1. What is a sexually transmitted disease or STD?
Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) is the politically correct term for what used to be called “veneral disease (VD)”. These are diseases that are transmitted through or as the result of sexual activity (not just sexual intercourse).
There are no BDSM specific sexually transmitted diseases but like any other sexual activity BDSM activity CAN spread STDs.
Heterosexuals are a lot less STD aware than the homosexual world is, but they should be just as educated on the subject. As a result, the current risk groups for any STD are heterosexual women.
There are many different sexually transmitted diseases and certainly not all are directly related to the genital organs.
General information is freely and widely available from doctors, hospitals, first aid centers, pharmacies and of course on the Internet.
2. How does one get STD infected?
Some sexually transmitted diseases are viruses, others are caused by bacteria, some by plain and simple dirt. As a result, there are different ways, in which people can get STD infected. An important form of STD infection is the contact between bodily fluids (most importantly blood, sperm, vaginal fluids and mother milk). This is especially true the most lethal ones in the Western world: such as Hepatitis (around in different varieties) and HIV (Aids). As a result, contact with bodily fluids should be avoided by anyone who has more than one partner (even if that is only incidental) and partners who have not been solely together for MANY years (not months). Incubation time (the “lead” time before the actual infection shows itself), in the case of HIV for example may be as much as five to seven years.
Another well known cause of STD infection is lack of hygiene. In the BDSM world especially quite a lot of personal hygiene is neglected. Toys that have been on the floor or in a toy bag should not be used unless cleaned and – when brought into contact with the genital area – protected. One should wear latex gloves during penetration, especially when in a (more) public environment.
3. What do I do when I (think I) am STD infected?
There is only one answer: visit your doctor as soon as possible. Bear in mind that your doctor is not there to judge you, but to cure you. And yes, doctors have seen it all before and many times. If you feel troubled by having to go to your doctor, turn to a first aid center or a specific STD center if there is one in your area.
Every STD spreads like wildfire! They are among the most contagous diseases. In most cases if you are infected, you do not only have a responsibility to yourself, but also to your partner(s) and to an extent to you entire environment.
4. Can an STD be cured?
Some can, and some cannot. There are no cures yet for HIV, hepatitis C and various forms of herpes, for example. HIV and hepatitis C are potentially lethal. So is syphylus, but there is a good cure for this disease.
5. Does an STD only effect me?
Every STD will effect you but most will also effect your partner and maybe others (such as unborn children) if not properly taken care of. Sometimes an STD can be the cause of dead babies or incurable medical problems. Some will not really effect the bearer, but will badly effect the partner and – for example – cause infertility (in males especially).
6. How do I protect myself against STD infection?
Your first line of defense is strict personal hygiene. Wear latex gloves and use condoms, also on penetrating toys, such as dildos and vibrators. Regularly clean equipment and – for example – wash bondage ropes.
The second important line of defense is to educate yourself. Again, know what the risks are and avoid them.
7. Does an STD spread quicker, because of BDSM activity?
The BDSM community is very open. It is not unusual to temporarily exchange partners, people switch partners frequently and such things as BDSM parties open an easy risk for infection. Besides, BDSM activity implies much more physical contact than most other forms of sexual behavior and there is the frequent use of toys and equipment. So, there indeed are more opportunities for infection, compared to a standard vanilla relationship. As a result – although no real research has been done in this area – there should be a higher risk of spreading an STD.
8. What BDSM activities are likely to spread an STD?
All forms of penetration, genital or by means of toys, fingers, fists or the mouth are activities that can transmit an STD. In terms of BDSM there are also other activities. Whipping may occasionally cause small superficial skin wounds and any breakage of the skin is a serious crack in the bodies main line of defense against diseases, including many STDs. Bondage ropes, used in the genital area, are a well known vehicle for sexually transmitted diseases and so are internal toys (vibrators, dildos, Ben Wah balls, vibrating eggs, etcetera). Nipple clamps may also cause small skin wounds. In general, BDSM activity is much more physically intens and physically demanding than most other forms of sexual activity. As a result, you should be more careful.
9. Why do governmental and health organisation hardly ever mention BDSM-acitivity in their STD information?
Most forms of what is generally known as “alternative sexuality” (such as BDSM) are overlooked by governmental and health organisations, when it comes to information and education about STD risks. The reason for this is largely in the fact that such organisations simply will not believe there are that many practitioners and that such organisations have no clue about BDSM. “Alternative sexuality” in the entire education of health care professionals usually takes up as much space (and attention) as ONE PAGE IN ONE BOOK! That is, if alternative sexuality is being mentioned at all!
10. How can I help to inform people about STD risks?
If you happen to be active in a local BDSM community, or for example have a personal website about BDSM, try and devote some time and space to sexually transmitted diseases occasionally. For example, next to workshops about flogging, bondage or needle play, a workshop about STD prevention will be very helpful. But, since this is not a popular subject you may also want to settle for having leaflets available, writing something in your magazine or newsletter if you have one and putting information on websites.