Does Fingering Pose an STD Risk?

Man symbolically placing a condom on ring finger of women, Gauteng Province, South Africa
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Fingering is a type of sexual activity that involves sexual penetration of a partner's body using one or more fingers. Fingering sexually can involve inserting fingers into either the vagina or the rectum. It is sometimes a part of mutual masturbation. Many people engage in fingering as part of early sexual exploration. It can be enjoyed on its own or as a part of foreplay. Although fingering is not to everyone's taste, the activity can be sexually exciting for both partners.It's also something that can be enjoyed by people of any gender.

Risks of Fingering

Fingering is considered to be a relatively safe sexual activity. However, it is possible for fingering to transmit certain STDs. These are mostly STDs that spread through skin to skin contact, such as HPV. To make fingering safer, it is a good idea to wear a latex or nitrile glove or a finger cot (a single finger glove). Such barriers protect both partners. They keep any bacteria or viruses that may be under the fingernails from getting access to the delicate mucosal skin of the vagina or rectum. They also keep any pathogens found in those areas from getting under the nails or into any cuts on the hands.

Making Fingering Safer

If gloves feel like they're too much of an intrusion during fingering, thorough hand washing is a good idea.. Furthermore, washing your hands is something you should do both before and after sex. (It's actually a good idea whether or NOT you're wearing gloves!) You may also want to clean under your fingernails and keep your nails trimmed and filed. That way they won't snag or cut a partner's delicate skin. However, be careful to avoid cutting your skin when you cut your nails. Open wounds are an invitation for bacteria.

It's worth noting that one way to make the use of gloves more appealing during sex is to buy latex and nitrile gloves in different colors. Purple, blue, and black gloves are widely available. Many people find these colors to be more aesthetically pleasing than the plain old white gloves that used to be the default. Wearing gloves that are the right size for your hands will also help them be less intrusive during sex. Gloves that fit mean you won't feel either restricted by their presence or worried about them falling off in the heat of the moment.

Fomites and Fingering

When pathogens are spread in an unusual way, from a place where they are not usually associated with infecting, they are sometimes referred to as fomites. However, fomite transmission is more correctly used to refer to disease transmission by objects than by unusual body parts. Therefore, it's probably not the best way to describe transmission of pathogens that live under the fingernails.

Myths and Misconceptions About Fingering

There are a number of myths and misconceptions about fingering. Some of the strangest, and most interesting, are addressed below.

Myth: Fingering is a sexual activity that people only do until they can move on to better things.

Fact: Many people deeply enjoy fingering. It can be an important, and enjoyable part of people's sex lives no matter what other types of sex they have.

Myth: Fingering will get you pregnant

Fact: The only way fingering could make a woman pregnant is if someone put semen on their fingers before inserting them into her vagina. It's not completely impossible, but it's highly unlikely.

Myth: Fingering spreads HIV

Fact: HIV is spread through blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. If you have cuts on your fingers and finger someone, it's possible that you could be exposed to HIV. However, you would have to be actively bleeding on your hand, or have other bodily fluids on your hand, to risk exposing a partner to HIV through fingering. It's not a likely transmission route for HIV. However, you can certainly make it safer with gloves.

Myth: Fingering is completely safe sex

Fact: Fingering is reasonably safe sex. However, it is possible to spread HPV through fingering. It may also be possible to spread other STDs that transmit from skin to skin or through fomites. That's why it's a good idea to use gloves or finger cots for fingering. If you're not worried about STDs, remember that it's also possible to scratch your partner and give them a bacterial infection that isn't normally thought of as an STD. That may be less stigmatized, but it's no more comfortable.

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