Can You Get an STD From Masturbating?

Is It Safe to Masturbate While Being Treated for an STD?

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Masturbation is "the safest sexual activity out there," according to Planned Parenthood. If you don't already have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you can't get one from masturbating. The only exception to that is if you're using an infected sex toy to masturbate with.

If you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), however, there are some precautions you may need to take to protect both yourself and those you come in contact with—even if you're being treated.

Understanding how STDs are spread can help people get a better idea of the potential risks of getting or spreading an infection through masturbation.

Dos and Don'ts of Safe Masturbation

Nusha Ashjaee / Verywell

Masturbation and Type of STD

Whether or not it's safe to masturbate when you have an STD depends on what STD you have.

Sexually-Associated Infections

It's reasonably safe to masturbate with sexually associated infections such as bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. That's true even if you're using a local treatment, such as a cream or suppository.

However, with these diseases, there are some precautions you should take. If you masturbate with sex toys or other objects you should be certain to cover them with condoms and/or disinfect them thoroughly between masturbation sessions.

If you don't, those same toys could end up harboring germs, becoming a fomite (an object that carries an infectious organism). Then, playing with those toys could end up reinfecting you at a later date.

Skin-to-Skin Transmitted STD

If you are infected with a treatable STD that spreads by skin-to-skin contact, the answer is different. You will want to be cautious about masturbating. You can still masturbate, you should just be thoughtful about doing so when sores are present.

It is possible to spread diseases such as molluscum contagiosum or herpes around your body through a process known as autoinoculation. If you touch a sore, you can move infectious material to another part of your skin and start to get sores there.

Therefore, you should try to avoid touching active sores or disease lesions during masturbation. It is also possible to end up with infectious material trapped under your nails. Therefore, masturbation or mutual masturbation with gloved hands can be a good option.

HIV and Hepatitis

Finally, masturbation is very safe sex for people with HIV or hepatitis. It is not possible to reinfect yourself with these viruses.

However, you should be careful about masturbating in a shared environment. If you do that, be certain to clean up after a session to avoid the risk of exposing anyone you live/work/play with to potentially infectious biological fluids. Potentially infectious secretions include semen, vaginal secretions, blood, and breast milk.

Masturbation During STD Treatment

It is generally safe to masturbate while you are being treated for bacterial STDs such as chlamydiagonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. These STDs are treated systemically with antibiotics. They also aren't spread by skin to skin contact.

However, it's important to remember that when being treated for a bacterial STD, you should not have sex again until you and your sex partner(s) have completed treatment. That will help you to avoid infecting a partner until you (or both of you) are done with treatment. However, there's no reason not to masturbate as much as you want.

In general, you can think about it this way. If the STD treatment you're using is systemic, it's probably safe to masturbate. In other words, if you're taking a pill or being given medication through a shot, your whole body is being treated. You're therefore not at significant risk of reinfecting yourself.

However, if you're being treated with creams or other local treatments, be careful. Those treatments are usually used for infections of the skin that are easy to move from one place to another. Treating one area doesn't protect the other areas of your body from becoming infected.

Mutual Masturbation and STDs

Mutual masturbation is when you and a partner sexually arouse each other using your hands. It can also involve you each masturbating yourselves while near each other. In general, mutual masturbation is relatively safe sex. That's particularly true if no bodily fluids are transmitted.

There are, however, ways to make mutual masturbation even safer. If you are touching your genitals, you can wash your hands before touching your partner's genitals—or vice versa.

You can also consider using gloved hands to touch your partner and bare hands to touch yourself. Either one of these things makes it less likely that you would spread an infection between you.

In general, STDs that spread through bodily fluids—such as HIV and chlamydia—are relatively unlikely to be spread through mutual masturbation. There's a bigger risk for STDs that spread from skin-to-skin contact, such as herpes and molluscum contagiosum.

Making Masturbation Safer

People don't always know when they are infected with an STD. These dos and don'ts will help make masturbation safer without making it less fun. The main idea is that you do your best to avoid transferring bacteria and other pathogens to or from your genitals.

If you think you could have an infection, see your healthcare provider or visit an STD clinic for screening.

  • Wash your hands before and after masturbation.

  • Clean under your nails regularly and/or keep them short.

  • Immediately wash your hands if you find pimples, sores, or other strange bumps while masturbating, then try to avoid touching them.

  • Don't touch your eyes while you are masturbating. The eyes are mucosal surfaces, just like the genital region, and are susceptible to a number of STDs.

  • Don't share sex toys without covering them with condoms or disinfecting them thoroughly.

  • Don't reuse any sex toys without thoroughly cleaning them.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Planned Parenthood. Is masturbation good for you?

  2. Brown University: Health and Wellness. What's the best way to clean sex toys?

  3. Workowski KA, Bachmann LH, Chan PA, et al. Sexually transmitted infections treatment guidelines, 2021MMWR Recomm Rep. 2021;70(4):1-187. doi:10.15585/mmwr.rr7004a1

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Molluscum contagiosum: transmission. Updated May 11, 2015.

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