Dear Carol– Me again. I’m not certain how to have safer sex with a FtM person after metoidioplasty–would finger cots work for this? Or are they made in a different (more porous, thicker) way? I’m just thinking that regular condoms may be too large–and then there are the issues with ejaculation (if it happens or not). –Nervous FtM
Using finger cots in lieu of condoms might be a partial solution, depending on the kind of clitoral growth you get once you start taking hormones. With a testosterone-enlarged penis you may find that a cot is about the right size, though for some FtMs a cot might wind up being a little small–there is a range of penis size in FtMs as in born men. If your penis got much larger than could accommodate a cot, it would be time to start looking for smaller-sized condoms, possibly securing these with a bolo-style cock ring to help keep them on. (It’d be nice if condoms came sized like gloves, so you could get a more precise fit–but they don’t.)
Ill-fitting cots or condoms work better for oral sex than for penetration. (Some FtM guys find that a testosterone-enlarged penis isn’t long enough for full penetration–this may render the condom question less relevant and allow you to do other creative barrier-related things, like use plastic wrap.) Cots are
thicker and aren’t made to condom standards; they have neither been tested nor approved for use on the penis. If there is no ejaculation, this doesn’t matter as much. And if there is ejaculation with an FtM who has had the basic metoidioplasty (that is, one in which the urethra has been left alone, not extended as I described last week), cots and condoms won’t really help anyway. In this form of metoidioplasty, the urethra stays where it is. In your female-bodied form it was below your clit; in your male-bodied form it’s at the base of your penis. If there is any sort of ejaculate, it will not be caught by the condom. In the more extensive procedure, which includes urethral lengthening, the question becomes: in what volume might you ejaculate? A cot may be too small for copious ejaculation, and if you are using a small condom in this scenario, you’ll need to pay attention so it doesn’t slip off.
If you do have the urethral lengthening procedure, I would recommend caution until the surgery is completely healed, including no constriction (like a cock ring, or even the base of a tight cot) around the penis. This surgery is far more subject to complications, and if you elect to have it done, you should treat it very carefully. Besides collecting all possible information about the effects of these physical changes (from docs, books, and friends), pay close attention to how your own body reacts, changes, and heals. The experience of most of your doctor’s FtM patients doesn’t mean much if your body is doing something else or responding in a different way.
I’m on a mission to stamp out Lesbian Bed Death in my lifetime. In the interest of generating heat–grinding, steamy girl-to-girl sex–I propose that we retire that worn-out, homophobic mess. Why does every discussion of desire and intimacy among lesbians have to begin by referencing (and then critiquing) this term? We all agree that Loulan’s work is dated, and as you put it, “‘bed death isn’t the sole province of lesbians” anyway. We spend so much time on LBD that we never get to the good stuff.
Lesbian Bed Death may have been a useful concept at one time, as you say in your column. But the term has outlived its usefulness and now has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, encouraging an attitude of sexual resignation. (Given the finality of a terminal prognosis, what’s a girl to do but shrug her shoulders and make peace with the inevitable? Either she’s gonna “cheat” or she’s gonna break up.) Everyone seems fascinated about why this happens among lesbian couples (as if we were a breed apart), and how we compare to gay men or straight women. None of which makes for much juice between the sheets. What we all want to know is how we as lesbians and bi women can have fulfilling sex lives–both in and out of relationships. Let’s talk about that.
For a look at underlying issues, I’d suggest Staci Haines’ The Survivors Guide to Sex and Jack Morin’s The Erotic Mind. For a primer on sexual communication, my vote goes to your own Exhibitionism for the Shy. If you want to know what live lesbians do in bed, I suggest my book, The Whole Lesbian Sex Book. Happy Masturbation Month! –Felice Newman
Point well taken! I’m happy to return the acronym to the Little Black Dress, although I do think the notion of Lesbian Bed Death may have been a factor that shocked some 1980s dykes out of their complacency and into bondage, On Our Backs, and, for that matter, little black dresses. It had that effect on me. I agree that it’s more useful to get to hot sex than acknowledge we’re not having it–though that degree of acknowledgement can jump-start the process of regaining relationship heat. Loulan’s insight about willingness to engage in erotic time even when things have been un-hot and un-steamy is still particularly useful. And, of course, general writing about this issue is so often couched in heterosexual terms that many lesbians would find it more alienating than useful. Thanks for your perspective.