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No one actually understands safer sex, if fanfic is any indication

I’d start this post with an, “Okay boys and girls, listen up,” but this post is for fucking everybody who actually thinks about fucking anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

This post has been triggered by a fanfic reading binge. Yep, I read smutty fanfic. And most of what I’ve been reading has been pretty hot, but something keeps bothering me, something which makes me think that people really do not comprehend the intricacies of what makes sex safer or not.

That is, I keep reading fanfics in which things happen, where for example, the two people involved are hot and bothered, but they don’t have a condom, so to “be safe” they stick to a blow job. We’re not talking about situations where contraception is the issue, we’re talking about the idea that somehow a blow job without a condom is actually “safe sex” compared to anal sex without a condom.

It may be slightly safer, in that anal sex can, even done correctly (which many people do not do) cause tissue damage that makes it more vulnerable to infection. But… blow jobs can cause enough friction and tissue damage too. Whenever you have bodily fluids interacting, people are more likely to swap microbiota. Viruses. Bacteria. Fungi. This is why so many people have cold sores. Which are, in fact, herpes. And can be transmitted via oral sex.

Now, I know it’s fanfic and people take liberties and in the het stuff things tend to be very binarily either “no one ever gets pregnant” or “they get knocked up on the first time out” and that’s fine, it’s fanfic, no actual fetuses are being created, no one is actually getting sick. You want to write a delightfully hot and dirty fanfic about people having bareback buttsex, whatever, I can accept that. But don’t pretend that the “safe” answer is a blow job just because they don’t have a condom. That just says that either the writer or the character doesn’t understand safer sex. I blame the Republican push for abstinence only sex ed, because they totally taught this stuff when I was in school.

 

I’m really no prude, and I’m actually not personally very fond of condoms.  Mostly because they are prone to user error. I’m not opposed to consenting adults taking risks. But I’m really opposed to people flat out not understanding what risks they are taking.

So here it is. Any time your spit, semen, vaginal fluid or blood touch someone else’s mucus membranes, traumatized skin (or even untraumatized skin), there is some risk that what you have will be transmitted to the person you are swapping fluids with and vice verse. Now, we’ve got treatments for a whole lot of STDs, but actual cures don’t exist for herpes, warts and AIDS, and antibiotic resistance is becoming an issue for the oldies, like gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia. Warts, HPV, can actually cause cancer, and while the vaccine may be helpful, it only hits a few strains and is not 100% or forever. AIDS is treatable but still sucks HARD and if you get it it will take over your whole life. Herpes is mostly an inconvenience… unless you’re pregnant or have a compromised immune system, in which case it is at the least something that can derail birth plans and at worst, very very bad for babies.

So what’s a person to do?

The best line of defense is knowing your partners well, getting tested often, and having sexual relationships in which people are honest, open, and safety minded.  And if you’re writing a fanfic where you have two actual virgins who have NOT been the victims of sexual abuse in the past who are screwing for the first time for both of them? They’re probably about as safe as anyone can get, with or without condoms, assuming they were never kissed by some cold-sore ridden older relative, but that’s probably more detail than anyone ever needs in a fanfic.

And outside of fanfic, if you are ever getting swappy with anyone… you need to know. Barriers are helpful (this is why we call it safer sex, not safe sex). Condoms offer a layer of protection and can reduce risks, but they do not eliminate them and they DO NOT WORK if they are not used when ejaculation happens. Dental dams and finger cots (or a condom over the fingers) can also help reduce risk. (Vaginal and anal penetration with fingers can cause problems for the fingers if someone has a hangnail. I’m not saying this to mother hen, it is actual truth that broken skin is MUCH more vulnerable to infection than unbroken skin. Unbroken skin is not perfect.)  Sex toys need condoms too if there’s sharing going on, and even if there isn’t, they can make it a lot easier to keep things sanitary. And they should be kept sanitary.

This isn’t a comprehensive guide… it’s a noodle-slap. If it never occurred to you that a blow job or cunnilingus might transmit STDs, you have some homework to do. Prof. Google is your friend.

And if you want to write the fanfic that way because it’s in character (and probably it is)… do your readers a favor and make a note at the end reassuring people like me that you actually understand that what they’re doing is not actually “safe”. Because a hell of a lot of people  learn much of what they know about sex from fanfic.

Published in Fanfic Feminism Lessons for my kids LIfe Political Writing

2 Comments

  1. Angi Long Angi Long

    I totally agree. Would only add that plastic wrap is a fine substitute for a dental dam — in some ways, arguably safer (better coverage, stays in place better) — and also add gloves and female condoms to your list. And add that pre-ejaculate is also not safe, and since that can be happening at any time, no contact with an unwrapped penis is safe, regardless of whether there’s ejaculation at the time or not.

    Also, even with barriers, it’s very easy to transmit something from one person to a glove or toy to the other person. Especially, for example, if you touch the other person with a glove and then, without thinking, touch yourself. Our triad’s safer sex agreement leaves it up to the other person how much risk they take with our fluids, but requires we protect our mucus membranes from contact with other people’s fluids (not including saliva or tears), including via the kind of route I just described. We decided that touching another person with ungloved hands (with no known broken skin) is safe enough for us, as long as those hands are washed well before touching ourselves or another of us. Not that all of us would do that, but if we don’t, that’s personal choice rather than required by our agreement.

    Which is another point: nothing is 100% safe, it’s all relative, and it’s all up to each of us to decide what level of risk is worth the rewards for us. The rewards also tend to vary with the partner and the situation, so if we make different choices at different times, that’s not being inconsistent. It’s just being willing to take higher risk for higher reward. Which is normal, rational, and human.

    But anyway. Yeah. I totally agree. Authors should at least note that they know their characters are being unsafe. And if they could make the extra effort to write really hot scenes that are also fairly safe, they would be contributing to setting a good example and teaching the public, and thereby would make everyone at least a little safer.

    • Jenrose Jenrose

      Agreed! This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide to safer sex, it’s mean to whap people upside the head with a wet noodle for not understanding the idea that you don’t just put a condom on right before the end and expect to be perfectly safe.

      Thank you for expanding on it. Dental dams, plastic wrap, gloves, finger cots, yes yes yes.

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