Safer Sex and BDSM by Trix LotusWolf
Sexual contact. It usually starts with a “hello” between two people. After hellos, folks in our community like to negotiate. What we don’t always do well is negotiate what comes after that hot and steamy rope session. Sometimes we just untie our partners, throw a blanket on them, and let them sit in their floaty goo; but other times it’s followed by a slow body massage that leads to an erotic release. There is more to discuss, however, that we sometimes forget to consider; so today let’s talk about safer sex in the BDSM community.
Sex education classes, as most of us experienced them in middle school, taught abstinence first. Not terribly useful for those of us involved in the things we do. We have come out of those classes with questions. How do we negotiate safer sex? How do we protect ourselves? What do we do when we have an unexpected encounter? What do we do if we have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and how can we relay that information safely? What about red flags? I am a firm believer in “research it yourself” because the best choice you can make is an educated one, but here I offer some information to get you started.
-How do we negotiate safer sex? Scene negotiation provides the perfect starting point. In my play bag, I have a book of pre-negotiations that are not amendable and that includes my sexual negotiations. I also have my most recent STI results in that book. While these are my preferences, I implore you to choose a path that will protect you in the way that puts your mind at ease. For example, in preparing for negotiations for a single scene with someone you haven’t played with before, know if you are open to the scene leading to sex or not, and know your boundaries of what sex involves or what you consider sexual contact, keeping in mind that is a very different word for different people. When negotiating, ask them if they have test results. Don’t be ashamed of this question, and someone disregarding it could potentially be a red flag for play. If “Master DommyPants” says “I don’t need to have been tested, I KNOW I’m clean,” then perhaps reevaluate if you should play with them because they also may KNOW how much oxygen you need when they’re choking you. Be open about your sexual encounters with new sexual partners. It is only fair for them to know; and while sometimes we do not play fair, sexual health and safety is not one of those times. I am not saying you have to tell each and every partner the names and ages of your past partners, but it is important to advise them that you do or do not have experience in certain areas of sexual activity.
–How can we protect ourselves? Barrier methods, such as condoms and dental dams, are effective in preventing the transmission of STIs. Keep in mind that natural/lambskin condoms are not an effective preventative measure for STIs because they have tiny pores that could allow for HIV, Hep B and herpes to spread.
The most common STI is human papillomavirus (HPV). Condom usage lowers the possibility of transmission but cannot fully prevent HPV from being transmitted because HPV can infect areas not covered by the condom. HPV and other common STIs can be present even when there are no symptoms.
Get tested regularly. Be aware that if you want them to check for HSV, then you will probably have to ask. HSV is a common STI, so common in fact most companies will not test for it unless you ask. Advocate for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask partners for an STI panel and don’t be afraid to get one yourself.
–What do you do when we have an unexpected encounter? About 66% of U.S. adults admit to having had a one night stand, so it’s important to know what to do when it happens: Assess, Test and Suppress. What does that mean? First, assess the situation. For instance, do you know if you used protection? If not, is pregnancy a potential result? Did you discuss your sexual health statuses? Regardless, the next step is to get tested. There are many places to be tested for STIs*, and they can usually get you in fairly quickly. You will also commonly be asked to come back in six months to confirm test results. This leads directly to suppression… If you’re diagnosed with an STI, research your diagnosis and work with your healthcare provider to determine how to best maintain your health. If pregnancy is a potential outcome of an encounter that you would prefer to avoid, Plan B (aka the Morning After Pill) is available without a prescription at places such as Walgreens, CVS, Target and Walmart.
–How do you tell someone if you have an STI? You might encounter people who freak out, panic, and condemn you if you come out and tell them. Some will immediately imagine they have symptoms because you have touched them, even though you have not had any logical contact that would transfer an STI. Keep this in mind while considering whether to share your STI status with someone (always be respectful and share your status with sexual partners). If you need or want to talk about your STI status in a safe environment, there are many support groups.** If you feel comfortable and safe, tell people you trust, educating them if they have questions. This can help begin to eliminate stigma. Please remember: You are not alone. You are not tainted. You are not untouchable.
–What about red flags? Mitigating the risk begins with negotiations. They should be open and frank. If your potential partner seems reluctant to answer questions openly and honestly, it might be a sign they are hiding something important. Ask potential partners about their history and any medical conditions. If possible, watch them play with others, ask for references, and ask past play partners how they behave and treat their partners. Some common abusive behaviors include unnegotiated and unwanted social isolation of their partner, controlling finances, and threatening and/or destructive behavior. If someone ignores your boundaries, even small ones, or if they demand/try to shame you into something you’re not comfortable with, walk away. Always trust your gut when something seems off.
Safer sex practices are beneficial for us as individuals and our community as a whole. There is a wealth of information out there, and I encourage you to learn all you can.
* *Sources, Sites and Support:
https://www.mytelekind.org – TeleKind, a program of Texas Health Action, provide free quality HIV care, HIV prevention (PrEP), and Gender Affirming care from anywhere in Texas through virtual visits
https://www.myresourcecenter.org/health/hiv-aids/hiv-aids-support-groups – The Resource Center was established in 1983 and 1985 started many support initiatives to help with the HIV epidemic
https://www.dshs.texas.gov/hivstd/services/service_d.shtm – listing of HIV-STD service providers in Dallas County.
https://phntx.org – Prism Health of North Texas offers free HIV & STI testing.