Ask Erin: How Do I Have Safer Sex With A Partner Who Has Herpes?

How can I please her sexually while still avoiding contracting herpes myself?

How can I please her sexually while still avoiding contracting herpes myself?

She’s made all the mistakes so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.


Hi Erin,

I have been seeing someone new, she’s amazing, and I really like her.

We haven’t had sex yet, although we have kissed and cuddled together, but that’s about it. She recently told me she had Type 1 genital herpes. She also said that she hasn’t had an outbreak in three years.

My only concern is, how can I please her sexually while still avoiding contracting herpes myself? I tried searching on the Internet, but unfortunately didn’t have any luck. The only information I found was to either avoid having sex (ugh, no thank you) or to use condoms (only one small problem — I don’t have a penis).

Do you have any advice or know any good websites with useful information for queer people with a partner who has type 1 genital herpes?

Thank you so much!


You are off to a good start here. It’s wonderful that your partner was open with you from the beginning about her herpes status.

First, herpes is SO COMMON. According to the CDC, 1 out of every 6 people in the United States aged 18-49 have genital herpes.

And those are the reported cases. The American Social Health Association states, “In the United States, more people have genital herpes than all other sexually transmitted diseases combined — 50 million people in total.”

For this question, I reached out to Ella Dawson, through fellow Ravishly writer Britni de la Cretaz. Ella has written extensively on herpes and other STIs in an effort to educate and erase stigma.

In April, Britni and Ella were part of the #ShoutYourStatus campaign, as part of STI Awareness Month.

Ella had this to say:

MY advice would be pretty basic: dental dams! gloves! The best way to stay safe in any STI+ relationship is to communicate openly with each other about what protection methods you both want to use, if she suspects she might be having an outbreak, and what your concerns are as you become sexually involved. People who have been asymptomatic for that long are much less likely to transmit the virus to a partner. Unfortunately, there’s very little information about herpes transmission in herpes + queer relationships.

The bottom line — communication and openness is key.

Stock up on those dental dams and gloves!

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