mine got herpes. from her first girlfriend. at a young age. now she's stuck with it for life.

i know the doin' it under the parents' roof thing seems benign, but sometimes i wonder whether it gives people a false sense of security about the things they are doing. it's no different than bringing home people she meets at a bondage club. it just seems different.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 9:13 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, lots of confusing, layered issues here.

1) If your sister has never had intercourse with a man with a penis, she is not in particular need of a pap smear. Persistant Human Papillomavirus is the cause of cervical cancer. See here. The purpose of a pap smear is to screen for signs of cervical cancer. That's it. Although she is at theoretical risk for HPV - say, if she used a penetrating sex toy on a friend and then on herself, the actual risk is pretty low. She's also at very low risk for bacterial STDs and at very low to no risk of contracting HIV. Again, there is a theoretical risk of say, herpes for example, if she is having direct contact between her genitals and a friend's. It would be wise for her to think about this when choosing her sexual activities, but statistically she should probably be more concerned about auto accidents. And keep in mind for herpes, even if she was straight and having condom sex with men she would be at risk.

Now, if she ever had intercourse with a man with a penis, it is probably worth while for her to get a few Paps before she gives them up all together because they have a low accuracy - lots of false negatives - and the reason we are told to get them so often is to account for that. So you'd want a few negatives before writing them off all together.

It'd also be worthwhile for her to think critically and honestly about whether a) she's ever having sex with men (which some lesbians do) and b) who her partners might be having sex with. Lesbians as a whole do tend to have fewer STDs, so hence if you have sex with lesbians, you are at lower risk of having sex with someone who has one. BUT, this theoretical stats game doesn't mean anything if the person you are having sex with happens to be the woman who has unsafe anal sex with guys or who shoots drugs or what not. So all this is worth thinking about beyond the statistics.

Finally, women seem to be at increased risk for spreading bacterial vaginosis during sex. This isn't always an STD - meaning you can get it through non-sexual transmission and it is easily treated, so in reality it's not a big deal.

Still and again, your sister, if she is like the great majority of women who have sex primarily with women, is unlikely to get STDs doing so.

2) Your sister sounds like she's 19. Lots of attention-seeking behavior, with insufficient regard for the comfort of those around her. Seems reasonable to tell her if she's embarrassed you or if you are upset that she's putting your parent in an awkward position, no matter the cause.

3) Different people have different values about sexuality. It sounds like you're uncomfortable with the casualness of your sister's sexual relationships. But this is her personal decision to make. As a sister you probably feel particularly invested, but inevitably, even sisters will have differences in their values - especially given the age difference and the difference in community membership (straight vs gay).

Finally, I must say, it's admirable that you care about your sister's health and safety. But beyond expressing that concern, there's nothing you can do. Time to back off and let your sister make her own decisions, even if that means making her own mistakes.
posted by serazin at 9:36 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


You've told her, again and again, that she doesn't know what she's doing wrt sex, that what she's doing is wrong, that she's not taking care of herself, etc, etc -- you're treating her like a small child and like your child. Let it go. Quit telling her when she's being bad about lying to your parents. Let your parents make their rules and enforce or not enforce them. You've lost all your credibility with her.

You should, at this point, hope that one of the lesbian women with whom she is interacting will discuss safe sex with her. You should apologise for trying to act like her mother, and maybe suggest she talks about safe sex with a lesbian, or give her an address for a clinic, and then you can just let her be an adult and stop telling her what to do.
posted by jeather at 10:01 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


As a 29 year-old dyke, I humbly offer my services as e-mentor if she wants a pen pal. However, she might feel awkward about her sister arranging this for her.
posted by Lieber Frau at 10:09 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you all for responding, and for the links and other ideas. I do appreciate it!

I want to clarify a few points:
- At the time when S was having her girlfriend spend the night without my parents knowledge she was 17 and still in HS, not yet an adult, and it was more along the lines of "WTF are you doing, mom and dad will be so angry if they knew and you're taking advantage of their ignorance" rather than me "tattling" on her. She kept doing it anyway, and I dropped it.

- Her having sex in the house is absolutely between her and my parents (despite it's being public knowledge); I think her attitude about safe sex is connected to her behavior and general attitude about sex and being misunderstood which is why I included it. I have never spoken to her on behalf of my parents about it. @jbenben: yes, my sentence was wrong. My parents have asked me to help (with education) because they know her attitude towards sex, but they did not ask me to intervene in the case of her loud sex at any time. (and I never used the words "brat" or "discipline")

- S has not been singled out due to her sex practices, actually H has had more "public interest" in HER sex life recently because she's dating an older man (gasp!)

- If one of my friends told me they were hooking up with randoms from a bar (or the internet, or anywhere really) and didn't use protection of any kind, or felt that STD's just didn't apply to them, then yes, I would say something. My best-friend was woefully misinformed when she first started having sex and I said something to her and urged her to get informed. I am not treating S (and H) any differently than I would treat my friend. If I had a lesbian friend who has said some of the stuff S has said (misconceptions) I would look for info for her too, and I would hope MY friends would have my back if the tables were turned.

- I have no problems with the casual nature of some of her relationships, but since some of them are causal I think it's even more important that she ask the right questions before having sex.

Our age difference does add a strange dynamic to the relationship. [I have two brothers who are my age and we interact very differently together than we do with our younger sibs.] When S and H engage in behavior that is obviously not okay by our parents standards (eg: drinking at parties, smoking weed, whatever) I have to find a balance between condoning the behavior and giving reasonable concern (eg: impressing on them the importance of having a designated driver at such parties). They know they can come to me with anything, but that I also will tell them what I really think, even if they don't like it.

