What To Consider Before and After Bareback Sex

Facts, Risks, and STD testing

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Bareback sex is a term most often used to describe men having unprotected anal intercourse with men, but it is also sometimes used to refer to unprotected sex in general.

Bareback sex increases the risk of getting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), so it is important to learn what precautions you may need to take if you wish to have it.

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What Does “Bareback” Mean?

Bareback refers to having penetrative sex without the use of a condom. It's a slang commonly used in the LGBTQ+ community and relates to riding a horse without a saddle, also known as riding bareback.

Risks of Bareback Sex

There are various risks associated with bareback sex. Since no protective barrier such as a condom is used, there can be a higher chance of getting HIV and other types of STDs. This is especially true for men who have sex with men (MSM), as, in 2018, MSM made up over 80% of HIV cases in the U.S.

Because the rectum's lining is thin and easily injured, it's easier for cuts and tears to develop during anal sex, which makes for easier transmission of HIV. Because of this, there is a higher risk of getting HIV from bareback sex than other types of sex, especially for those who are the receptive (bottom) partner.

The inserting (top) partner is also at risk, as HIV can enter the body through the opening of the penis (urethra), or through cuts, abrasions, and sores on the penis.

Bareback sex can also lead to other types of STDs, such as chlamydia,  hepatitis B, and gonorrhea.

Women are also at risk of getting HIV from unprotected anal sex. Although only 18% of new HIV cases in 2018 were among women, the risk of getting HIV increases for women who have unprotected anal sex, especially if they do so with MSM.

Possible Benefits

There is, of course, no risk involved in barebacking if consenting adults know that they are not infected with HIV or other types of infections. Many people find bareback sex to be more pleasurable and exciting than protected sex. They enjoy the skin-to-skin contact and feel that they can bond more closely with their partner.

Barebacking may also provide an incentive to remain monogamous when both partners are committed to the relationship.

Talking to Your Partner

Although it may seem that talking about your sexual and medical history before barebacking can be dull or ruin the mood, it can keep you and your partner safe from infection.

The "hookup culture" sometimes seen in dating apps and late-night clubbing is risky if precautions aren't practiced. People infected with HIV can appear symptom-free, so thoroughly talking with your partner before engaging in bareback sex is essential.

Being Open About Your Status

Discuss boundaries and expectations with your partner, especially if it is your first time together. Clarify if either of you has other sexual partners and are using protection with them or not. It is important to routinely get tested for STDs and share your status with them too.

It can be difficult to talk about such things with somebody you may not know well, but it is important for the safety of everyone involved.

Also, even if you and your partner are both HIV positive, bareback sex may still cause further infection. There are different strains of HIV. If your partner has a detectable load of an HIV strain that is resistant to HIV medication, there is a possibility of you getting it. Be sure to discuss your HIV status and treatment thoroughly with your partner.

Preventive Measures

The only sure way of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV or other STDs is through abstinence—avoiding anal, vaginal, and oral sex altogether. But if you want to engage in sex, especially barebacking, the safest way is to use protection, most notably condoms.

When used correctly, condoms can reduce the risk of getting HIV and other STDs substantially. Research shows that HIV-negative men who use condoms when engaging in sex with HIV-positive men can reduce their risk getting HIV by 70%

You can also take other preventive measures, especially if you don't have HIV and plan to have bareback sex with someone who has or may have been exposed to HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of oral medication to prevent HIV infection. It is recommended for those at high risk of getting HIV, such as MSM.

STD Exposure

If you had bareback sex and think that you may have been exposed to HIV or other STDs, see a doctor as soon as you can. For HIV, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) uses medications to prevent HIV infection if an HIV-negative person was exposed to HIV, and it requires a prescription.

PEP is usually given within 72 hours after exposure to HIV, as HIV can develop quickly within 24 to 36 hours after infection.

Your doctor will probably recommend STD testing to see if an infection has occurred. If so, they will take the necessary steps to put you on a treatment plan for the infection involved.

For example, in the case of an HIV infection, antiretroviral drugs are used to stop the virus from multiplying, which can lessen the viral load to a point where it is undetectable in the body.

A Word From Verywell

Bareback sex can be a fun and pleasurable form of sex. But with any type of unprotected sex, the risk of getting HIV and other STDs increases greatly. To ensure the safety of you both, be sure to talk with your partner about your sexual history and current status before engaging in bareback sex.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should women know about bareback sex?

    Women should know that bareback sex increases the risk of getting HIV and other STDs for them too. The rectal lining is more delicate than the vagina, making it easier to transmit HIV through cuts or anal fissures that can happen from anal sex.

    Like men, women should be cautious if they plan to engage in bareback sex, especially if their partner is a man who has sex with other men.

  • How do you safely prepare for bareback sex?

    Talk with your partner thoroughly about your sexual histories and whether each of you is engaging in protected or unprotected sex with other partners. Get tested to ensure that neither of you has an HIV or other STD infection.

    Also, especially for receptive partners in anal sex, lubrication may be necessary to reduce friction and irritation, which can lessen the risk of getting a tear inside the rectal lining.

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Article Sources
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