So I'm going to be broad in our definition here. But even within that broader definition of sexual intercourse, there are still ways that you can get STIs without “doing it.” While anal, vaginal, and (to a lesser extent) oral sex are somewhat obvious ways to spread STDs and STIs because they involve fluids and mucous membranes, not all STDs and STIs need those magic ingredients to spread. Some can be spread by skin-to-skin contact, while others can be spread by contact with blood.
We sometimes get the message from scare-tactic sex ed classes and articles that if you touch someone else’s juices or rub against anyone in a sexual way, you’re automatically going to get a STI. However, in reality, you can only get infected with a STI if the person you’re having sexual contact with is infected with one. And, even then, there’s no guarantee that you’ll definitely get it. While it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and use barrier methods like condoms to protect yourself and your partners, it’s also important to counter that common message that all sex can and does make us sick.
Finally, oftentimes the stigma around STIs is a lot higher than the actual, lived reality of getting one. Sure, it’s not fun to have to go to the doctor and take medicine for something you caught on your genitals. But it’s also not fun to have to go to the doctor and get medicine for a cold or a dumb infection from a cut you didn’t take care of on your hand or a weird growth on your toe. But you don’t feel terrible about yourself when you have to deal with those things, do you?
So take some time to think about why you might feel terrible if you got an STI — and why you might feel judgy of someone else who has one. If you really consider the consequences of many STIs, you’ll probably realize that the stigma has more to do with our sex negative culture than it does with the ailments themselves.
Phew! Now that we got that out of the way, let’s take a look at these eight STIs that can be spread without having intercourse.