Thanks again to all who took the time to read and respond!
posted by starfyr at 12:01 PM on March 15, 2011


As far as health, my personal belief is that every woman 18+ should have a yearly gyno checkup. If you sister has never been, she might not realize that the gyno is not just about diseases from penises and safe sex. It's about health issues specific to women and their parts (breasts, reproductive organs). Having a gyno that you trust s always handy. some non-intercourse issues that a gyno could help with are breast and cervical cancer screenings, heavy or irregular periods, hormone issues, general pelvic pain (which could result from ovarian cysts or a myriad of other things), infections not due to intercourse (yeast, urianry tract) and tips on babies/children, should your sister ever want a child (whether she gives birth or adopts). Teh gyno isn't about intercourse or straight or gay, its about being biologically female.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:22 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


If one of my friends told me they were hooking up with randoms from a bar (or the internet, or anywhere really) and didn't use protection of any kind, or felt that STD's just didn't apply to them, then yes, I would say something.

I guess the difference is though - your sister is actually at much lower risk that your straight friends. Not no risk, but little risk. That's the medical reality.

Still, I think it's wonderful that you love your sister so much and are invested in making things better between her and your parents as well. Good on you for being an involved sister.
posted by serazin at 12:24 PM on March 15, 2011


You should send her over to Scarleteen. They're totally sane and queer-friendly over there and full of info. They also make lists like this one: STI cliff notes.
posted by colfax at 1:38 PM on March 15, 2011


You are obviously a great and caring sister, and she's really lucky to have you in her life. If half the people who were GLBTQ had someone has caring as you, the world would be a better place. Your sister is hurting and struggling, and it's good that you're trying to help her. Just take a bit of a step back and see it from her perspective. I think it will help you give her the best help possible.

There are so many wonderful GLBTQ resources in LA! Your sister is right, you don't get it. But that's OK, there are lots of people who do and who can give her the information in a way that she'll be able to hear. And you "not getting it" isn't some smudge on your good name. And it's not about sex. It's that she's struggling with lots of issues that you didn't have to struggle with, and she's doing the best she can. What she needs are some good, sex positive, well informed GLBTQ folk to befriend. Here's a good starting place: UCLA LGBT Resource List. Going to some good workshops and things will be great for your sister. She'll learn about safe sex practices and how to make them sexy and fun. Using a dental dam is different from using a condom, and a class is just the thing!
posted by stoneweaver at 1:40 PM on March 15, 2011


Weekendjen: yes, I agree completely!

serazin: thank you for the info; in my experience going in for the checkup was more than just a screening for cervical cancer (and there are other benefits as weekendjen pointed out), but I appreciate your input.

stoneweaver: It's true, I don't get it! The only vagina I've been up close and personal with is my own, hehe ... thanks for the link. I think she would really like the idea of going to a workshop, that is totally her style.
posted by starfyr at 4:03 PM on March 15, 2011


Sent you a memail with a few possible avenues to pursue for hunting down some workshops.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:24 PM on March 15, 2011


Autostraddle has a pretty decent article on safe lesbian sex. It's definitely important to remind her that just because she's not sleeping with dudes, doesn't mean that the girls she's hooking up with aren't.

From the article: "...statistics show that at least 75% of women who identify as lesbians have had sexual intercourse with men and approximately two-thirds of the time, those women were engaging in unprotected sex."

If she doesn't get the message from that, direct her to this article. She won't have sex for a week, and at least the house will be a little quieter.

Also, I'm a dyke, and I think it's rude to have really loud sex in her parent's house, so you can forward that on down. If she's really worried about being oppressed, maybe she could volunteer at her local LGBT center? Loud sex is a fun fight, but probably not the most effective fight. Also, she's nineteen! She's more than allowed to move into her own place and have all the loud, unprotected sex she wants.

That said, sometimes people think they're being supportive, but it comes across as condescending and insulting, and it's something that your sister might be really sensitive to. I would ask her why she feels that way, because she's probably not making that stuff up out of thin air. She might be picking up on some underlying discomfort.
posted by jnaps at 5:17 PM on March 15, 2011


As far as health, my personal belief is that every woman 18+ should have a yearly gyno checkup.

Just because it's your personal belief does not make it scientifically valid. There's no evidence that annual gyno checkups have any value, and for most people that time at the doctor's could be better spent on other things. (See also.) It's also a peculiarly American practice: healthy women in just about any other country in the world do not see gynecologists: they get pap tests from GPs or nurses and it's not done annually; in many places it's not normal for healthy women to get pelvic exams. The current US guidelines for pap testing are to start three years after first sexual intercourse or age 21 and to screen every two years (not annually!). Your sister isn't old enough for pap testing even if she was straight.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:20 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Violet Hour: thanks for the article. What I took from Weekend Jen's comment was that an annual exam (pap smear or not) would be a good time to bring up anything and everything related to women's health. You do mention other countries having the practice of getting checkups from GP's and nurses (I personally have seen a CNM and loved her) which I think is a valid option. Even if S is not technically eligible, the fact is that she should go at some point in the near future, and as of right now she thinks she never has to go. That's why I want to give her some info.

Jnaps: thank you for the info! You are right, perhaps S is picking up on some underlying discomfort. I know my parents are trying really hard, but there might be a bit of a homophobic vibe ... I take that advice to heart.
posted by starfyr at 3:41 PM on March 17, 2011


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