Sexually Transmitted Infections in Polyamorous Relationships
How poly people have multiple partners but don't spread STIs.
Posted Jan 09, 2014
The sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s resulted in an explosion of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and the appearance of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s sealed the deal when it came to fear of STIs. Panic about STIs and especially AIDS reached a fever pitch in the mid 1980s. While research that pinpointed transmission methods has smoothed the hysterical pitch a bit, people are still quite concerned about sexually transmitted infections. With good reason—the Centers for Disease Control identify chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and syphilis as among the most common STIs in the United States.
Simple numerics mean that having multiple partners increases the risk of encountering STIs, and exposure of one partner can mean exposure of others down the line. How do people in polyamorous relationships deal with this magnified risk of STIs? Very carefully.
Testing and Talking
Protection and Creativity
Condoms and dental dams can go a long way towards cutting the transmission of STIs by containing fluids and preventing (or at least inhibiting) skin-to-skin contact. There are also many ways to have sex or sexual interactions that do not involve fluid exchance, and polys can be creative about what kinds of sex they have and how they do it.
Because of the potential for STIs to spread through a social group, the rule among mainstream poly communities is no fluid exchange unless and until it has been excruciatingly discussed, tested, and negotiated. This can be such an extensive process that actually deciding to have unprotected sex is a sign of serious commitment, enough so that it is associated with commitment ceremonies.