Women Who Have Sex With Women
Women who have sex with women (WSW) are a diverse group with diverse health concerns. WSW can identify as cisgender or transgender. Your specific circumstances and behaviors determine which health issues are important. Generalizations about WSW’s health rely on generalizations about identity and behavior. The list of health concerns below, therefore, is not prescriptive, but for your information. Some of the health issues may not apply to you simply because you identify as a WSW or gay woman. It is most important to find a medical provider that you trust to respond to your questions and concerns.
1. Safer Sex
Ciswomen who have sex with other ciswomen have a lower risk of HIV/AIDS than cismen - however, it is still important to practice safe sex. If practicing oral sex, be sure to use a dental dam. When using sex toys, such as dildos and vibrators, disinfect them frequently and cover them with a condom during sex when possible. When practicing anal penetration, be sure to use lots of lubricant as well, and to use water-based lubricants - silicone-based lubricants are known to wear down condoms as well as certain materials used to make sex toys. If you are a pre/non-op transwoman, be sure to use a condom during sex. If you are a post-op transwoman, be sure to usea sufficient amount of lubricant if penetration is involved.
Be sure to get regular STI screenings with your partner as well. STI screenings and anonymous HIV testing is available at Vaden for registered students.
WSW have been shown to experience chronic stress from homophobic discrimination. This stress may be compounded by the need to hide their orientation from parents, friends or professors. In addition, many WSW have lost the important emotional support others get from their families due to alienation stemming from their sexual orientation. Vaden’s Counseling and Psychological Services clinicians are sensitive to LGBTQ issues and are available to help you out.
Research suggests that WSW tend to have higher body mass indexes than heterosexual women. Obesity is associated with higher rates of heart disease, cancers, and premature death. What WSW need is competent advice about healthy living and healthy eating, as well as healthy exercise. Our Nutrition section includes information on healthy eating, sports nutrition, eating concerns and campus resources.
4. Substance Use
Research indicates that illicit drugs may be used more often among WSW than heterosexual women. There may be added stressors in WSW lives from homophobic discrimination, and WSW need support from each other and from health care providers to find healthy releases, quality recreation, stress reduction, and coping techniques. Clinicians at both the Vaden Medical Services and the Counseling and Psychological Services can help you.
Research indicates that tobacco and smoking products may be used more often by WSW than by heterosexual women. Whether smoking is used as a tension reducer or for social interactions, addiction often follows and is associated with higher rates of cancers, heart disease, and emphysema - the three major causes of death among all women.
Alcohol use and abuse may be higher among WSW. While research has found that 1 drink a day may be good for the heart and not increase cancer or osteoporosis risks, heavier drinking can put you at risk for health problems, being injured or being a victim of crime.
7. Relationship Violence
Relationship violence occurs at about the same rates in same-sex relationships as in heterosexual relationships, but resources are primarily geared towards responding to men’s violence against women. Vaden helps all students address relationship violence regardless of orientation or identification.
Useful links about Relationship Violence: